I’ve never been the kind of person to have 50 pairs of shoes in her closet, but I’m not going to lie – I used to like updating my closet every now and again. Then, something changed.
About a year ago, on a sunny evening in May, we decided to go watch a pre-release screening of “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” by The Minimalists.
I had never heard of them, but Robert insisted they were the best. I really didn't know much about Minimalism, but just an hour into the movie, I had completely bought into the “less is more” concept. I have to thank Ryan and Joshua (aka The Minimalists), because that day, something changed in me.
Those couple of hours with the Minimalists, the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, and a couple of Google searches are the main reasons for where we are now: traveling the world and pursuing our dreams.
Minimalism and the decision to give up on things and thoughts that didn’t add anything to my life made me feel richer. By not making undeliberate purchases, I now have more money to spend on the things I really want, and not what others want or expect me to have.
Going through the mall, repeatedly saying “No, thank you,” and knowing that I really don't need to buy anything is a powerful feeling. I’m more in control of my life.
It’s difficult to resist corporations and their strong marketing campaigns, practically dragging us into buying things that are supposed to make us happy, but that we don’t really need.
That’s why it's necessary to pause for a few minutes and ask ourselves – what’s really important? We need much less than we think we need to be happy. The key is to find your purpose and take control of your life.
The things that really matter in life cannot be bought.
How have we embraced Minimalism in our own journey?
When we decided to travel the world and become digital nomads, we needed to embrace minimalism. After months of decluttering, we were able to simplify all of the belongings that we would leave behind in Miami to 7 small boxes. Our lives in 7 boxes.
We only kept what made us smile and brought us good memories when going through it all: meaningful gifts we had received, yearbooks, diplomas, items with sentimental value, and most importantly, tons of photographs from the pre-digital era (my favorite!). Those are the things that are worth keeping: the things that, when re-opening those boxes ten years later, will bring you the incredible feeling of “being home.”
The concept of minimalism isn’t rigid: it doesn’t mean your house suddenly has to be emptied out. The idea is that every single item you own has meaning to you and adds value to your life.
After deciding what to leave in those 7 boxes, we still had to deal with the hardest part: choosing what to travel the world with for the next two years.
Although I have to admit that we could be carrying less things than we currently are, I’m proud of the fact that we were able to pack everything into two 55L backpacks (this is the model we got), one smaller backpack for electronics (this one here), and a camera bag (this one). Not bad for beginners, right?
It’s difficult to decide what’s necessary and what isn’t when planning to spend the next two years with all of your possessions on your back. This is the time to be drastic and stick to the essentials:
Enough clothing for a week (-ish) before needing to hit the laundromat/sink
Electronics (laptop, chargers, camera, extra cables, etc.)
Toiletries and necessary medications
Miscellaneous (for ex., airplane pillow, sunglasses, mosquito repellent, purifying water bottles, etc.)
We will be publishing a list of our travel gear in a few weeks!
How Does One Start with Minimalism?
For those of you who would like to live a simpler life and just get rid of a few excess things, here are a few tips that worked for us:
1. Double-check the things that you’re storing
You probably have boxes hidden in some closet or attic – things you haven’t seen in years. Go through them again and reevaluate whether they’re necessary; in other words, whether those things are currently bringing value to your life or not. Doing this will bring you lots of extra space, especially the first time you do it. I assure you that every time that you open one of those boxes, you will have a different perspective on what it is you should keep. Before we started our “final packing,” we had 6 boxes. By the time we were done, we only had a total of 7 boxes.
2. Don't keep things that aren’t providing you value
This is essentially the key to the entire process of minimalism – it is what helps you decide whether to keep something or to let it go. By actually doing this, you reduce the number of things you’re holding onto and keep from accumulating extra things. For example, Robert had been keeping an old card collection (nothing of any actual value). Instead of keeping the entire collection, which would occupy half of a box, he decided to keep just a few of the cards and to take a photo of the collection as a whole. This way, you keep the memory alive without having to carry around and store everything.
3. Re-use instead of buying new
It’s not always necessary to buy new things. Many times, old clothes or objects can be reinvented and repurposed. For example: fixing clothes that’s lightly damaged, painting old furniture that you were planning on replacing, or making your own decorations. Being creative will save you from filling your home with extra stuff!
4. Monthly cleanings – don’t let things accumulate!
One thing that was really effective for us was doing a massive cleaning every one-two months. By this, I mean going through your closet, cabinets, and storage-areas, and getting rid of everything that you don't need anymore. My rule is: if you haven’t needed it in the past 2 months, and don’t have a specific use for it in the next couple months (like winter clothes), you probably don’t need to hold on to it any more. We used to keep so many things “just in case,” but most of the times, the moment when they’re needed never comes and the item just sits there, occupying space.
5. Sell and donate.
Once you identify the things you don’t need any more, there are a lot of useful tools that you can use to sell them. My favorites are: Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace.
- Craigslist: This one is well known (at least in the U.S.) and is one of the easiest ways to sell something locally while avoiding any kind of fees and third-party taxes. We’ve both been using it for years and find it to be really efficient, despite the dated format of the website and the occasional scammy text messages regarding money orders or PayPal transactions. We’ve also found that the people using Craigslist are usually more serious about buying than the people on other platforms.
- Facebook Market: This application is relatively new and the formatting is slicker. Posting an ad is simple and easy, as is contacting buyers and sellers. Although everything works great, we’ve found that you need to deploy a good amount of patience with this platform. While it is easier to ask and get information through their chat (Facebook Messenger), a lot of people will tell you that they are interested, but then don't reply or show up.
- eBay: This one is probably the most known and effective platform for selling or buying used. Additionally, the market of people you can reach with eBay is limitless, giving you more chances of selling something unique or less popular. However, this is always our last resort when selling an item because eBay charges fees for selling on their site, and the entire process of selling can take days, if not weeks.
Lastly, in regards to donating things, we’ve used Goodwill and Miami Rescue Mission. The latter is a different organization but allowed us to donate items even when we were carless, as they provide a pick-up service. Explore local solutions to find what works best for you.
Being happy and fulfilled is a moment-to-moment attitude that we create for ourselves, independent of how full our closets are or big our TV is. Encourage yourself to find what you’re really passionate about and spend your time (and money) on the things that bring you value and joy.
Work to live, don’t live to work.