Get Rid of Half of Your Stuff

I had to double, and then triple, check this, but apparently I’ve never written a post on minimalism before. Then again, I live in an RV smaller than your walk-in closet, so I don’t suppose this post will come as a surprise to anyone. Still, it’s probably worth writing a few paragraphs about it for anyone who is considering paring down, but has some lingering objections to it.

Back when I was a professional gambler and made a ton of money, I did what anyone with a lot of money would do: I bought a house. My house was about 1800 square feet, which isn’t a big house by today’s standards, but is quite a lot of space for one person. What I didn’t consider was that a house comes bundled with pressure to fill it with stuff.

So I did. I bought tables, couches, chairs, beds, knick knacks, plants, pots, pans, dishes, and four robotic lawnmowers. I converted one of the rooms into a movie theater and another into a warehouse to store all of my stuff. If I wasn’t a compulsive shopper, I was at least an enthusiastic one. All the while, I never really thought about the end-game of all this stuff. I knew how to get it into my life, but never really considered how I’d get it out eventually.

I was first confronted with disposing of some of my stuff when I moved into a loft downtown. It was modern, which means that it was just three big rooms that blurred into each other, and no real storage space. Some of my stuff had to go. The burden of selling and giving everything away was huge. It consumed days of my life. For the first time ever, I was inconvenienced by consumerism.

And along with the downsides of consumerism, I also began to see the upsides of minimalism. Even though I had only half as much stuff as I used to have, my life in the condo was the same. I realized that all of the stuff I had didn’t really contribute to my happiness as I expected it might have.

Later that year I had to help my parents move. That added a few more points to the minimalism column, especially after they wouldn’t let me hire a day laborer to do my share of the work.

But my first real experience with hardcore minimalism was when Todd and I set off on Life Nomadic in 2008. I would have brought a medium sized bag, but Todd suggested small ones instead. I agreed, and soon we both got rid of anything we owned that didn’t fit into our 28 liter backpacks.

For months my heart would randomly skip a beat and I’d think, “oh no… did I remember to sell my extra TV?”, and then I’d realize that if it wasn’t in the backpack, I didn’t own it anymore.

Since then, I’ve remained a minimalist. In some ways I’ve become even more extreme. My backpack is now only 22 liters. I have one pair of pants, two shirts, one pair of sandals, and two pairs of underwear. And a tuxedo, but I never wear that. The interior of my RV is a bit excessive, but I consider working on the RV to be more of a hobby than anything else. And, at the end of the day, having an extra monitor hanging from the wall or a huge inverter under the stove doesn’t inconvenience me in any way.

I’ve never seen an example of someone becoming a minimalist and then reverting to having a lot of stuff. It’s one of those changes that’s scary to make, but once you get there you can’t really imagine doing anything else.

So what’s so great about minimalism? Well, the two areas of your life that DO contribute to happiness are increased: freedom and time.

The less stuff you have, the easier it is to move around, whether it’s a two week trip to Japan or a permanent move to Boston. You get to make decisions based on real factors, not based on the hassle of schlepping your stuff around with you.

This week I’m selling a bunch of stuff on ebay, and meeting buyers and shipping is dominating my time. That’s just one way that stuff steals your time. You have to organize it, clean it, buy it, repair it, look for it, and consider replacing it. For a few items that’s not a big deal, but when you have a whole house, it adds up fast. I find it minorly stressful to be in someone’s house who has a lot of stuff, because all I can think of is the chunk of one’s life it would take to dispose of it.

If you want to try out minimalism, I suggest you set a goal of getting rid of half of your stuff. I have almost nothing, and I know that even I could live happily without half of my possessions. Throw away things that aren’t worth anything, eBay things that are worth a lot, and give away what’s left over. You don’t have to count every single item you own, just keep a mental goal of “half” in your head.

For bigger items that you just can’t bear to give away, like a car or bicycle, give it a trial by entrusting it to your friend for a couple months. My guess is that after a couple months you’ll have practically forgotten about it. And, if not, maybe it’s something you ought to keep. After selling my first load of stuff, the two things I missed were my RV and my electric skateboard, so I rebought both of them.

The reason I’m not trying to convince you to get rid of everything is because I know it’s a nearly inevitable result of starting the process. I’ve seen it many times. Getting all of that stuff out of your life (and your mind) is addictive. The good kind of addictive, like how you supposedly get a runner’s high when you run a lot.

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Congratulations to my friends Charlie and Lisa for getting married! I had a great time at their wedding.

Last RV upgrade is done. Going to try to get that post / video ready by Thursday, but no promises. It’s my last week before China/Japan, so I have a bunch of loose ends to tie up. Man… speaking of which… solar power is brutal in the winter. I’m getting about 30% of July capacity!

I have so many posts prewritten now that it’s actually hard to wade through them all to pick one. Talk about a 180 from before!

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