Less Stuff Equals More Freedom (to Travel)
Today, I achieved a huge goal: I finally finished cleaning out my storage unit more than 4 years after opening it.
Now I have less stuff and one less financial obligation. Yay!
For a while now, I’ve felt like I didn’t own my stuff, my stuff owned me. The excess and clutter were taking a toll on me:
- Mentally (by knowing that the huge task of cleaning and purging hung over my head)
- Physically (the clutter was making me feel closed in and stressed out)
- Financially (I was wasting $89 month after month to store my excess)
I finally decided enough was enough and began the daunting task of purging my stuff, both at home and in my storage space.
Cleaning out the storage space took many, MANY trips. When I started, the 5′ x 10′ space was too full to walk into.
I chipped away and with each trip, I got rid of a little bit more (I sold some, donated some, threw some out) and the storage space began opening up.
Finally, I put the last item in my car and was finished. (I couldn’t see out any windows except the driver’s side and the windshield, but that’s another story!
The best part of purging: I freed up $89 a month that I can put toward something I love and that brings me joy: traveling!
(The approximately $4,000 I wasted on the storage unit over the years could’ve paid for some REALLY nice trips! 🙁 )
Several years ago, I experienced a lot of changes in my life in a relatively short period of time:
- The end of a long-term relationship
- The loss of a job (which I hated anyway, but paid my bills)
- Loss of income as a result of the end of the relationship and the loss of my job
I felt like I lost everything, one thing after another. I had hit bottom.
I tried to make up for the loss of the financial contributions from my ex-boyfriend by renting out rooms in my townhouse. I also tried (unsuccessfully) for over a year to refinance/modify my mortgage so the payments would be lower (one of the most frustrating experiences in my life, for sure!)
The stress of dealing with everything became overwhelming. I wasn’t sleeping, I had lost my appetite. In short, I was a mess.
So, I decided to sell my house in a short sale. This was a very difficult and emotional decision.
I felt like a failure. I was depressed and sad for a long time. After all, I was losing my home, my security, my comfort zone.
One day, after months and months of depression, I had an epiphany. I thought to myself “What are you holding onto?”
- The house was too expensive and too much for me to manage by myself
- I was sick and tired of dealing with renters
- I had no equity in the house due to the downturn in the real estate market
I realized that there WAS no good reason for me to hang on to the house. I started looking at the sale of my house as a business transaction, removed the emotion from the equation, and began moving forward.
Once my mindset changed, I felt a HUGE weight lift off me.
Since I was moving out of a 4 level townhouse with lots of storage space, I had accumulated lots of stuff over the years. And since I was moving into a one bedroom apartment with very little storage, I had to rent a storage unit until I could pare down my stuff. Unfortunately, it took 4 years for me to do this.
Before I moved, I held a moving sale to try to lessen the amount I had to deal with (and to try to make a few dollars). I ended up paring down some more and made about $400 (mostly from some bigger items like furniture), but it was still difficult to watch people pick through my things.
Closing out my storage unit made me feel like another weight was lifted. I also felt a sense of accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a L-O-N-G way to go and need to pare down at by at least another 50%; however, I’m proud of myself and the progress I’ve made thus far.
Less Stuff = More Freedom
Not long ago, I came across a TV show called “Tiny House Nation.” After watching one show, I was hooked. The show has become really popular due to the recent movement toward “tiny living.”
According to the “Tiny House Nation” website,
[T]he tiny house movement…is a social movement where people are drastically downsizing the space they live in… The average American home is approximately 2,600 square feet, and the typical tiny house is 100-400 square feet. Tiny houses vary in shape and size, some are built on trailers so they can move around, and others are stationed on property. Environmental and financial concerns are a few of the factors that are driving people to live in tiny houses. They leave a smaller carbon footprint than a typical home, and cost a fraction to maintain. Owners of tiny houses say that focusing on a simpler way of living and reducing their financial burdens have positively impacted their lives, in a big way.
I think I could “go tiny” if I lived by myself, but not if I lived with a spouse. Being together in such a small space would truly test your relationship!
Before the new tiny house owner(s) can move into their new tiny house, they have to pare down their belongings to a fraction of what they currently own. This is always the hardest part and often emotional. I can relate! Once they pare down, however, they are happy that they don’t have as much to store, clean, and keep track of.
With each episode of “Tiny House Living,” I’m re-inspired to purge more of my stuff and simplify as I work toward balance in my life. I also get ideas about practical ways to store the stuff that remains. And I’m constantly amazed by Zack Giffin (the contractor and co-host who manages each project and build crew) and the creative projects he comes up with in order to give the owners everything they want (and more!)
Although I’m not planning on living in a tiny house anytime soon, I am purging my stuff as if I am. Why?
For me, less stuff equals:
- Less stress from being surrounded by clutter
- Less living space needed
- A simpler, freer, more peaceful life
[bctt tweet=”Less stuff equals a simpler, freer, more peaceful life” username=”whereisATB”]
One of the underlying themes I’ve heard time and again on the show is that the tiny house owners want to have fewer things and expenses so they have more money and freedom to enjoy life and to travel.
Can I get an “Amen?!”
Resources to Help You Free Yourself
If you’re like me and want to move toward a freer, simpler life so you have more money and freedom to do what matters most to you (for me, its travel; for you, it may be something else), here are a few resources to help you get started:
- By George Organizing Solutions:
- Great articles and blog posts to help you get organized
- Free e-newsletter
- Organizational challenges to get you motivated to get going
- One-on-one service if you live in the Missouri City, Sugar Land, Houston, or surrounding areas in Texas
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – very popular book
- The Container Store – a store full of wonderful storage options for everything imaginable
I hope you found this article helpful and perhaps, inspirational. Please share your stories below in the comments. I can’t wait to hear them!
As always, wishing you awesome travels!
A Traveling Broad
Amy, I love reading all your blogs. You are an amazing, strong, resourceful, funny woman who I am honored to call my friend. Oh yeah…and a great writer. Who knew! Wish we were back in Paris, during the gentler times.
Wow! What a nice thing to say. Thank you 🙂 I’m really happy that you enjoy the posts. I love writing them and sharing my stories (the good, the bad and the ugly!) I will definitely be writing more about France and posting some photos. That was an amazing trip full of fun and mishaps, which made it even more memorable. Please share my blog with others who might enjoy it as well. 🙂
I really loved this article! I am going through some things right now that are similar to what you went through and I have been wondering what I was going to do with all my stuff. Not only did you inspire me to be proactive with my belongings, you also let me know that I will get through this difficult time. Thank you keep up the good work!
Ed, I’m so glad this post helped you! Transitions are hard. Well, let’s just tell it like it is – they suck! But it will get easier. Just take one day at a time, do your best, and keep plugging away.
Amy, I love this blog post! You tell such an engaging story since you are being real! Thank you so much!
Thanks, Mary Lou. It stunk to have to go through it, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?! I appreciate you reading my post and taking the time to comment 🙂
Love your transparency in this post! So many people hold on to things for the wrong reasons and you were true to yourself and the life you want to have by letting go! That’s awesome!! Can’t wait to see where you get to go now that you’ve let go financially and emotionally from all the things that were tying you down 🙂
Thanks, Liana! This is a true story and I hope that by being transparent and authentic, I’ll help someone else who may be going through a difficult time. That period in my life was very dark and depressing, but thankfully, I was able to get through it. I found that letting go of “things” can be very liberating. At the end of the day, I’d rather have memorable experiences than “stuff.” I can’t wait to share my new adventures with you 🙂
I hope the other readers can free themselves by using some of the great advice you have on your blog, http://www.bygeorgeorganizing.com. I’ll be reading them as I continue to pare down the stuff I have left.