All of my things in the world
These days I only own a few things, my life packed away into a 32 litre backpack. But it wasn't always like this, this is the story.
Not long after I started my first programming job back in late 2007, I moved in to a nice apartment and started stocking up, furnishing it with furniture, filling up the living room, filling up the bedroom, and then filling up the second bedroom with all of the stuff that wasn't important enough to belong in the other rooms. Around this time I considered buying a house, with hindsight it would have been a good financial decision, but in many other ways not good. I'm glad I didn't do it.
A year or so later I took another job in another city, for a few weeks I suffered through a long commute before finding a new place to live. I hired a van and some help for the move, and we piled all of my belongings in the back of the van. There was a lot, enough that there was a thought we might need two trips, but we managed to keep it down to one. The new place was already furnished so my bed and sofa and a few other things were no longer needed, I sold and freecycled what I could and then disposed of the rest.
Unfortunately, it transpired that the new job had many things wrong with it, I battled my instant desire to flee, but six months later the battle was lost and I took another job in another city and, not long after, a new home in that new city. In anticipation of the move I looked over and evaluated what I owned and made decisions on what I wanted to keep. I sold a few things, gave away a lot more, and then just threw the rest in the trash.
I stayed at the next company for a while, (well, relative to the previous one anyway). After some time there, the company experienced regulatory and financial difficulties, leading them to raise the prospect of redundancy. Voluntary redundancy packages were advertised and I took the bait and applied. The process was protracted, and while I waited for the good news I began the job hunt. Then, as these things go, the company turned down my redundancy and I still had a job. But, having seen the green grass of other companies during the hunt I was desirous of another move, and shorly after accepted an offer for a job down in London.
Time for another purge.
This one was serious, I sold my CD collection. I love music and listen to a lot, but my listening habits had changed to be almost exclusively through Spotify. My physical music collection was sat in the corner with its own collection of dust. I didn't need it anymore, so it was gone. The same happened with a few other things and then, I took another van and another place to live.
Arriving in London, I moved into a run down and poorly insulated flat in Shoreditch, but it was summer, so that didn't matter. I made a decision to not unpack any item until I needed it, and a plan to discard anything still in boxes after three months. Distractions distracted until, more than three months later, I read a blog post by The Minimalists, it started with the premise What if you removed one material possession—just one—from your life each day for the next month? What would happen?. I thought about it, I stroked my fledgling beard and thought "Hmm, what would happen?" and then I decided to do it.
I removed my possessions through eBay, for the next thirty days listing one item each day. Some items didn't sell, most of them did. The first week was easy, selling a few things that I had that I didn't really care about. After that I could feel reluctance, there were things I owned that symbolized more than their own presence. I've always been in to music, but never enough to dedicate the time to be good at it, I owned a guitar and various pieces of electronic equipment that sat mostly unused. Occasionally I would go back to them and play a little, then re-realising that I wasn't very good, become dishearted, and return to the state of neglecting them. Selling these items was the most difficult, an admission to myself that I'm not the musician I wanted to be.
After the 30 days were up I had become addicted, I continued to remove one item per day for the next two weeks until I was left with only the things I wanted to keep. As well as the musical instrucments I had sold my television, PlayStation, BMX and road bike, as well as many other less consequential things.
Winter came and the flat grew cold, I found another place and moved in. No van this time, just me on the underground with my feet surrounded by bags of possessions. I received a few strange looks after the tube journey, as I was walking from the station to the new place with a duvet hanging over my shoulder and all the rest of my things in my hands, but then I was in, and the new place was delightfully warm. After the winter I moved again, for no reason other than a couple of friends suggesting we get a place together. A similar moving experience, but with a taxi instead of my own feet.
This house was my last home in London and the UK. After leaving my job at Mind Candy I lived there for a couple of months before leaving the country. Before the end I threw out a few more things and split the remaining between my backpack and a friend's cupboard.
Now I'm traveling, I travel light, but still, with a few luxuries: I have my laptop for working, I have my running gear for running, I even have an Aeropress and a coffee grinder, because coffee. And the necessary things? I have six days worth of summer clothes, an emergency raincoat and a toothbrush.
When I started downsizing I correlated owning less things with possessing more freedom, but I never really spent the time to consider where that freedom might take me. However, I do know that without doing what I did, it's likely that I wouldn't be where I am now.