Becoming Minimalists or “How Heavy Is That Suitcase?”
We were enthusiastic and competitive participants in the game of life called “He who dies with the most toys, wins”. That is, until we decided to change our lifestyle to become perpetual travelers. In the year that we took to prepare for our new lives we had to make a huge shift in our attitudes about potential purchases. Almost overnight we went from active consumerism to answering our gold standard question “Will this fit in my suitcase?”
When we first moved to Padre Island in Corpus Christi, Texas, we drafted a hurricane evacuation plan in the event that we were forced to leave the island. This was a great rehearsal because it made us prioritize, select the few things that we could not replace and fit them in a finite space, our car. These items included: household files and documents, photos, family keepsakes and a few select pieces of art. When we started getting rid of our stuff, we tackled the irreplaceable list first.
1) We toted bags of files to a shredder service and finally winnowed our files and documents to a couple of envelopes that would fit in a safe deposit box. We made notarized copies of documents to take with us (birth certificates, background checks, university diplomas, etc.) and uploaded copies to Dropbox, a cloud-based file storage service.
2) As for the pre-digital era photo albums, I divided our pictures into two groups: a few quality professional photos and a huge quantity of not-so-great pictures taken over the years with point and shoot cameras. After receiving a quote from a professional scanning service (the Scan Cafe), we boxed up the better quality pictures and old family photos, and mailed them off. The service took about a month from the time the pictures were mailed to when they were returned and cost about $150. The remainder of the photos we scanned ourselves into the computer. I saved just a few pictures after our son, no sentimental slob, convinced me that he did not want the photo albums and would be content with a disc and to view the albums online. The last of the originals worth saving were mailed to friends and family. In the end, were able to take our pictures with us.
3) Richard had collected oil and water-color paintings, pen and ink drawings etc. during our marriage. He was able to place a few pieces with the Montana and Oregon Historical Museums (and console himself with the thought of sharing these with others). Many pictures were shipped to family and friends as gifts, a few were donated to charity fund-raising auctions and some were sold.
4) Family Keepsakes. Again, we contacted various family members and shipped off what was wanted. The rest were sold.
One of the ways to keep our sentimental emotions tamped down as we shed our former life was to remind ourselves that all this stuff prevented us from doing what we wanted to do: travel. In the end we disposed of everything through two yard sales, Craig’s list, gifts to family and friends or charitable donations.
Throughout the year-long process of changing our lifestyle we tried to laugh as often as we could and worked hard to keep our sense of humor.
By Anita and Richard, July, 2013
You guys are an eerie reminder of me and the hubby. Once we were both retired, about 6 years ago, we downsized our possessions, left our house with our son, and joined the Peace Corps for a year. When we returned, we sild the house, once again downsized to be able to move into a tiny beachside bungalow, where we hoped to retire in peace and serenity. That was three years ago, and we are getting itchy feet. So much fun reading your chronicles!
We thought about the Peace Corps, too but shied away from it because of the year long commitment. What a terrific experience for you but it looks like travel itch is still strong. Our big motivating questions were “What if?” and “If not now, when?” With the aging factor and importance of health while traveling waiting for the ideal moment to pursue a dream may not be the most important factor…(Just my opinion!) Anita
Once you have to carry your stuff around with you, you quickly realize just what you can do without!
I LOVE THIS POST!!! Having to live through these changes with you I can appreciate the sense of humor that you have now attached to it! Also, as “one of the family” members who received your beautiful things, I am thankful that I can look at them – think of you- and smile.
Thanks for liking the post AND for all your help as we went through the long months of getting rid of our stuff to make travel as our new lifestyle possible! Wish we’d taken pictures of the yard sales! Anita & Richard