From late 2014 going into early 2015, I met a lot of people who would play very short but extremely influential roles in my life. These were travelers going to and from Jamaica, with great stories of travel and triumph.
They ranged from executives to freelancers to hippies living on minimum wage from a camera shop. But they all shared the same advice. If I wanted to experience true freedom, I should get rid of my possessions.
I had always owned a lot of ‘stuff’ – mostly because I do believe ‘stuff’ are more reliable than people. My computer never cancels on me, never lies, never cheats, or neglects to tend to its duties. I could say the same of my smart phone, and my camera. And when they do – well, they are easily replaceable. That was what I loved most about my ‘stuff’.
Even so, the advice I received rung true the more and more I heard it, and so I spent early 2015 going into the summer, getting rid of my things month by month. By the time I made it to June 30, 2015, I could live out of a suitcase with no problem, and did exactly that for months.
So what did I learn now that it’s been roughly eighteen months since I embraced a more minimalist lifestyle? What were the benefits of giving up roughly 90 percent of what I own?
1. Traveling More Easily and More Often
I would be lying if I said minimalism alone made travel possible for me. I’ve been traveling internationally since I was nine years old, between Jamaica and the United States. However, you’d be surprised how much more affordable travel becomes when you don’t need to pay rent every month.
Giving up my corporate job, which was a form of going minimalist in itself, also freed me to travel on a whim. I don’t need to ask a boss for days off, or find someone else to cover my shift. All I need to do is hop on the road, and bring my smart phone and laptop with me.
This allowed me to travel around the island quite a bit before I left, and took me to many states across America. In the past year alone I’ve travelled to Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, and New York. I’ve also seen quite a bit of Illinois and Georgia – more so than other states.
2. Moving Becomes a Breeze
Along with the ease of travel, there’s also the ease of moving. When I first came to America, I mostly distributed my time and things between my parents’ and friends’ apartments.
When it became apparent I would stay, my parents began looking for a new house with a basement apartment.
We moved in the spring. It took my parents a U-Haul, two cars, and several trips over the course of a few days to move. It took me one trip.
3. Saves Money for Bigger Goals
As I mentioned before, once you stop paying rent and a mortgage, you have a lot more income to work with. Of course, now that we’ve taken over a basement apartment in the suburbs I can’t escape rent, but it’s a far cry lower than the cost of living virtually anywhere else in Atlanta – less than half the cost of his last apartment, in a not-so-great part of town.
That leaves money to put towards buying my first car; renovating the basement to meet our specific needs; and of course, traveling more often.
4. Less Responsibility = Less Stress
Once I stopped looking for more things to buy and started looking for things to let go of, my life became much less stressful. It forced me to see my possessions in a whole new light. Rather than worry and inwardly complain about all the things I didn’t have, it forced me to see that I already had too much.
When I decided to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, I also made the difficult decision to re-home my cat and dog. Though I do miss my dog especially, I don’t miss the responsibility of owning one.
Now that I’m settling into a new home, I recently adopted another cat. I chose a cat over a dog for a number of reasons. Cats are more independent, less needy, and require less time and money to care for.
And finally, if you leave out enough clean litter boxes, water, and food for a cat, you can leave them home alone for a couple of days and ask a friend to drop by every so often. That means way more flexibility to travel. Try that with a dog…
5. No Clutter = More Flexibility
However, minimalism doesn’t always mean quitting your job and eventually migrating to a whole new country. It doesn’t even need to mean giving up your home, and all your pets. It simply means learning to de-clutter and to do less with more. This was one of the things I enjoyed most about minimalism when I still had my bachelorette pad in Jamaica.
Many people remarked that my apartment was very well decorated and organised, but bare. “Why not get more furniture, or decorations?” they suggested.
But the fact that I didn’t meant that when I had big sleepovers, I practically moved nothing to make space for people to sleep on the floor. When I wanted to play Wii, the only thing I needed to move was one chair. I also had less things to dust, wash, sweep, and organise.
I had so much space in my apartment, that on occasion I even played fetch inside with my 60 pound Black Labrador Retriever – and didn’t break a thing, not once.
Embracing a more minimalist lifestyle has freed me physically and financially to pursue dreams I wasn’t able to pursue before. Letting go of my possessions also allowed me to hold on to far more valuable things in life, like experiences, and great people.
It taught me that my devices weren’t the only reliable ‘items’ in my life. The friendships and networks I had built up over the years were often times, not just equally dependable, but far more valuable.