Step One: The Purge

My decision to become “electively homeless” or “nomadic” was relatively painless.  I simply decided I’d take it one day at a time and when I get tired of it, I’ll get a home again.  Easy.  The difficult decisions had to do with my stuff. 

In our culture, though we may not want to admit it, we often correlate a person’s success with the things that they own.  Cars, clothes, and homes are the most obvious examples, when we don’t know if the person living in a pent-house and driving a luxury car is maxed out in debt.  We live in a land of consumer-culture driven by big businesses placing ads everywhere to entice us to purchase.  Have you ever bought something to “reward” yourself for an accomplishment or to “treat” yourself on a bad day, even if it wasn’t the right thing to do financially?  I definitely have! 

Over the years, I’ve amassed a nice collection of stuff.  Some of it has sentimental value (souvenirs from trips, gifts from special people in my life) but most of it is purely functional (even if that function is to make my home or self more aesthetically pleasing).  Moving, whether you’re downsizing or not, is the best way to streamline the things you own.  Each time I’ve moved, I’ve been amazed at the little things I’ve found.  My roommates and I would say, “Wow, I had no idea we still had that!” Or “What is this thing and how long has it been in this drawer?”  The opportunity cost of not knowing what you have is that you are missing out on a chance to sell things before they’re outdated or to donate to someone less fortunate who could benefit immediately. 

My very first step in the purging process was to make a mental list of everything I owned and decide if I needed it on hand as I stay from place to place, if I wanted to store it, or if I wanted to get rid of it.  It seemed simple at first, but it was a much more complicated process than I’d anticipated.  The knick-knacks from my trip to Spain.  The bottles of sand from Costa Rica, Bermuda, Australia.  The pictures from high school and college (pre-digital camera).  My journals.  These were things that I don’t need, but didn’t know how to part with them because they can’t be easily replaced, or replaced at all.  I finally decided that all my souvenirs had to go, and I would refer to digital photos when I wanted to reminisce.  Done.  Pictures and journals would store, and everything else, literally, would be sold! 

It was both scary and liberating to pour my life’s possessions on my front lawn, watch strangers rummage through it all, and challenge my prices.  How could someone NOT think my Pottery Barn vase isn’t a steal at eight dollars!  I paid almost fifty for that!  It amazing how quickly things we purchase depreciate in value.  Garage sale experts say to price your belongings at 30% of what you paid, but my experience was not that fruitful!  After two long, hard days, it was all gone.  No more furniture, books, pictures, dishes.  All I owned were my remaining clothes, laptop, camera, basic toiletries, a suitcase, backpack, and towels.  The garage sale was successful as a) I got rid of everything and b) made more than enough money to pay off all my credit card debt! 

The last few nights in my empty, echoing house sleeping on a borrowed air mattress were depressing.  I told myself to cherish the time, as I still had a roof over my head that I could call my own and would have a lot less alone time as I stay with friends every night of the week.  Admittedly, I never made it through a full night at my house because it was way too quiet, and I prefer the company of my peeps to being alone.  Fortunately I had people to call anytime I wanted to see a friendly face.  Without any stuff or even a home of my own confirmed my feelings that I’m at a point in life in which I measure my success by the relationships I have, not the inanimate objects that surrounded me for years.  This makes me happy and on Thanksgiving I thought of you all and how much I appreciate you in my life!  From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!  xoxo

  1. Amber said:

    Good luck on your adventure. To have reached the point in “life in which I measure my success by the relationships I have, not the inanimate objects that surrounded me” puts you way ahead of the curve. I look forward to hearing all about it!

  2. Filomena said:

    Wow, I admire your courage. I don’t know if I could live such a nomadic life but you sure inspired me to “downsize” my possessions. Do I really need all the stuff I have? Do I cherish it? Thank you for the lesson.

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