Almost exactly a year ago, my sister Sarah and I piled everything we owned into a royal blue Kia Forte (named Diana, after Wonder Woman) and drove west, all the way from the east coast to Bend, Oregon. We’d left our home in Georgia and everything we knew far behind. We rented the ‘temporary’ lodging of a single, small room in a really nice house. We unpacked.
One year later, we are still in that (this) room. We have tried to continue the spirit of minimalizing that led to us getting rid of over 90% of our items before we set out on our adventure. We have been through several ‘rounds’ of looking at clothes, decorations, jewelry etc. We’ve gone to Good Will twice.
But as interesting as living together in a small space has been (a story for another time), even more interesting to me has been the most surprising parts of my first year of truly Living Minimal. Here’s what I’ve learned —
Five Surprising Things About Living
With Only a Carload of Stuff
- You find yourself LESS attached to your things, not more. I really assumed that I’d feel very connected to my few remaining items when I moved. Even the idea that you get rid of the 2s and 3s (on a scale of 1-10) from categories (like clothes) and just keep the 9s and 10s would seem to suggest that I’d love, love, LOVE what remained and would be heartbroken without it. But the opposite has been true, the less material possessions I have, the less attached I am to the remaining ones. Which brings me to…
- Everything is replaceable. Maybe it’s obvious (and it doesn’t count true mementos) but I’m really surprised how easy it is to rebuild a life anywhere (provided you have some money in the bank). My old laptop broke right after I got to Bend; this new cheap one works great. We got a table and chair from Target. An internet-worth of stores are just a click away. You really can start over anywhere and not miss a stride.
- You can ‘use up’ your attachment to something. I think we’ve all had that shirt we loved but just kept sitting in our closet or that gift necklace we meant to wear or that souvenir mug… In my old life, I had tons of things I meant to enjoy but never got around to actually using. But this year, I drank coffee from my mug (a gift from a friend) every day for months and months, I read books that were Christmas gifts right away, I admired crystals we’d carried from home as they sat in the window again and again and… I’ve gotten my emotional connection to them completed somehow. I have enjoyed that mug more than I might have in a lifetime back home and now I start to feel like I can release it.
- You get even more excited about minimalizing. Or at least I do. We left a few boxes back in GA — now I want them gone. I dream of really traveling the world with just two bags — one for clothes and one for my laptop. Even now, as we begin to wind down our time in Bend, my sister and I are WAY too excited about eating down the extra food and finding ways to carry even less out of town than we brought in.
- How little you really use/touch day-to-day. I had started to suspect as much when I was preparing for this life-changing move, but living a whole (pandemic) year in a small room really brought it home. Of course, we have access to nice furniture and kitchen appliances, but phones and laptops are our only electric entertainment, and my stuff in our room stays super-minimal. I have a stack of books and DVDs, a little white board (for goals), my water bottle, and a few electronic cables. My clothes stay in my travel bag, a few toiletries are in the bathroom. We have a good amount of kitchen stuff (my sister’s a great cook), and keep a few boxes of mementos in the closet. But day-to-day, I interact with very little, and certainly wonder why (for years) I had rooms and rooms, and boxes and boxes, of random stuff.
Of course, it’s not perfect. I miss having a TV and gaming console (we voted to leave ours back east), and some of my issues come down to not having more room to set up my office/writing area. But stuff-wise, it’s amazing.
We occasionally talk about something we’ll have in a ‘permanent home’ someday, when one could have more than two plates, or have furniture, or keep your books on a shelf versus the floor, but in the here and now, I’m more excited about going in the other direction, about having even less, and about traveling the world while being truly free.
Minimalizing is dangerous indeed; the more you get rid of, the more you find yourself.