No Possessions, Almost

So, there’s this pile of “stuff” that sits in a storage unit, leased in our name.

The unit is jammed full, but it doesn’t contain a whole lot compared to what we used to have. It’s got a cozy king size bed, everything from our kitchen, and some favorite pieces of furniture we couldn’t bear to part with when we decided to take the big leap to travel.

We kept it all for one big reason: what if we decided to come back right away? What if we hated Bolivia, we couldn’t learn Spanish, or we got too homesick? We left with no idea that this vagabonding lifestyle would take hold and change us as much as it did, and leaving us constantly yearning for more.

And so we kept that stuff as our safeguard, shoved it all into a small storage place, and forgot about it. Three years later, everything is still sitting there, stagnant and useless.

We are now determined to ditch it. Save for some personal items, all of that ‘stuff’ has become a giant burden to the tune of $120 a month.

Before putting it all up for sale, we went through it one more time, pulling out those personal things that we wanted to keep. What we have left is piled in a corner on my sister’s basement floor.

Yes, that is a curling broom.


I do find it quite interesting what we decided to keep.

Looking at old pictures with my nephew.

There are pictures, of course, representing us in another time, another place. Stuffed animals from my youth. Memorabilia from our sporting days: old curling sweaters and baseball trophies. My eighth grade report card.

Things that belonged to my sister. I didn’t keep the solid wood side table that I purchased years ago, but I kept the similar one that was hers. I have no specific memories attached to it, but, it was hers.

Gifts. I didn’t keep the wrought iron candle holder that I purchased years ago, but I kept the similar one that my aunt bought us as a wedding gift. Because it was from her. Things that we found in stores, that can’t-miss-bargain, or those it-would-look-cute-on-my-bookshelf type items were so easily tossed in comparison.

But even the memorabilia and other “stuff” are all still useless, really, not serving their intended purpose and continuing to only take up space and collect dust. Somehow there is comfort in their existence though, this material connection to our past, even if we only look at it every few years.

So we’re not quite possession-less, and this is as close as we’ll likely get. The larger burden will hopefully soon be lifted, our final step towards total freedom taken.


Many thanks again to my sister Teri at for use of her photographs. Oh, and for storing our stuff!

35 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • September 24 2012

    I’ve only been at this nomad thing for about a year now, but I too opted for a small storage locker for the sentimentals plus the “just in case’s”. But I must say, my locker looks much like your “after” pic. Just 6 x 6 x 6 – and it only costs me $30/month.

    As the months slip swiftly by now (and I’m finally settled here in my own personal Asian Shangri-la – Dalat, Vietnam) – the notion of ever returning permanently stateside grows ever more remote.

    Still… for 30 bucks a month, I guess I’ll keep it awhile longer…

    • Pete
      September 25 2012

      The notion of ever returning is starting to elude us too. $30 a month isn’t too bad at all…

  • September 24 2012

    The whole lack of possessions thing does appeal to me but… I do like my stuff? That being said, every time I move… I REALLY hate stuff. So much.
    Chewy recently posted..Booya for Shibuya – Could it Be Any More Awesome?

    • Pete
      September 25 2012

      haha, it was definitely tough letting go of some of the things that were in there, but a few seconds later it felt good πŸ™‚ Yes, I hate moving too.

  • September 24 2012

    Great, and insightful post!

    Soon we’ll be heading back to the US after 13 months on the road and will be facing the very same thing. We can’t even remember half the stuff that seemed so essential at the time.

    It’s the sentimental things that we cherish the most as well. Perhaps our role is to simply be custodians of this “stuff” as a way to preserve our memories. We’re coming to realize it’s the people and experiences in our lives that are our true assets.
    Michael & Larissa Milne recently posted..Pictures of zebras at Etosha National park

    • Pete
      September 25 2012

      I love your last comment about the people and experiences in our lives. Thank you so much!!

  • September 24 2012

    Sometimes I want to take a torch to my things, but then I realize at the last minute I’d probably throw myself on top of it… so I know the feeling.
    Hogga recently posted..Get Off Your Fucking Phone, Stop Taking Pictures and Enjoy Life

    • Pete
      September 25 2012

      Hmmmm, I never thought how fun it would be to torch some of our stuff….

  • September 24 2012

    That pile of stuff is just about the size of our pile of stuff that we left in Kevins’s sister’s basement. We have two adult children that had moved out of our 4 bedroom home but they didn’t take everything with them. Our pile like yours has dwindled more over the past 5 years and we expect it to go down even further once our son manages to get a bigger place. We love the sense of freedom that we have knowing that we aren’t bogged down with lots of baggage.

    • Pete
      September 25 2012

      Yes exactly. It’s funny how something that is stationary and put away in storage can still make you feel like it is tying you down. It is so freeing to dwindle it down.

  • Ter
    September 24 2012

    *shudder* …Now so many people have seen our ugly basement storage room!

    It was great to go through that stuff with you. It’s always fun to look back.

    PS – it also got us off our asses to tidy our own crap so we had room for your stuff! πŸ™‚

  • September 24 2012

    If you notice a 27″ iMac anywhere I’ll take it off your hands! πŸ™‚

    P.S. Thanks again for the Spalding tent you two gave me years ago. It’s been put to good use.

    • Pete
      September 25 2012

      Haha, glad that the good ole’ Spalding has served someone purpose. Didn’t come across any 27″ iMac’s πŸ™‚ But I do have an old Dell PC if you want….

  • September 24 2012

    Some days, I just want to get rid of everything I own. But then I remember I’m not traveling full-time, and I kind of need things like a bed and clothing… lol. But good for you guys for downsizing even more!
    Amanda recently posted..What’s it Like to Travel with Intrepid?

    • September 28 2012

      Hmmm…I predict that there will be a day when we’ll see a similar post from you Amanda… πŸ™‚

  • Gillian @OneGiantStep
    September 25 2012

    As we plan to divest ourselves of everything we keep talking about exactly what would we keep. Not the furniture (although I am oddly attached to my purple lounge chair and J does love his pots, pans, and knives), but the sentimental stuff. It will be an interesting exercise but, as we travel now, I know that I don’t need or want the stuff…I’d much rather have the experiences.

    • September 28 2012

      Ohh….a purple lounge chair! That would be a tough one to give up too. πŸ™‚

  • September 25 2012

    We’re about to go through a similar process. We’ve moved around a lot, and while at one point we had whittled down quite a bit, we later managed to acquire a lot of stuff.

    But now we’re finally letting go of most of our possessions in exchange for less physical baggage. As Gillian said, we’re opting for less stuff & more experiences. It’s actually been really fun getting down to the basics.
    kimolsonphoto recently posted..A Week of Firsts & Other News

    • September 28 2012

      It is a very, very freeing experience. I remember the first time we did it before we left, and it was fun, but it was a bit hard. For a little while I felt like I had nothing to “identify” with. I.e. I was no longer the girl who drove the black Honda, if that made sense. But, that didn’t last long, and I remembered what it was all about – the experiences we were about to have! πŸ™‚

  • September 25 2012

    We have a ton of boxes that have been spread around the family back home – one box here, one there type thing. Its been so long since I packed everything I can not even remember what I left behind let alone where! Its funny the things we are the fondest of though. I can never bear to part with books from my dad.

  • September 25 2012

    You don’t need to see it daily, but if, when you do see it your heart sings… then box it and save it. If you just look at it and think, hrm, that’s nice… find it a new owner.
    Maria recently posted..Cheap Therapy

    • September 28 2012

      GREAT way to look at it!! πŸ™‚

  • A Montrealer Abroad (@amontrealer)
    September 26 2012

    I find it incredibly courageous to sell *almost* everything! I put everything I own (which isn’t a lot, granted) in my MIL’s garage, because I know I’ll be back in just a few years. I know in my heart that I won’t be able to live a nomadic life forever. I like having a home, and I like nesting. With all that in mind, it warms my heart a little bit knowing that my stuff is waiting for me back home.

    • September 28 2012

      And when you get back there, it will be like Christmas going through all your stuff again! FUN! πŸ™‚

  • September 26 2012

    When I left on my expat adventures, my mom sort of made me keep my stuff. It ended up mostly in their shed and garage. Once I got settled here and knew I wasn’t coming back, she sold a lot of it. When I went home I went through a lot of it again.

    It was a bit surreal. Stuff that I remember keeping because of memories certainly brings the memories back, but looking back over the four years I realized I kind of didn’t miss the memories. Some things I did bring back, others I still had them store. But a large group of it I just had my dad sell. I just realized that I just didnt want to fight with a lot of it.

    We still have stuff and a house full of it. I know we will still travel and go, but it is nice having the home. That said, we are pretty concious about the idea that money can be used for stuff or for travel, so limit the stuff to an extent. Just need to work out the travel vs drinking connection inthe next step.
    Andrew recently posted..Orangutan in Malaysia

    • September 28 2012

      Haha! Well, baby steps, right Andy? πŸ™‚

  • September 28 2012

    We have things in storage from our move from Phoenix to Italy. We won’t see those things for at least 7 years. I think once we do again, there may be some things I won’t want to part with but for the most part, if we’ve lived for 7 years without it, do we really need it?
    Jennifer recently posted..Sarajevo’s War Tunnel

    • October 2 2012

      EXACTLY. So much of our stuff isn’t kept out of “need”, but just out of “can’t let go of”. And I guess that’s okay, for some things!

  • Kim
    October 1 2012

    I understand the connection to the few material possessions that were owned and or given to you by someone you love. I laughed at the few things we decided to keep too- but those items are a physical representation of love, sometimes it’s nice to look at something solid and remember. Whatcha going to do with that $120 extra per month?!?

    • October 2 2012

      ICE CREAM, obvs! πŸ™‚

  • Abby
    October 4 2012

    Aw I am so glad you had so many things of your sister’s. Going through my own storage unit after a year was strange. Things I thought I’d never get rid of went right in the trash bin — and I go weirdly emotional over the darndest things. Time is funny like that I guess!

    • October 5 2012

      Time is a great teacher. πŸ™‚

  • October 6 2012

    I had a loft of stuff up in a house in the UK for about five years, which I finally got round to clearing out this year. My theory being, if it’s been in a loft for that long, it’s clearly nothing that is spectacularly important to my life. I don’t know how the detritus of life accumulates, but I kinda wish it wouldn’t πŸ˜‰
    Laurence recently posted..A month in New Zealand–my perfect itinerary

    • October 7 2012

      That’s what I struggle with – it is all just *stuff* taking up space, but some of it is pretty heartfelt mementos. Don’t think I can quite get rid of it all, even if I only look at it every few years. I guess that’s OK?

  • October 13 2012

    We’re not either to be honest. We have wonderful friends who are letting us take advantage of their garage. It is always amazing to see what we kept!

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