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The last few weeks have been a steady process of decreasing my possessions from a house, into one bag.
Yeah, it’s been as awful as it sounds.
Edit: Take a look at my Minimalist Bag! These are now my life’s possessions since starting life as a digital nomad!
Why do I have so much stuff? Useless knick-knacks, paperwork I don’t know what to do with, clothes – oh god, the clothes – and other bits and bobs that just like to take up surface space. It’s only when you have to process exactly what you’ll need for life on the road that you realise how truly useless most of our possessions are.
However, with all the stress and overwhelming panic that we’re not going to be able to get rid of all our stuff in time, I’ve felt a steady relief, and contentedness start to grow inside of me. It feels good to be so ruthless. To know that everything I own could fit in one tiny home, if I wanted it to.
It feels good to upload all my documents to the cloud, to be completely paperless, and to finally be free of all those little bits that took up space in my room – old candles, receipts, a few novelty books – and to have a reason to say no more. Decluttering really does do more than clear your home; it clears your mind.
I’ve already donated three bags of clothes to charity. More are probably to follow. I’ve got one suitcase of winter clothes and jackets that will go into storage for when I return to the UK (it doesn’t make sense to get rid of these things when I’ll only need them in the future), but aside from that, my wardrobe has been cut down by more than half.
It feels great. I don’t have to wear clothes that don’t really suit me because I feel guilty that they’ve been sat in my wardrobe for months anymore – they’re gone, and all that remains are my favourite clothing staples that I’ll throw on without a second’s thought. It’s pretty liberating.
I want other people to know that the quest for minimalism is a tough, stressful process, but we’re not even out the other side and already I can vow that I will never regain this many possessions again.
I’ve documented here how we have started the process towards minimalism, what do to with your stuff, and how we plan to keep it this way.
The Clear out
We’ve had to get rid of wardrobes, desks, chests of drawers, mirrors, and chairs. We cleaned our furniture up, took some photos, and put them all on gumtree.
In just a matter of days, we sold nearly everything. How? We set low prices. We’d already paid for that furniture years ago – some money returned is better than no interest and the whole lot going to waste.
Pete set a quota of half price minus 5%, and that seems to have done the trick. We’ve had so much interest we actually wondered if we could have gotten more for some items, but you learn with experience, and getting rid of our furniture has been a big burden relieved.
Read Next: Decluttering My Life: The First Steps
I finally did what every ‘clear your clutter’ tutorial says: I got rid of any clothes I haven’t worn in 6 months or more. I had so many items of clothing that I’d probably wear once a year, or keep hold of because it looked nice but never wore because something felt uncomfortable on. I filled plastic bags with all of these clothes, and donated them to be sent to charities or recycled.
It’s been useful to have an idea of what I will keep during this process, and to try to keep items that I can easily mix and match – I have a tendency to favour grey (I know, so interesting), so I’ve been trying to balance out my keep wardrobe with other colours to avoid ending up in a one-colour uniform! Minimalism makes sense to me in almost every aspect except my wardrobe. I love having choice when dressing, even if I do feel a little guilty at the unworn items hanging in my cupboards. If it weren’t for the fact that I only have space for a minimal, capsule wardrobe, this part of decluttering would likely be a much slower process.
I love reading. I did a creative writing degree, so literature holds a special place in my heart. That makes getting rid of books really, really difficult – especially when you’re a traditionalist and have refused to ever make the sensible transition to kindle. However, when you’re trying to cut down on weight, books have to be the first thing to go.
We’ve packed up nearly every book we own (keeping: a Thai phrasebook, Yoga for Travellers, and Tim Ferris’s The Four Hour Work Week because people keep telling me it will rock. My. world.), and will also be donating these. I could never just throw a book away – it has to be going somewhere to do some good.
This is an over-arching for all the stuff lying about the house. That’s the only way I can describe it. Pete and I definitely have hoarder tendencies, so we hang on to anything from birthday cards we received three years ago, to free notepads, stress balls, juggling balls, key rings – all sorts.
There was just a lot of bits and pieces taking up surface space. Unfortunately, most of this had to be binned – it may have had some sort of sentimental value to us, but not valuable to anyone else. This is probably the most time consuming thing to sort out when on a quest for minimalism – especially once all the furniture our knick knacks once sat on is gone!
If you’re anything like me, you have a box or a draw full of paperwork, receipts and important documents. I committed an evening to using Evernote’s Smart Camera app, and uploaded every single one of my documents to my account on the site.
The Evernote camera is so clever – just place your document against a contrasting surface, and the camera takes a perfect image of just the document, as if you’ve scanned it (it would have been nice to know Evernote had this feature before I took a dozen crappy images of my paperwork first though!). Now, I have instant access to a copy of my passport, student loan details, Tax paperwork, driving license and any other important documents wherever I am in the world, totally eliminating my need for paper as I travel.
Check out my full post on going paperless to see the exact steps I took. Life is so much easier now I’ve done this.
How to Maintain Minimalism
So we’ve nearly cut down our entire possessions into a bag, and a few essential bits to go into storage. How do we make sure it stays this way?
Well, I think minimalism is all about intentional living. After going through this process, I can see how my money has been wasted, space needlessly taken up and how easy it is to fall into a bit of a materialistic mindset. It has been an intentional, methodical process to reverse that mindset. I’ve written up a post on maintaining this minimalist mindset and clearing your mental clutter here.
After this experience, my intention is resolute to stay clear of needless purchases. If my shoes break on the road, I’ll get a new pair but throw out the old ones – not hang on to them for sentimental reasons. If I buy a book to read, I’ll exchange it for a new one later on, rather than stuff it into my rucksack. When we’re working to travel, rather than living to work, suddenly those unthinking purchases pop up a whole let less in my life.
I do less, but to live more.