I’ve traveled a lot and moved even more, but the journey to minimalism was the best trip I’ve ever taken.

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

When I was young, I collected porcelain dolls. I had tons of them lining the shelves of my bedroom, until I watched a movie about dolls that came to life and killed people. I started collecting something much less scary after that (ha!) – clowns. Not just any clowns, of course, but the Emmett Kelley Junior collectible, limited edition clowns. It started by getting one as a gift from my parents when I turned 18 and just spiraled from there. Somewhere along the way, I started collecting stuffed bunnies, then porcelain bunnies too, and even ceramic bunnies for my porch. Dave collected (amassed) thousands of records – enough boxes to line a wall three boxes high and 12 wide – and at one point had almost 1000 CDs. Oh – and let’s not forget the 16 long boxes of comics. And we’re English majors. You can only imagine how many boxes of books there were.

Moving, moving, and more moving

And then we started moving cross-country. The first trip, from Boise, Idaho to Bath, New York, we didn’t have a lot of furniture to bring, so we boxed and brought all the books, CDs, records, comics, and clowns. The second move, from Bath, New York to Reno, Nevada, we left behind the dining room table set that I loved (and the china cabinet and buffet that went with it) to have enough room for the boxes of comics, books, bunnies, and clowns. Six months later, we found ourselves moving from Reno back to Boise, and it was only the good packing skills of my cousin that kept us from having to sacrifice more, although we did have to get rid of a lot of furniture even for that move.

Less stuff was more practical

Each time we moved (and there were three more cross-country moves after the move from Reno to Boise) packing up those boxes of books, CDs, records, clowns, bunnies, and comics drained us more. When we moved from Boise back to New York, it was exhausting. My collection that began as an enjoyable hobby was nothing but a nuisance, as I carefully packed and unpacked numerous boxes over and over (and over) again. We didn’t even really like our stuff anymore. Reducing the amount of our belongings began as a matter of practicality. There was simply not enough room on the moving truck for everything we owned in our house, and with each subsequent move, things would be left behind that we did’t replace. I don’t think any of us realize how much stuff we collect through the years until each room is broken down. It’s also a completely different story when you’re moving across country, and not across town. It either fits on the moving truck, or it doesn’t come at all.

That’s when we discovered minimalism, which, for us, was made easier by the improvements in digital technology (streaming services for movies and music, ebooks).

Before moving from New York to Salt Lake City, we started really embracing the idea of shedding some of the “stuff” of our lives. We started selling off Dave’s comic collection. He digitized his record collection and we sold those; we repeated the process with many of the CDs. Already we were about 60 boxes lighter than the last time we’d moved. We still hauled books, clowns, bunnies, and DVDs to Utah. We used ABF U-Pack to move to Salt Lake. We needed 18 feet on the truck and took no furniture. Two years later, when we moved back from Utah to New York, we’d made so much progress in embracing minimalism that we only needed 10 feet on the ABF trailer – and that included living room furniture.

With our last move, I was brutal. Clothes I’d been saving for “just in case” I had to go back to corporate work got donated, as did anything I didn’t wear anymore but just had hanging in the closet. Our closet now is paltry, and we each only have three plastic drawers for other clothes. Even in this, I see things I could get rid of:

I even tore apart and digitized most of the 40 photo albums I’d been hauling around (digital frames are awesome). And we started the process of digitizing our DVDs, the rest of our CDs, and as many books as possible, keeping only ones we were really connected to.

Suddenly I didn’t have collections at all anymore. I didn’t own half the amount of clothes or knick-knacks. I have a few precious items that I’ve saved over the years, but the total of them could easily leave a china cabinet half empty.  We went from barely being able to move around our home (we moved back to the same home we’d lived in before) because of all the stuff to really being able to appreciate how huge it is.

Now, our home décor is made up of paintings that I’ve done myself, digital frames that offer a slideshow of photos, and a few special canvas prints (like this one from Canvas on the Cheap of my favorite wedding photo).

I feel free.

I didn’t realize how much my possessions were holding me back from what I truly enjoyed, which is traveling. I’d much rather spend money on a hotel than yet another collectible. If I decide to move, packing is a breeze. The journey to minimalism has been a trip worth taking.

Possessions truly weigh you down in more ways than one. As a current homeowner that can’t wait to break free, I look forward to the day when all I own is a backpack and a suitcase filled with the essentials. We will probably rent a small storage space for personal items that are too precious to throw away, like the time capsule I can’t open until my 25th wedding anniversary. But we don’t need stuff. In fact, for the last few years, we’ve even stopped asking for gifts for our birthdays and Christmas. The kids get creative and give us movie and dinner gift cards so that we can get away, but really, all I need is my family, my passport, and a new destination.

I’ll trade the stuff for experiences every time.