Living the downsize: from 2 bedrooms to 65 liters

This time 4 years ago I lived a typical American life in a two-bedroom condo. It was home to my furniture, photos and photo albums, a coat closet, a closet for two full of only my own clothes, and two dressers full of clothes. It was home to a kitchen full of fine appliances. And my home office.

My apartment as I emptied my closets. My speedy downsize was a real mess!

My apartment as I emptied my closets. It wasn’t pretty!

My downsize

My first stage of my great giveaway was using Freecycle to give away almost all of my stuff and distributing anything that a classroom can use to the teachers in my building.

As I ran out of time to clear out my once-rented apartment and had not yet found friends who could keep my larger furniture, I put that last stuff into a good, clean, reliable storage unit, Price Self Storage.

Giving away almost all of this stuff and closing the storage unit door on what was left wasn’t easy —but there was a breath of relief at the giveaway part.

And then I traveled.

Me and my unexpanded backpack containing everything I traveled with my first year.

Me and my unexpanded backpack containing everything I traveled with my first year.

Over that next year and a half, I sometimes had a short bought of sadness when someone needed something and I would find myself saying or thinking, “I used to have that.” But the feeling passed.

If I still had that item I would need to still have a place for that item and then I would not have had the freedom to be in whatever country I happened to be in at that moment.

Every once in a while I would look at the photos of my storage unit and I’d cry for what was; for the apartment that was no longer mine, the couch I could no longer curl up on, etc.

Upon my return a year and a half later, I knew I wanted to continue traveling, (And, to be honest, as I didn’t have the money I’d need to rent anything in Los Angeles, traveling was the logical financial decision as well.)

I made the decision to close that storage unit, which meant giving away most of what was in it. Each time I went to the storage unit, I mourned the life and comforts I had given up. But I didn’t mourn the stress of earning and paying the rent to give that stuff its former home. Yes, that was my former home and I missed that home and the loved ones around it dearly. But, oh, the stress of affording it. That was gone! So although I retained sadness, I also welcomed the present adventure and the future flexibility I would have when I returned to those loved ones.

And so, bit by bit I found new owners for the items I had deemed too important, expensive, or dear to give away 18 months earlier. And with each, I cried a bit.

Of all my furniture, I still have one free-standing corner shelf that folds flat and two matching wall shelves because I was able to squeeze them into my mom’s garage. I still have my beautiful glass top kitchen table, maybe. It is at an acquaintance’s studio and only time will tell whether he will be able to keep it there until I come for it. I have some of the basic pots, pans, and dishes that are also stashed at mom’s. Whatever else I still own of that life is in plastic shoebox-like containers and takes up the area of a love seat or six-foot couch.

I don’t see that stuff. It’s at mom’s — and I am out and about in the world, having adventures, learning new things and meeting new people. All are things I would not be doing if that stuff wasn’t in those boxes.

My 65-liter life

Since the month after I closed that storage unit for the very first time, I have virtually been living out of a 65-liter backpack. As a rule, if something doesn’t easily fit into that backpack, I don’t take it with me.

There were exceptions and I have unpacked that backpack whenever possible, opting for a closet and/or shelf, and I have sometimes exceeded my self-imposed/ travel-reality-imposed limit.

But for the most part, I live a 65-liter life. Less, actually. The balance and weight of carrying that backpack when fully expanded is too much. I live a 45-liter goal.

And you know I what?

For the most part, I don’t miss any of my old clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, hair stuff, or whatever!

Why? Because I have enough!

I have changes of clothing. I have an outfit that will pass as ok for a wedding in two weeks. I have a swimsuit. I have skirts that are appropriate enough to go to synagogue, which I love as a connection to a community when possible. I have never failed to have clean underwear when I reach into the zip lock bag that contains them.

I have earrings. I have two pair of earrings. That’s two, not just one. And I have a couple of necklaces. I have all the makeup I can use — and that sometimes includes three eyeliner colors!

And although I miss my couch and bed, I have consistency and comfort with my sleeping bag, which I use as a blanket.

(I must confess though, that for a cold winter in Israel, I was given a coat. And that I definately over-packed. It’s a constand learning and weaning-down process.)

A few weeks ago, as I do whenever possible within a country, I left two plastic shopping bags full of less necessary stuff stored at a friend’s home to lighten my backpack. And you know what? I have not missed any of that stuff.

Actually, I frequently leave my entire backpack someplace convenient and carry only my small Chicobag daypack and light-weight over-shoulder fabric bag, also by Chicobag, with me to live out of for 10 or more days at a time.

Tonight I handed even more of the remaining backpack contents to another friend. He will keep that stuff for me until I come back to his place in six weeks. And I won’t be surprised if I don’t miss a single item. I still have that swimsuit, makeup, first-aid, changes of clothing, plenty of underwear, sneakers, pajamas (well, a nightgown/day dress), and more.

My 65-liter backpack is zipped down to 45-liter size and is at half of the height. And I expect that next month I will still be able to say that I didn’t miss a single thing I own.

I don’t need…

Battery washclothI won’t even need or want my 3-ounce tube of facial scrub as last week realized I can use my Bathery lightweight, quick-drying washcloth on my face instead.

I have been on the road with my backpack for 4 years now and am still loving downsizing.

The truth is, we really need very few physical items to be well-dressed, clean, well-groomed, and comfortable. And your perception or definition of “very few items” will even change as you live the downsize.


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