Ultimately, the 8 boxes at home could burn to the ground tomorrow, and I’d still be filled with joy! I am spending a magical time abroad, not tied to a mortgage or car payment, by choice. My work office is located where I want to be located anywhere across the globe. Presently that home office happens to be in a country estate full of really cool stuff! I get to use top of line home appliances after all. Yet when I am done playing house and want to see another part of the world, I get to kiss this cozy, fully-equipped home good-bye, and venture into a new home, use someone else’s cool stuff, and truly hang on to my most precious, joy-inducing items: memories, family, and travel.
It was about five months ago when I looked around our empty house and felt so free in all that emptiness. We had lived in that home for seven years, raising three children, and accumulated so many, many things. Everything was suddenly gone and we were down to about 8 boxes. All we truly wanted to hang on to in this life fit into less than 10 boxes and something about that felt good, so good.
In these boxes, we compiled mostly books, photographs, legal docs., and other personal mementos. After all that online shopping, nothing much was left. We now carry only essentials to make it through our travels. We have the same clothes in rotation. We have passports, cameras, toiletries, books, and other must-haves such as anti-diarrhea meds. and bug spray. These items combined with those 8 boxes in the U.S. make up my almost 37 years of my life.
Today, I sure as heck can’t be defined by what I own. I am car-less, “homeless,” and own less than I did when I lived an a 125 sq. foot dorm room my first year in college. Today, I feel so wonderfully fulfilled and none of this feeling is fueled by stuff. Sometimes we work so hard for an entire lifetime to accumulate things. Sometimes we hoard so many of those things all over our home, closets, and garage. My garage was a breeding ground for junk, where once-prized possessions went to die, collecting dust, never to be used again.
However, there was a time in my life when I felt oddly uneasy about what I had to have. That new TV, a set of curtains, a top of the line crockpot, it had to be mine – ha! All those things didn’t make it into the 8 boxes. I needed a home with just another bathroom or just another bedroom. We wanted yet another pair of shoes, a bigger yard, the bunkbeds. All these things didn’t make it into the 8 boxes. We wanted the expensive workout equipment, the fancy 8 piece luggage set, the custom made 100% real wood dinning room table. All those things, while great, didn’t make it into the 8 boxes.
If I am being completely honest, the things I accumulated weren’t even for me in a lot of ways. I wanted to sometimes have what others had or I wanted to make someone else proud of me. I couldn’t not have what I was “expected” to or could I? Part of this maybe unconsciously, but like so many struggling to keep up with appearances, I couldn’t be a minimalist in a materialistic world. Or could I?
The only question I really had to ask myself was, “did I want this stuff really or was I collecting things for someone else’s approval, society’s acceptance, or to somehow match up to others?” In the bestselling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” the author challenges its readers to think about the joy items bring to a person. Joy: what a great emotion! In essence, the author asks us to think about items and the joy they bring, or in many instances, don’t bring. And if that is the case then why do we hang on to them?
When I reflect on my real wants, I know what brings me the greatest joy… my family, my internal qualities and quirks, and TRAVEL – it’s always been TRAVEL.