The first time I clearly remember wanting less was my junior year of college after my trip to Colombia.
This was my first time “backpacking” and I was so stoked to finally be one of those cool backpackers. I bought this extremely overpriced little backpack that I believed would be perfect! It was a really cool backpack, but it was uncomfortable as it had no support and the straps dug into my shoulders.
Anyway, I was totally convinced that I pared down everything I possibly could while packing and that I was the ultimate, carefree backpacker with little on her back and even less worries!
Turns out I was wrong. I’m sure compared to some people I packed only a little, but still, the whole trip was uncomfortable. My backpack was hurting my shoulders every time we had to travel and the second, smaller backpack I brought weighed me down in my arms.
Do you really need what you think you need?
When I say my friends and I did everything on this Colombia trip, I mean everything. We went horseback riding, climbed a staircase to the top of a giant rock, hiked to a waterfall, went to a soccer game, learned to salsa in an authentic bar, went clubbing and more. You name it, we did it!
The end of the trip came along and before I knew it, I was back in Tallahassee. When I got around to unpacking, something surprised me: towards the bottom of my backpack there were multiple outfits I forgot I packed and did not wear once.
It seems pretty silly, but this was really, really profound to me. I could not believe that after all that stressful packing and planning, I didn’t even need these outfits. I basically wore different versions of the same outfit my entire trip and could have easily had a bag half as full. When I was traveling, I was having so much fun and just focusing on enjoying life that I didn’t worry so much about how I looked or if I re-wore the same outfit.
This was the first time that I realized how little the stuff I own actually contributes to my happiness.
In the routine everyday, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re wearing, how much money you make and trying to be liked. It’s amazing what you can let go of when you are not living in your routine of focusing on ‘me’.
Deciding to live for experiences, not things
After this little revelation, I was determined to be the lala free spirit that didn’t care about possessions and simply took in life as it came. While things didn’t go quite that smoothly, I did sort through all my clothes and really start thinking about why I was going out shopping for random stuff.
Usually, I was shopping and accumulating stuff to avoid something I was lacking emotionally. To this day, I go through cycles where I come home from a long day and just feel suffocated looking at all the clutter around me. It blows my mind how much stuff one human can accumulate in such a short amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, I still stop a TJ Maxx just because I’m driving by and end up coming home with 3 candles, popsicle molds and clothes in my bag.
The main thing I’ve learned is to change my relationship with possessions. I’d rather spend my money (which is really something you get in exchange for your time and your time is your life) backpacking Bali with my best friend than on random things I convince myself I “need” all throughout the year.
When in doubt, think of death your family
On a morbid note, when I see all of my possessions, most of which just collect dust, I think about how if I were to die suddenly (is this already becoming a theme?) my poor family would have to go through all my junk! That’s usually how I convince myself to declutter and get rid of things. So feel free to take this little “hack” of mine. Do what works for you, right?
Do you think you need to live with less or you’re just right? What are some of your tricks for getting rid of things? I’d love to know 🙂