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The bearable lightness of being stuff-free

A new perspective on being stuff-free

It has become something of a cliche to bemoan the modern Western predilection for accumulating stuff. As Tyler Durden so eloquently puts it in Fight Club, ‘The things you own end up owning you’. We are destined to wake up one day and realise that we have a house crammed full of stuff and have little or no memory of how we managed to cram it. Here’s how you can live stuff-free!

Two suitcases containing all portable possessions of a housesitter

Travelling stuff-free – Your whole life packed into two cases

Why not give yourself a little test? How many of your possessions can you honestly say you couldn’t live without? How much of it is just dust fodder, easier to keep than it is to get rid of? And do you ever feel a little besieged in your own home? We are the products of our environment. The more clutter we have, the more cluttered we feel. It’s no coincidence that a good session of tidying is therapeutic to those feeling depressed or stifled by life.

The Stuff of Life – and living stuff-free

When I decided to become a full-time house sitter, I didn’t live in a mansion. I had a very modest one-bedroom apartment. But what space I did have I had managed to garnish with generous portions of stuff. As a lifelong movie buff, a lot of my stuff revolved around my passion; movie posters, figurines, books, magazines and, of course, actual movies. Nearly six hundred movies, in fact. I never watched most of them. I just wanted to own them. Add to that a pile of clothes I never wore, cupboards of kitchen utensils I never used, a futon I never sat on and electronic devices I never switched on. My home was essentially a museum of unused things.

As I discovered, just because you’ve decided to rid yourself of things, doesn’t mean it will be an easy task. It’s all fine and dandy to renounce stuff but then you actually have to face it, catalogue it and pass judgement on it. It can be a real eye-opener. What makes it so tough is that stuff has a strange survival instinct. Stuff fights back,  playing every mental trick in the book to make it onto the lifeboat. It reminds you who bought it for you, attempting to trap you between nostalgia and guilt. Or it conjures up emergency situations in a thousand possible futures when you will kick yourself for getting rid of it. Stuff may even try to convince you it has feelings. Don’t be fooled. It’s just stuff and it really does own you until you decide to show it who is the boss.

Yes, it is hard to get rid of years of collected clutter but climb that mountain and live for a few months with just the essentials, and you will be amazed. You will be amazed at how quickly you forget what it was like having so much stuff to hand, amazed at how liberating it is to have everything you own in just a suitcase and a backpack, and amazed at just how little a house full of possessions can compete with the freedom to travel and collect experiences instead.

Learn more about housesitting and living stuff-free as a full time traveler from Richard Lamb – aka The Hermit Crab


One comment

  1. Never a more true word was spoken. All our belongings are stored in a 7×3 storage unit and we’re living out of 2 backpacks as we travel SE Asia long term. We’re in our early 50’s and got rid of all our expensive toys which we thought made our lives complete but was only dragging us down. The boat, the caravan, the car, the expensive furniture, large screen tv and even hubby’s chainsaw……gone. It’s been 6 months travelling so far and haven’t missed any of it.

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