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 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.
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.
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 definitely 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…
I 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.
Another great post. We accumulate so much stuff, things, possessions, treasures, call them what you will. But at the end of the day, that’s all they are things. The bigger our homes the more things we have, the smaller our rucksack the less things we need. I travel with a 35 litre rucksack now but I started with one that must have been 70 litre. I am really enjoying your blog.
WOW, Karen! Fabulous that you got down to a 35 litre! I tried to get the items from my 50L into a 45L — while sitting with the company that designed both of them — and he saw that I really couldn’t do it. I can give up a lot to travel, but not my personal luxury items such as my down throw blanket which saves me from acrylic or questionable blankets or my Conair TravelSmart hair dryer. But that said… always working on the downsize! I’m so glad you’re enjoying my blog. I loved the first article I found at yours — about how you saved the money to travel mypathtotravel.com/save-money-to-travel/