This is the least amount of stuff I’ve owned, quite possibly since the beginning of my owning of stuff.
For years and years I wanted stuff and I wanted a lot of it. I grew up thinking that a big house behind a big fence was what I wanted when I was older. I dreamed of having a really shiny car. I wanted boats and jet skis. I wanted to really impress people with my stuff.
As a child I collected stuff like crazy. I had over 500 Beanie Babies. I collected coins, rocks, cards, pogs, toys, you name it really. I was a child hoarder I guess, and it was fun. I loved all my stuff. But I know that deep down, and even on the surface, that I saw stuff as a way to show my worth. Stuff was a way to impress my peers. Stuff was a way for me to mask the fact that I was on welfare. I was embarrassed of the paint chipping off of the house and the rust spots on our car. But I had the most Beanie Babies! I had 13 Bongo the freaking Monkeys.
In high school I got a car and it was freedom for me. Freedom to go where I wanted when I wanted. I loved it. I still had a ton of stuff but I had long given up on Beanie Babies and toys.
In college I didn’t have all that little stuff anymore, and for the most part I stopped collecting things. But I got bigger stuff. I had 2 cars and a boat that sucked money out of me. I worked 80-90 hours per week during the summer and was heavily chasing the idea of being a millionaire. I started to travel though, and traveled very light, learning that I didn’t really need nearly as much as I thought. I traveled with just the stuff on my back for 5 months and had all I needed and more.
A note to self from 2010 reads:
Don’t get tied down
NO large bills
NO large possessions
I progressed and started to wean off of stuff more and more. I took less interest in using stuff as a form of memory, and instead focused on experiencing more and just remembering the best of it. I started to take photos rather than bring home souvenirs. And if I did take home a souvenir it was killer, no more stupid shot glasses.
Since then I learned more and more that stuff is not freedom for me. Stuff actually inhibits me from being a man of the world, a man of my community. It sucks up my time and keeps me inside. I’ve found that freedom comes with simplicity. Stuff takes money. It takes money to buy it, money to store it, and often money to maintain it. That means work, work, and more work. I decided to stop working for stuff and instead to start working for a better world.
The more I’ve done that, the more I’ve gotten rid of all that stuff. I’ve weened down drastically in the last three years. Selling my car in 2012 was a huge turning point. It was the complete opposite of what I had strived for so many years before. Life changed drastically in many ways that I didn’t expect. With no trunk to put my stuff in, I didn’t buy so much stuff, and I took up activities that didn’t require so much stuff. I spent my money in my community instead of Walmart. I got exercise naturally through my daily tasks rather than at the gym. Stuff became less a central part of my life.
A big motivator for me was learning how much destruction that the creation, transportation, and disposal of stuff causes. This was largely due to watching The Story of Stuff.
In 2013 I downsized yet again when I moved into a 6×6 closet in my own apartment to live rent free. I got rid of nearly half of my stuff then. When I first moved into the apartment three years prior I insisted on having the biggest room in the house, now here I was excited to live in a closet.
Then in late 2014 I decided to ditch my apartment to live home free. I got rid of nearly everything, all the furniture and reduced my stuff to what could fit in a small car. Years of getting rid of stuff and I still had this much to get rid of.
This is what I was down to at that point:
I house sat for a friend for 2 months and during that time I never touched 90% of my stuff, further showing that I really didn’t need much of it. It’s been a goal to further reduce my stuff to what I can carry on my bicycle. Today I made that happen. This is everything that I own. It’s not like I’d ride across the United States with this much weight but I could bike across town with it all on there.
I desire to live in a very earth-friendly manner, or at least not in an earth-destructive manner. Although going home free does allow for that I decided that I wanted to be able to lead by example for what others could do at home as well. So I bought this tiny home (which I can’t tow on my bicycle) for $950 used off craigslist.
George Carlin said, “That’s all your house is. It’s a pile of stuff with a cover on it.” And since I don’t have much stuff this, is plenty big for me.
This week I’ll be moving it, along with the little stuff I have, to a backyard in Ocean Beach. I’ll be living off the grid, connected to the earth, and quite self sufficiently. I’ll be building a rocket stove for cooking, compost toilet for going to the bathroom, collecting rain water, growing simple food, composting, stewarding bees, and powering it by solar panels. So I’ll be accruing a little bit of stuff, but only things that serve a very solid and necessary purpose.
George Carlins also said, “If you didn’t have so much stuff. You wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.” That is what I intend to be doing in the absence of my stuff. Spending quality time with my friends, with my fellow people, and with all the creatures that I share the land with.
I feel more freedom than I ever have before. Freedom to follow my dreams. Freedom to be at service to humanity. Freedom to make choices that are beneficial to the earth, my community, and myself. Freedom to speak the truth.
I mention that as a child I wanted stuff to mask the poverty that I thought I lived in. I’ve learned today that about 70% of my town was living in a pretty similar manner financial manner to me. Somehow I thought I was the only one and I think it’s because we were all hiding it.
Deep down all I really wanted to do was play with turtles. I lost that along the way by chasing the “US American Dream” but I’m thankful to have learned better at still a fairly young age. I know my younger self would be proud of who he became.
Keep in mind that all of us have unique lives. We can’t all live with this little of stuff, nor is anyone expecting you too, but we can pretty much all take home some key lessons from this experience of simplicity. Will you find freedom in owning less stuff? Only you can answer that question.
For a more detailed timeline of my transformation away from stuff see From Drunk Dude to Dude Making a Difference