I hardly hold on to ‘stuff’ for longer than a couple of years. And these days I am not only gradually minimizing the number of objects I surround myself with but I’m also trying really hard to reduce the number of things I purchase. Why? Because becoming a ‘constant expat’ and travelling more made me realise that we are actually perfectly fine with fewer things in our life. I, therefore, aspire to both live and travel like a minimalist.
Minimalism became quite fashionable in recent years. I, however, came a really long way from a true hoarder to the point now where I’m gradually getting rid of useless stuff. It was both travelling and being an ex-pat, now for several years which put me on this path quite naturally. Moving countries, houses, cities and all sorts made me want to learn how to live and travel like a minimalist. And I must admit it is gradually changing my life for the better.
I am not a massive collector but I do get attached to things. Things that have sentimental value, my books and all sorts of random ‘stuff’. Juicers, pots and pans, this mug I bought in Grenada, Calabash bird feeder I bought in Trinidad (not that I ever feed birds, unfortunately) collection of metal and wooden lizards from my Spanish travels… The list goes on. But as much as I used to collect souvenirs in the past, more recently I discovered that I hardly ever hold on to any of those things for too long. What is the point then?
So the story used to go this way:
I obtain objects, clothes and souvenirs. I get attached and try to create what they call ‘a home’ whilst believing that surrounding myself with those object will help me feel more like I actually have one. Then I decide to change – the country, the city – and get rid of most of the stuff. I always use this opportunity to declutter. I sell, give away or simply put them in a rubbish can. Whilst asking myself a question ‘why did I get all those thighs in the first place?’.
Oh and I do keep things for ‘just in case’ as well.
So I move – often with just a couple of cases, maybe one shipped box. But then the same story goes again in a new location.
Last time I moved, however, I decided that enough is enough. I intentionally moved to a smaller apartment. My project was to not only declutter but also stop cluttering myself back.
But is not easy to suddenly start living like a minimalist.
I like reading – physical books for me have a soul and of course a message to tell. How selfish it is though to buy one, read it and put it on your shelf. (Although having a home library was always my dream). So I have decided I will now read the book and then give it away for someone else to enjoy it. Books should be circulated. Infused with the energy of their readers.
I used to like bringing souvenirs from my travels. All sorts of random things. I still have few. However, the memories and adventures are the greatest souvenirs – and if I really want to remember and don’t want the memories to fade – I will write about them instead and take loads of photos. If I get a souvenir – this must be practical. Something I will use when travelling again, or something that will make my life easier.
And clothes? Oh yes – guilty as charged! The number of dresses and tops I had hanging in my wardrobe – worn ones or not even that sometimes. Still with the tags on. Some were not worn as I despise ironing, some were just a ‘one kind of an occasion thing’. And every time I moved the house I would carry 10 binbags full of useless clothing. As well as all the uncomfortable shoes which are just too pretty to get rid off.
But somehow, every time I move to another country, they don’t seem to fit the purpose anymore. Hmmm. What am I talking about! My UK clothes definitely were not suitable for the hot Spanish climate and vibe. But I brought them with me anyway.
And I kept them for years thinking that one day there will be an occasion to wear it. Yes, you guessed it – there wasn’t.
So now when I buy a piece of clothing I ask myself a few questions first. Am I going to wear it on multiple occasions? Is it comfortable, durable and practical? Do I need to iron it (because if I do it will definitely prevent me from wearing it)? Will I be able to take it with me whilst travelling? Does it pack small?
Yes, I will buy boots and winter jacket which won’t go with me on my Southeast Asia or South America travels and most likely will get shipped to my sister’s house. But those are pieces I will definitely wear if I’m at home during winter months. I will not buy the kind of clothing I will maybe wear if I get invited to a wedding or to that fancy boat party.
Simple and practical clothes can get transformed into evening wear with a small addition of jewellery and a lightweight scarf or kimono. I don’t need 5 gowns and 15 blouses for which I will have to figure out the bottom to go with – therefore, more shopping. Been there, done that. Moving house with hundreds of bags and boxes is a real pain in the lower end. And I decided that I had enough of it. Also as I’m preparing myself for a digital nomad lifestyle, owing millions of things is just not possible.
And the funny thing is – owing less things is actually quite fine.
The more we own – the more we are owned. By the other people’s perception of us, peer pressure, media and finally big corporations and companies which make us feel like we are worthless without possessing those things. I don’t wont to be own. I want to be free and freeing myself from unnecessary things make me just that. Or at least it puts me on the right path.
So how do I live and travel like a minimalist?
If I take a short trip, I just take carry on luggage. And whilst I also carry my camera gear, this really forces me to take a minimal amount of stuff. This had to be a real transition from ‘i will take all those things just in case’ to ‘how versatile that one piece of clothing is’ and ‘do I really need it?’
Travelling light is a great thing. You can just grab your belongings and go where you want. Change locations, go for hikes or city walks in-between the hotel or hostel changes. And you don’t have to worry about the possibility of lost luggage. Not even mention that the price of hold baggage can exceed the price of the ticket at times.
I don’t use my suitcases anymore for longer travels. I have purchased my 55 litres backpack and I’m planning never to go above this size even on longer trips. Planning well is key. Know where you are going and take only the necessary items. I know, the word ‘necessary’ has many meanings. But the bigger the case or bag, the more things you will take. It is a mind game.
I believe that by choosing where our money goes we make a real impact.
Individually and collectively. Not only on the environment and our physical and financial health. But also by spending money we are supporting the change – or the lack of it. By reducing the purchase of plastic contained goods we are forcing companies to shift into more sustainable ways.
And let’s be honest, on a personal level – most of the sustainably packaged products will also save us money. Take a bar of soap for example. Not only it is not packed in a plastic bottle – it will also last you much longer. I buy a large jar of coconut oil and use it for nearly everything. And I know exactly what is in it. And at the end of its life – I recycle or reuse the jar.
Yes, I buy clothes – I’m a woman at the end of the day 🙂 But I really think three times before I purchase anything these days. I was also very sad to learn that some of my favourite fashion brands still use child labour and even force their workers to work without pay. Just so we can look better and pay less. So have decided to make more conscious decisions and unless their practices will change – I will stop purchasing those brands. As I said – by spending money we can force the change.
Buying things we don’t need is a crazy phenomenon and I personally fell into this trap numerous times. There are a few psychological reasons why would we buy things we don’t need.
We feel more secure or want to boost our confidence. Maybe we didn’t have enough growing up and now, that we can, we want to make up for it. We believe having more or better things will make us more accepted or we simply believe that this new dress or bag will make us happy. But the truth is – most of those beliefs are induced by the media and the consumer culture we live in right now.
Maybe this new dress will make you feel more pretty or accepted – but it won’t be so new couple of months from now. And the person inside will still be the same.
And don’t forget there are people and companies which are paid big bucks just to convince you that you really need those things to be happy or happier. Advertisement, promotions, psychological tricks. And we all fall into this trap.
I like pretty things too, but I want my pretty things to serve me as well and not harm others at the same time. To express who I am, not make me accepted by people which I don’t share values with anyway. To promote my wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of others. To pack small in case I travel. To serve me on many occasions and last longer.
It is still a work in progress. I still hold onto many possessions of which I could get rid of and which hold sentimental value. I am just a human at the end of the day. But I realised that I need much less than I thought in order to be happy.
I would rather spend the rest of my life exploring the world with one bag then fill the house with pretty things and never travel. I’m sure there is a compromise that can be found here, but for now, I aspire to both live and travel like a minimalist.
And I recommend you try and test it yourself 🙂
Would like to hear more about my expat life and how leaving my country changed my Life? Click here to read the story 🙂