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It’s been five months since we sold almost everything we owned and embarked on our Never Ending Voyage. It’s been a long, hard trip. Each morning I wake up and think about all the cool stuff I left behind:
“This Paraguayan sunrise sucks,” I’ll lament.
“If only I could be back in Manchester, sitting on my Ikea couch and watching the latest Michael Bay DVD on my huge Sony TV.”
OK, so I never actually owned a huge Sony TV and I’m never likely to say that about Michael Bay – dude raped my childhood – but, really, I’m still very surprised at how little I do miss.
Even if you’re not planning to be as nutty as us and get rid of your house, your car and anything you can’t get on your back, take the money and spend it (Pensions? Pffs, pensions are for old people!) on walking the earth until it starts running out (the money, not the earth) at which point you desperately scratch around looking for a way to make more just to eat that month (on a totally unrelated note, I think you could do with a new awesome website), there are still some major advantages to be had from getting rid of your junk.
1) Clutter Free House
Space is important. Hotels know this – that’s why you pay five or six times as much for less than double the square footage. Space gives you, er, space. To think. To breathe. To do calisthenics.
Sitting cooped up in a closet of a bedroom surrounded by bookshelves and boxes stacked to the ceiling while trying to work on a desk where every inch is covered by papers, pens, coffee mugs and knick-knacks except for the napkin-sized space you’ve allocated for mouse movements is not conducive to a relaxed and comfortable environment.
Not at all.
2) Clutter Free Mind
There’s a scene in Up In The Air where George Clooney talks about filling an imaginary backpack with all of the stuff you own – house, car, tables, chairs, computers, books, DVDs, sofas, broken picture frames, bent spoons, that Madonna T-Shirt from 1989 that you’ll never wear again but can’t bear to get rid of (NOT MINE) – and then trying to carry it.
Then he tells you to burn it. Even playing along and pretending to, there’s a palpable sense of relief in the activity. A slightly panicky, oh-shit-what-now euphoria.
That. Is what freedom feels like.
(The fact that he then goes on to talk about relationships in the same way should be glossed over quickly because the rest of the movie is about how relationships are important and basically how these talks he gives are rubbish. Still, I think the stuff thing holds.)
We used to own cars that were worth less than £500 because we lived in fricking Manchester. If you own a Mercedes or a BMW in a city like that then how can you not have a lingering sense of anxiety every time you leave it parked in an on-street parking bay down some dodgy looking back alley.
That, my friends, is stress. Ownership is stress by another name and it’s only worth it if the good bits of ownership outweigh the stressful bits.
MacBooks, yes. Ferraris in Burnage, not so much.
Obviously, the act of selling stuff instead of buying it will make you better off overall (that’s math, that is).
But there are other, secret, unknown, hidden benefits that I want to share with you. Secrets that swagger with impressiveness. Secrets so great, your world might actually implode.
A story, to illustrate.
We stayed in a studio apartment in Buenos Aires for two months. There is no way we would have fitted all of our old life into this tiny space. Our dining room table would have taken up half of it. Add a drum kit and we’d have had to have moved the bed out.
But, with just two backpacks and a guitar, it was huge. We barely made a dent in the closet space alone. In fact, we could have lived quite comfortably with all of our stuff IN the closet.
Without our old possessions, we can live in a tiny shoeboxes, still feel like we’re living in a palace and save a ton of money on the rent. Win, win and win.
And once you live in a smaller place, everything else gets cheaper too – gas bills, electricity bills, insurance – it’s all extra cash in your pocket which you could use to, ahem, not buy more stuff or, even better, cut down your working hours and have more of the one thing that money can never buy – time.
I know, right? Mind. Blown.
Now, I don’t want to get too militantly anti-personal property here – I’m no Pinko Commie (U-S-A! U-S-A!). Stuff can be great. I am especially enamored with the shiny, electronic stuff (how I crave a currently unjustifiable iPhone – are you sure you don’t need a website?) and musical stuff (full disclosure: my drum kit is in safe storage at my mum’s – I couldn’t bear to get rid of it, but I WILL (someday)).
But, if you don’t have the space for the stuff and you don’t want to spend too much money on your stuff, then every purchase needs to be justified and carefully weighed (literally, if you’re carrying it all on your back).
And when you put that much thought into your purchases, you appreciate them a whole lot more. Just last week, I spent a full two hours stroking my brand new Columbia fleece.
That last sentence is possibly a lie, but I am wearing it a lot and I’m not past having a sly little stroke when no one’s watching (and also touching my new fleece).
If you want to be really hardcore, you’ll use the 1-in-1-out rule, where every purchase has to replace something similar – swapping a pair of socks for an XBox doesn’t count! I’m not there yet, but having a 40-litre backpack is kind of naturally limiting anyway so I almost rock.
Well, not all of it.
Some stuff sucks!
Having more stuff than you actually need sucks!
Yeah, that’s it!
(Quick – get to the poignant summary!)
What’s really surprising is how much stuff I simply don’t remember owning. I’m sure if someone handed me a list right now of all of the things we sold I’d be surprised at how little I recognised; at how much of it was just clutter filling up my life, standing in the way of my freedom.
Now Go Do It!
PS. If you need a little help we’ve written about how we sold our stuff.