on June 10, 2013
Minimalism is well-suited to a hard trekker’s lifestyle, both on the road and at home. The benefits of packing light on a trip have already been outlined, but minimalism at home is also relevant, especially when it comes time to set off on another long-term trip.
Getting rid of stuff
I have done a few ‘purges’ of stuff in preparation for long-term trips. The first purge was the most difficult because I had accumulated so much junk over the years. I wouldn’t consider my former self a hoarder (not even close), but even ‘normal’ levels of accumulation in first-world countries are excessive.
Of course, not everything I had was junk. For example, I used my bike every day and loved it. When it came time to either part with it or stash it until my indefinite travels ended, I was torn. Eventually I decided to sell it. The money from the sale provided some padding for the upcoming trek, and the bike I bought when I got home suits me even better than my old one. The experience taught me how easy it is to let go of most material possessions, even those that I thought would be difficult to replace.
For items that are irreplaceable or would be too costly to buy back after a trip, loaning the item to a close friend is a viable alternative. A car is a good example, especially because you wouldn’t want to leave your car sitting idle indefinitely. Your friend benefits from using it and you don’t have to sell it or store it while you’re away. You just have to make sure that it will work with the insurance coverage of the car.
It’s important to know what’s keeping you from traveling. If it’s an expensive and difficult to move piece of furniture, you might need to reevaluate how badly you want to travel. You might be letting a couch make big decisions in your life, but a couch doesn’t have your best interests in mind.
The hidden costs of ownership
In addition to the cost of simply acquiring something, there are several hidden costs that aren’t included in the sticker price.
If you’re on the road, paying for an apartment just to hold your stuff doesn’t make any sense. If you’re currently living with a ton of stuff, you might be paying extra rent for the space it takes up. Even a storage unit, while cheaper, is an unnecessary cost. You shouldn’t need to keep a mental tally of your stuff, or worry about it while you’re away.
If you have a lot of stuff, you inevitably spend time organizing it. This is another cost that is easily overlooked. Sorting through all the things you’ve got, to find the things you actually need, means you have too much. Living more minimally cuts down on clutter, and frees up time.
There are additional costs in having to move things around. Truck rentals, and the hours spent packing and hauling boxes, are costs that are easily ignored until you’re face to face with a big move. If selling your stuff seems like as much work as moving it, remember that in one case you’re being paid to be free of it, while in the other you’re paying to deal with it later.
Minimalism is not a competition
Extreme levels of minimalism aren’t appropriate for everyone (especially in the case of work-related tools or clothes), but I’m confident that most people would find they are happier with less stuff in general. This goes for couples and families, too.
It’s not a competition to see who can survive with the fewest things. Instead it’s a challenge to discover the true cost of ownership by enjoying the freedoms of living with less.
It will be difficult at first, but just getting started will help you see the benefits, and progress from there will come more easily. The same degree of minimalism isn’t right for everyone, but cutting down on the stuff you own is almost always beneficial.
With fewer things to sort out at home, it’s considerably easier to take off on another long term trip should the idea strike you. You can read more about minimalism, and find helpful guides on Leo Babauta’s minimalist blog.