Freedom from possession: How to get rid of your stuff

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Packing and enjoying a refreshing Korean libation - May 2014
Goodbye Oregon!

The idea of packing up your entire life and moving to a new city/state/country every six months seems daunting to many people, completely harrowing to others, and at the very least stress-inducing for most. Anyone who’s ever moved before can attest to the fact that bubble wrapping the china, sorting everything by room, packing all of your belongings into boxes, bribing your friends with beer and borrowing your buddy’s truck are not fun exciting saturday-afternoon activities.

The degree to which you hate moving probably has to do with the amount of stuff you’ve accumulated over the years. You’ve probably got some really great stuff; that record collection over there looks pretty nice, and so does that stack of DVD’s. I sure wish I had a nice comfy couch like that one you’re sitting on, I bet it’s great for watching that huge TV you’ve got there. But you NEED this stuff, where else would you sit? What would you listen to? You’d be dreadfully bored if you didn’t have your stuff wouldn’t you?

The truth is, every single thing you own ties you down to where you are. 

Getting rid of your stuff is a key element in the long-term slow-travel lifestyle. Nobody wants to go trotting around the globe with a moving van, unloading their sleeper sofa and television everywhere they go. In order to be successful you’re going to have to lighten your load a bit. It’s going to be hard at first, but the freedom you’ll feel after the purge will be worth it. Take some time to mentally separate yourself from all of this stuff. You really don’t need it, you can’t take it all with you, and you can always store the most important things that you just can’t part with yet.

Step 1: Take Inventory/Decide what to keep

Open you eyes and look. Look at all the stuff you have. I bet there’s even more stuff in the closet you can’t even see right now from where you’re sitting on that nice comfy couch. You need to take a good honest look at this stuff and decide what you can easily get rid of. Which clothes don’t fit anymore? Which haven’t you used in a while, or bought and used once only to put it on the shelf for years of dust collection? Get rid of it, I promise you wont miss it. The things you decide to keep/take with you should be useful, practical things that will be worth the valuable space they occupy, things like camping gear, maybe your guitar, or your luggage.

Step 2: Sort

Start putting the stuff into piles. What do you want to throw away? What do you want to sell? Which items should you donate to Goodwill? Things like stereos, handbags, dvd collections and such sell very easily on craigslist or at a lawn sale. Items such as clothes, old golf clubs, bocce balls, or kitchenwares like glasses and plates are probably easier to donate. And you should probably just throw away those empty liquor bottle trophies you’ve been hoarding.

Step 3: The Purge

This is the best part! Every item you get rid of will make you feel better and better. Each item tossed or sold or donated will lighten your load that much and bring you that much closer to freedom on the open road. Have a lawn sale, advertise that you’re moving. Tell your friends, they’ve been secretly eyeing your neat stuff for a while now. Post on craigslist, or put up flyers in town. Start a sellers account on Ebay. Do whatever it is you have to do. When you’ve finally tossed/sold/donated everything you can, put the rest in storage somewhere and celebrate your new found freedom from possession.

Step 4: Upkeep

Once you get rid of your stuff, it can be very easy to quickly accumulate more. You have to focus on keeping yourself light so that when it comes time to move again, all you have to do it pack up the little bit that you have and you’re off. Think twice about purchases, am I going to take that with me when I move? Am I going to actually use this? Is this something I need? If the answer is no, put it back on the shelf and be thankful for your amazing life of travel.

Lets have a discussion about it: What’s going to be the hardest item for you to sell? Which items would you definitely keep? 

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14 Responses

  1. Jeff | Planet Bell
    | Reply

    Luckily for me, I never accumulated stuff. I have a computer, camera stuff, clothes, and that is about it. (Our wedding presents from 8 years ago are still in boxes). Having said that, we always rent furnished places or live in employee housing with our jobs in remote places.

    But yes, the first key to long term travel is to get rid of your stuff. Stuff keeps you in one place. Once you get rid of it and start traveling, you realize how little of it you ever needed.

    • AdamCharles
      | Reply

      We have all of those things with us on the road, but we’re still working on emptying out the storage unit we rent in Oregon. I have a record player and a handful of records still, some art work, and a box of books. It’s a process.

      • Jeff | Planet Bell
        | Reply

        I saw that you worked in Skagway last year. Are you going back to AK? I’ll be in Glacier Bay this summer after 10 years in Denali.

        • AdamCharles
          | Reply

          We are indeed. I havent said anything on here about it until now…but yeah, can’t wait to be back. Gabby went to Glacier Bay last year but i had to stay and work. And she wants to go back since it was so foggy when she went, so we’ll probably go this summer. I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to meet up in such a BIG place….i might get lost in town.

  2. darwinontherocks
    | Reply

    The most difficult thing is getting rid of my books and I have way to many clothes. For the rest, I’m doing quite good.

    • AdamCharles
      | Reply

      I had a really hard time getting rid of my books. I still have a box of books in storage. The hardest thing for me to get rid of was probably my record collection. 🙁

  3. Emily Bowie
    | Reply

    We’re about to embark on a road trip and we’re separating everything we own into two cars, one that we’ll retrieve later, and one that we’ll drive in. It’s definitely hard, even though we don’t own much to begin with. But the things we value, even though they are minimalist, take up space – our dehydrator, canning supplies, sewing machine, food processor…. it’s hard to really break it down to what you really, really will need. It’s been a several month process of ripping ourselves away from our stuff, but it’s been extremely freeing.

    • AdamCharles
      | Reply

      Sounds like it’s going to be an epic road trip! The few possessions you have definitely sound worth keeping. Have you considered shipping them to where you’ll eventually be?

      • Emily Bowie
        | Reply

        Definitely, my family is going to drive the second car out to us when we land so we’re stuffing it full of appliances and winter clothes. Still had to get rid of a lot though!

  4. […] topic right now. This could totally be biased, considering I follow many blogs that tout “minimalism” and “sustainability.” It also could be seasonal – considering spring […]

  5. Kat Mandu
    | Reply

    Really enjoying your blogs guys! This one made me remember my puke green armchair that’s in storage at my parents. You’re making me doubt my game plan of settling down! No! 😉

    • AdamCharles
      | Reply

      Only settle down if you think that’s what’s best for you. Can’t wait to hang out this summer! I’m looking forward to introducing you to “the other Kat.” She’s a friend of ours from NY. thanks for checking out our blog!!

  6. […] topic right now. This could totally be biased, considering I follow many blogs that tout “minimalism” and “sustainability.” It also could be seasonal – considering spring […]

  7. Jody
    | Reply

    I know this is based on travel, but this applies to just life. Thanks for the tips, I always have a problem with getting rid of stuff because of the emotional value I hold to it; but I agree. Once it’s purged, I feel a lot better and more lighter/free.

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