I’ve been asked many times over the years why it is that I am able to travel and move countries as much as I do, and the answer invariably comes down to one simple fact. I don’t accumulate stuff. Keeping my life free of unnecessary junk – and being happy to dispose of what little there is – provides the mental and physical freedom to drop everything and travel on a whim.
If you would also prefer to spend your life on the road rather than your new leather recliner, here’s a few simple ideas that can help.
Get off the merry go round
Like all good journeys, the path to reducing the junk in your life starts with a single step. In this case, it’s a single word. Stop. Put your credit card back in your pocket, and stop buying stuff you don’t need with money you don’t have. Understanding the difference between needs and wants is a lesson that we are all taught in childhood, and yet most of us seem to have forgotten it under the relentless daily consumerist barrage.
Discriminate between the few things that you truly need and the many things that you think you want, and leave the latter on the shelf for someone else. This will both save you a fortune and reduce the amount of stuff that you need to dispose of when you do go travelling. Win win!
Once you’ve stopped buying stuff you don’t need, it’s time for phase two. Downsize. Whether you are planning to travel next week, next month or a year from now, it’s never too early to start getting rid of accumulated junk. Imagine if instead of scaling up your house every few years to fit in that 17 piece lounge suite or two hundred inch television, you could dramatically reduce your costs and increase your flexibility instead.
Now stop imagining it, and start doing it. Be ruthless! If you haven’t used something in 12-18 months, you don’t need it. Stop waiting for the rainy day that will never come, and get rid of it. Utilise online auctions, garage sales, friends and family, charities, even a poster on the local community noticeboard. You’ll be amazed at just how liberating it is to dispose of years of crud – and finding out just how little second hand items are worth is a great incentive to not make the same mistake again!
It’s a pretty fair bet that none of the stuff you own materialised in your living room out of thin air. The environmental cost of manufacturing, transporting and ultimately disposing of things can easily exceed the price you paid for them – and that’s before taking into account the secondary impact of heating, cooling and running a larger house to store them all in!
Treading lightly – both while travelling and when living in one place – helps both you as an individual and the planet as a whole. Take a minute to ask yourself where something came from before you hand over your cash.
Lists. They’re geeky but they work.
Maybe it’s the inner geek in me, but I find that making lists simplifies the process of getting rid of stuff. When it’s time to put the backpack on again, I walk around my house writing down everything that I come across and assign it to one of four categories:
Once you come to terms with the fact that everything in the last category has to fit into your suitcase or backpack (and be able to be carried up and down stairs, through train stations and along city streets), you tend to find it much easer to choose one of the other three options! Sell it, give it or throw it – just don’t keep it.
Stop reading, start doing.
In a society where status is so closely linked with possessions – car, boat, house and everything in it – it’s not always easy to go against the grain and actively reduce the amount of stuff you own. Having children, a partner or elderly parents can make the task seem even more difficult. Once you start, however, the sheer freedom that downsizing brings more than makes up for not having tonnes of unnecessary junk cluttering up your life.
With each old kitchen appliance or box of books that gets loaded into the back of somebody else’s car, a travelling lifestyle moves one step closer. Seize the initiative – now. Stop reading this article and start making a list of stuff to get rid of. Good luck, and see you on the road!
[Image courtesy of meghantosh]