Ten years ago, my philosophy was the more the better. I was moving almost every year and each time I packed everything up into boxes. Things that I knew I wouldn't need again, things that were broken. Sometimes even things that were literally rubbish. It was just easier than sorting through them. And I never thought twice about why I was hanging on to it all. I used to love cluttered, cosy spaces and I took a strange pride in having too many books to fit in my bookshelf or needing to buy an extra chest of draws for all my clothes, as if that meant anything.
Four years ago, something shifted. I was living in my overdraft, spending almost everything I earned and it started to feel wasteful. So I stopped buying things and set myself a strict daily budget.
Friends would ask me how I managed it. But it wasn't so bad. I was surprised to find that there's pleasure in restriction, or at least there was for me. I had a spreadsheet to record my spending, and it felt like an achievement when I came in under budget. Things that I took for granted, like going out for a meal or buying something for myself, became special again. I loved seeing my bank account grow, it felt like I was building something.
Then two years ago we sold almost everything we owned to travel. My belongings now fit into my 15 kg backpack and a couple of boxes back home.
When we got such small bags I really worried about whether I'd have enough, especially when it came to clothes. But that 'I don't have anything to wear' feeling has disappeared now that I know exactly how many items of clothing I have (20). It's so much easier. Less choice really does feel like more.
Minimalism is everywhere at the moment. If I'd read about it a few years ago, I would have thought there was no way it was for someone like me. I never thought I'd become someone who would prefer to have less.
It's been a gradual shift, and it was only when I was forced into it that I understood that Chuck Palahniuk quote, "The things you own end up owning you". There's such freedom in having less. And I've never once missed any of the things I used to own.
One of the biggest lessons I've taken from the last two years of travel is this, we need so much less than we think.