Next week, I’m moving out of the Harlem apartment I’ve leased for two and a half years and oddly, there’s nothing but one thing I am feeling right now:
If there’s anything that stresses out a hardcore traveler, it’s having obligations. Obligations in the form of job contracts. Furniture. Pets. Apartment leases. All things that we take on daily that become the core reasons we can’t just get up and travel.
When I first moved into my first NYC apartment, all I remember thinking was how much money is spent on security deposits, on rent, on utilities, on furniture…and how all of that could be going toward travel (and how it all had previously gone to travel the entire year abroad living in Paris in a month-to-month chambre de bonne). But I decided to settle down and get back to the real world as so many people tell themselves they should do, and I hesitantly signed my lease.
But I knew I knew myself and that’s why for the past two and a half years of off-and-on traveling, I have felt weighed down by the constant worry in the back of my mind that I may not be able to make Manhattan rent or that a subletter won’t pay rent (or having to find a subletter who is okay with sharing a studio with a roommate in Harlem for that matter). Or worrying that my landlord will find out I’m not actually living in my apartment. Or that my utilities won’t be paid and then my credit will go down.
But with all that being said and done, now comes moving out – the relief part – which leaves me one less issue (my apartment lease), but still with my other obligation:
all my crap.
What do I own and more importantly what do I even need anyway? What do I even care to keep? I once read a blog about allowing yourself to only own 100 things, including socks, toothbrushes, books, etc. in an effort to remind ourselves that most of the stuff we own is just crap, serving no purpose in our life besides comfort, and that even the things that we tell ourselves are “for comfort” are really just a delusion; that we unnecessarily attach ourselves to possessions thinking we need them to feel comfort and happiness. That’s an advertiser’s dream and sole purpose of their job.
Reminder: the only things we need are food and water (and shelter not in the form of $1,200 300 square foot Manhattan apartments); all the rest is extra – and while a lot of that extra is worth, like an iPhone, which makes our lives 10x easier every day, that box of crap you have in the corner of your apartment filled with things you might use one day is probably not necessary.
So I decided to look around my apartment at all the things I own.
OK, not much, but in the past two and a half years of NYC living, I’ve invested in the comfiest, big red couch that I actually got off eBay; a microwave I bought off Craigslist; a lofted bed I got from IKEA because it was the cheapest piece of furniture there; a dresser I got for free off Craigslist; and a few other small kitchen appliances.
And then I looked around again and realized:
I don’t want any of it. Zero, zilch, rien.
The person replacing me in my shared studio can have everything. Yes, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g; I don’t care about the profits I potentially could make off of all the things I own. Our lives shouldn’t always be represented by profit or loss; they should also be about freedom and letting go for the improvement of ourselves.
One reason is that most of the stuff I own is not nice. Thank God I didn’t invest $900 on a mattress or $1,000 on a couch because the more we invest in an apartment, the more we’re complicating future travels for ourselves by telling ourselves, “But I invested in all of this stuff, I can’t just get up and go! What am I going to do with my…?” Don’t get yourself in that consumerist cycle.
Second, at the end of the day, it’s all just more crap, cluttering our thoughts and literally and figuratively weighing us down. That Keurig that’s been sitting in my cupboard for the past three months? I don’t need it. That extra towel I thought I might need for guests that has never been used? I don’t need it. That book I read half of? I don’t need it. That ten-season DVD collection of FRIENDS? Sorry, but that one I need.
Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of everything; it’s about getting rid of everything you don’t need, to remind yourself of things that are actually important and meaningful in life. It’s about being real and calling yourself out on excuses like you “might need it one day.” Like seriously 95% of the time, you probably won’t use it, and when you finally get rid of things you don’t use or need anymore, you no longer have to think about if you’ll be needing or using them anymore, and when you’re not thinking about that, you’re thinking about things that actually matter to your life, like your experiences, your beliefs, your hobbies, your friends, your family, your travels.
Just remember that the more crap you own, the harder it is to pack up and leave. Don’t let it become just one more excuse as to why now is not the right time to travel.