How Living Out of a Backpack for 6 Months Turned Me Into a Minimalist
I've never thought of myself as a pack rat. Sure, I tend to hold on to sentimental things (ahem, movie ticket stubs dating back as far as 2006) and I might be guilty of holding on to clothes a little too long after they've gone out of style... but I honestly don't own that much stuff - or so I thought. It turns out... I had no idea how much stuff I was hanging on to that I absolutely did not need.
In the winter of 2014, I set off on my first backpacking adventure up the east coast of Australia, carrying only what I could fit in a 70 litre bag. For 6 months I survived on around 2 pairs of shorts, 5 shirts, 1 pair of leggings, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 sweater, 1 bathing suit, flip flops, running shoes, a towel, a raincoat and toiletries.
I KNOW. That seems CRAZY. But, here's the thing...
Once that trip was over, I came home to all of my "stuff" (which I didn't even realize I had so much of) and found that it was completely overwhelming me! I missed the simplicity of my nomadic life and felt compelled to start purging everything that I didn't absolutely need.
Purses, shoes, clothes, old magazines, random trinkets - all of it had to go. Anything that I didn't use on a regular basis was out the door. Kijiji, Salvation Army, my young sister, everybody got a piece! I figured, if I had gone 6 months without even thinking about the things I'd left behind... I probably didn't need them that badly.
Of course, this was (and still is) an ongoing process. It's so easy to slip back into that materialistic mindset once you're back in the 'real world'. In order to keep myself in check, I try to do a big purge around 4 times per year.
Here are the 4 golden rules I follow:
1. Ditch multiples - This applies to kitchen items, other household appliances, desk supplies, and everything else you can think of! Own 1 good-quality version of everything.
2. If you don't love it, leave it - If you're familiar with Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you may also have heard of the concept of getting rid of anything in your life that doesn't "spark joy". I use this advice specifically when tackling my closet. If I look at a piece of clothing and I'm no longer excited to wear it (or i haven't worn it in the last 6 months or so), I purge it.
3. If you don't use it, lose it - If I don't use a particular item at least once a month, I seriously consider getting rid of it. There are times when I truly do still love something, but it no longer complements my personal style, my lifestyle, or I can no longer put it to good use (old makeup, costume jewelry, VHS tapes - I'm lookin' at you), then it's time to move on.
4. If it brings back bad memories, get it out of your life - There are always those tricky sentimental items that carry so many memories - old photos, letters, gifts from ex-partners, whatever it is! It's nice to have these things to look back on, but we're all guilty of holding on to some things we know we should have freed ourselves from a long time ago. Remember, if it doesn't bring you pure joy, get rid of it!
When all else fails, the question I always ask myself is... "would I need this on a 6 month backpacking trip?" If the answer is no, then you know what to do.
Food for thought: If you had to suddenly sell everything you own and could only keep one single item, what would it be?