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Stuff- the Dirty Word in Nomadic Culture

Updated: Nov 17, 2018

What to take with you and what to leave behind. And why is it so dang hard to decide?

In American culture, we are taught to value stuff. Actually, that is an understatement we are taught that our life purpose is to work hard for money to then use to buy stuff.

Stuff used to be, and for some people still is, the ultimate status symbol. If you have a lot of stuff it means you are successful, rich, well off, and/or lucky. It means you have more fun, are cooler, more stylish, etc.

So needless to say, there are a lot of emotions attached to "stuff" in this culture. However, for the last couple decades, the status symbols of success and happiness have been shifting, creating the millennial generation's travel movement.

I am a part of the millennial generation, and I have discovered that I do not value stuff the way my parents do. I don’t see the point in trading hours of my life for money, to then trade that money for things. Especially things I watched my parents buy and never use, to then complain about not having enough money, to then buy more things they never used. It is a vicious cycle that I want to stay very far away from. Instead I value experiences. I, like many millennials, would rather spend my time, money, and energy creating experiences for myself.

My goal is to not spend my money acquiring things, and also to not trade hours of life for money, but instead have a sustainable passive income. As you may be realizing there are a lot of layers to this onion, but I’ll stick to the "stuff" layer for this post.

All that to say, getting rid of the stuff I have acquired over the years is more emotional than just getting rid of old stuff. Knowing this ahead of time has been very helpful because in the 358 days I have left before I take off as a digital nomad, I have a lot of stuff I need to decide what to do with.

I will only have a 75-gallon backpack, and a small day pack with me during my travels. Needless to stay, I won’t be bringing much stuff.

So how do you decide what to bring? How do you get rid of or sell what you don’t need? And what do you do with the stuff you want but can’t bring with you? These are all the questions I have been asking myself the past couple weeks and the questions I am going to answer in this article.

How do you get rid of or sell what you don’t need?

I am looking around my apartment right now, and know I will not be taking 95% of these things with me. I also know that if I try and just sell it all off 2 weeks before I leave that I might have a panic attack. So, to save myself the emotional turmoil, I have decided to let go of the stuff in waves. I will categorize my things into 3 categories: coming with me, going into storage, or getting sold/thrown away.

1. Let it Go Slow

Every month I have decided I will go through a section of my apartment (for example the living room, or my bed room, etc.) and remove items that I know I will not be bringing with me on my travels, and that I know I will not want to put into a storage unit. I will put those items into a pile in my garage and when it gets big enough I will have a garage sale.

So far this has been working really well. I have already gone through my living room twice removing 10-12 things each time and taking them to the garage. I realize I don’t miss them and it confirms the fact that I don’t need them. I would recommend pushing yourself to let go of things you feel a little uncomfortable letting go of if you don’t need it or love it. To say you might need it someone day doesn’t cut it. Some excellent advice to follow on this topic can be found in "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo, as well as on the Minimalists podcast. If you need some inspiration to work through the emotions of letting stuff go, I highly recommend those.

2. Stop Accumulating More

It is like credit card debt, the only way to stop is to just stop! Each time I consider purchasing something, I ask myself, “will I be taking this with me traveling? or will I use this up before I leave?” If the answer to one of those questions isn’t yes, then I don’t buy it.

3. Strategize the Big Ticket Items

Big ticket items – there are some bigger things you have to think about when getting rid of your stuff. For example, your vehicle, are you going to sell it when you leave? Your apartment, are you not going to have a home base to come back to? Your furniture, do you want to store these things or buy it when you need it?

When I first thought about my apartment, I wanted to keep it, I have a prime location right next to the beach for a great price. But then I realized that it would be a lot of work to try and manage a sublease from half way across the world, and that I was holding onto it out of fear. Fear that if I wanted to come back I wouldn’t be able to find a great place, but that is simply not true, and I don’t want to hold onto things because of fear.

So I recommend giving yourself time to think through the big ticket items. And if you find yourself hesitant to let go of something, question yourself as to the why behind the choice. If it is fear based, free yourself and let it go!

How do you decide what to bring with you when becoming a digital nomad?

For clothing, this is a tricky question, because it depends on where you are traveling to. For me, I will be starting in warm places so I plan on bringing clothing with me that will fit that circumstance. However, I do plan on traveling to many different climates. I don’t know how we will end up packing for that situation but my partner and I are leaning towards packing up warm weather clothing when we leave, and then coming back home to the states 8-10 months into our traveling to switch out some warm weather clothing for some of our cold weather clothing. We also have considered bring just our warm weather clothing, and buying cold weather clothing when we need it from second hand shops to keep the costs down.

Some things I know we will definitely be bringing are: laptop, camera, adaptor, surfboard, art suppliers, journal, toiletries, contacts (I will be writing a blog post on how to be a digital nomad with contacts and glasses because that is another basket of worms), basic first aid and medicine, etc. When the date gets closer I will also post our entire packing list so you can see exactly what we choose to take with us.

Knowing what you will for sure need, will make it very easy to know what you will for sure not need.

What do you do with the stuff you want but can’t bring with you?

As far as I can tell there are a few options for what to do with the stuff you want but can’t bring with you.

1. Put it into a storage unit

2. Ask you parents/family members/friends if they have space for your stuff

3. Let your parents/family members/friends borrow your stuff until you get back

4. Leave all your stuff in your apartment and rent it out furnished

5. Don’t store anything

We have decided to go with options 1, 2, and 3. My parents have a spare bedroom that I can put the dresser and nightstand I had made in, as well as some boxes of clothes. I haven’t decided what I will do with my bed yet, but one of my sisters might borrow it while I am gone. And if there are more boxes I can’t fit in those spaces then they will go into storage.

My goal is to not have anything in storage because that is an extra monthly payment I don’t want. And I have also heard that after traveling, when you come back home you don’t want half of the stuff you left behind anyways. Either way, it is important to plan for which ever options you think you might choose, monetarily, and space wise, when you are going through the process of getting rid of stuff.

In conclusion, stuff is a loaded word, so I recommend taking it on a little at a time. Working through my stuff over the past couple weeks slowly has not only been easy, but it is also exciting knowing I am one step closing to living the digital nomad lifestyle. When it comes to what I will be bringing with me, I still have a lot of research to do, to make sure I bring and use efficient stuff and only bring exactly what I NEED. If you have any recommendations please feel free to comment here or email me at !


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