Preparing to Live in Uruguay

Getting rid of your stuff is hard.

It takes a lot more time to go pretty close to minimalist than you might think. Once I made the decision to move and started to learn more about mnimalism, I had four main realizations:

  1. I had a lot of stuff (just look at about half of the books I own above)
  2. I had to get rid of 90% of it
  3. I didn’t want to get rid of it
  4.  I had to fit it all in 2 suitcases and 1 backpack

Having way more stuff than needed

At a quick glance, I had: three closets worth of clothes, sports equipment, multiple computers, monitors, a ton of books, random trinkets, and more “stuff” that just took up space. A few girls were even jealous that I had three closets of clothes. What can I say? I liked them.

There was no way I was going to bring even half of it with me. I had to sell, donate, or trash a bunch of stuff so I decided to learn minimalism.

It was quite easy to make the decision to go minimalist, but it was a lot harder to figure out what to get rid of and what to keep. My biggest struggles were figuring out what clothes I was going to bring.

I had to bring enough clothes for:

  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Summer
  • Winter
  • The beach (ultimate clothes)
  • Learning to dance (business casual)
  • Networking (business casual?)

Minimalism doesn’t mean bringing it all.

As much as I wanted to bring a shipping container down with me, I needed to maximize the use of every item in my wardrobe. Asa wrote a post about his preparation and how he tries to maximize his wardrobe here.

I’m not a hoarder by any means, but I liked the stuff that I had. I wanted to keep everything!

Just in Case

Luckily, as I was trying to figure out what to bring, a good friend told me that Joshua and Ryan from The Minimalists were touring around and having a meetup in Atlanta. I checked out their site and really liked the essays that I read so I decided to check it out with him and some friends.

Over drinks and dinner, the group talked about different ways to pair down items, what they have learned, and various questions asked by people there.

I asked them about what to do about bringing just in case items. Just in case items are things like bringing a suit just in case I can network and possibly do some work for companies down here. They basically said that whatever just in case items I might need, I could find withing 20 minutes for $20. You can read their excellent post about it here.

Make it a Game

I decided I needed to start making decisions and deciding what to bring and what not to bring. I turned it into a game to try and only own 50 items including laptop, video and point-and-shoot camera, and Ultimate Frisbee stuff. I knew I wouldn’t make it that low, but I aimed for it.

I love playing games, so it helped me get rid of stuff.

I wanted to fit everything I owned in only a backpack and 2 suitcases. In order to replace a few things at once, I started buying more things that would replace 2 or more items. For example, I bought a patagonia backpack to replace my Ultimate Frisbee bag and computer backpack. This saved a bunch of room. I bought a pair of Patagonia Maui Air loafers to replace a few different pairs of shoes that I wanted to bring. It also doesn’t hurt that they are the most comfortable shoes I’ve owned.

After all the time spent getting rid of the car, truck, sports gear, and clothes, I actually had a little extra room in my suitcase.

Giving Away More

I was able to bring a bunch of Spin Ultimate gear thanks to the amazing people at Spin for Asa, Randi, and myself to give away to people down here who might not have jerseys or to include in tournament prizes as long as we take pictures of the stuff and people wearing it. I weighed my bags, had to move a few things around to get both bags under 50 lbs, and was good to go.

A Helping Hand

I’m extremely thankful of my roommate, friends, and family for helping me get rid of stuff and deal with a few more items that I left behind and didn’t get rid of. As my usual self, I waited until pretty close to the last minute and had a lot more stuff than I initially thought.

Looking at what I have now, I would be comfortable in any scenario and feel like the shackles have been removed from me by getting rid of stuff.

It’s a pretty awesome feeling!

If you ever feel like you have too much or you keep acquiring stuff, I recommend spending an hour or two and cleaning out your closet or a room in your house. Aim to donate or sell one giant trash bag worth of clothes or items that are sitting around. It’s a freeing experience!

A step towards Minimalism

This trip has really gotten all of us thinking about our possessions. Mostly about how we have so many of them. The separation of us from our possessions was a necessary part of our trip, but we’ve met the task with varying levels of enthusiasm. Miranda and I downsized from a three bedroom place to a one bedroom place. Along the way the reality is that there are plenty of family treasures and prized items, everything from trophies to stuffed animals to high school yearbooks, that have been sold, donated or discarded. Almost everything we decided to keep is now in storage and we’re living out of our car. (As an aside, pets take up a lot of space in a car.)

For me, the whole experience has been cathartic. It was hard identifying the cruft from items we really did need. We got more than a few cock-eyed looks as we sold and eventually junked tools that were perfectly good. When it comes down to it we don’t need 6 wrenches or pliers or screwdrivers that are all the same size. I found myself saying, on more than one occasion, “I know they’re good and I’m selling them anyway. Go ahead and take them if you really need them! Please!” I hate junking things but if no one needs them we’re wasting resources by carting them around.

I’m really enjoying having only a few possessions and, at least for the time being, not having a house. The only part I don’t like is that I don’t get to see much of the fruits of our labors because we’ve moved in with Miranda’s parents for a bit until we leave for Uruguay, so I can’t see the fruits (or lack of fruits) of our labor.

The next step in the process is probably the hardest and really the key to making the reduction worthwhile. That is not refilling our coffers with junk. Focussing on the closet for starters, there was a timely ad on patagonia.com‘s front page (related blog post). The cliff notes are: strive to reduce, repair, reuse and recycle in that order. First step, don’t buy stuff you don’t really need. Second, don’t buy stuff when you can repair the old item. Third, if you really want to get rid of it let someone else use it (eBay, donate, garage sale). Fourth and finally, recycle the old stuff and keep it out of the landfill. The take away for me is, now that I’ve downsized my wardrobe I want to make sure that I don’t grow it again for no reason. I get a lot of teasing for my attempts to perfect my wardrobe but at least any time I buy something I get rid of something else. In this way, I don’t tend to accumulate a whole lot of junk in a dresser or in a box stashed away for the one day I might want to use it (that day doesn’t tend to come anyway). I suppose, that puts me somewhere in the middle of reuse and recycle. I could do a little better there, but it’s a start.

Until next time, keep it simple.

TL;DR – Find and get rid of cruft. Don’t replace it. Rinse and Repeat with every facet of your life.