Stuff, Things, and Accumulation

I was watching an episode of a television show via iTunes where a guy is packing up his desk after a few years (Halt and Catch Fire S2 E1 if anyone cares). This reminded me of doing the same thing when I packed up my cubicle at EALA back in 2012. When I was packing my small storage unit before leaving San Francisco, I still had things in boxes from packing that up. Years of getting my cubicle the way I wanted, and it spends years in boxes after. At my next job I had a smaller space, but also it made sense to have different things in it.

I’ve been on the road for almost three months now. So how do I feel about not having all of those “things”? Something about watching someone put things in a box made me think about this. I’ll be honest, I miss it a lot less than I’d expect. I packed pretty lightly so that I have a lot of flexibility and ease of travel. I have a backpack that holds 40 Liters (REI calls it a daypack, the larger backpacks common for college summers abroad are often in the 70L range), and I have another small bag, smaller than a messenger bag. Combined they weigh about 18kg (I know this from flying in Europe where I can check up to 20kg and carry-on 8kg, usually, last time I weighed my bags my backpack was around 12kg and my carry-on around 6kg, 26pounds and 13 pounds respectively).

There are certainly times when I’m going out that I’d like more clothing options. And it would be nice to have a pair of sneakers sometimes. But even when I think about it being nice having a few extra pieces of clothing, that’s a pittance compared to how many clothes I own and what I used to have in my apartment. And what about all the other things I had packed into my apartment. When I think about it, I’m really not missing it. So I decided to think about why? My storage unit is 4feet by 7feet, with a high ceiling. So not particularly big, I got rid of all my furniture, but it is packed pretty full for the space that it is.

I have a fair amount of pictures and other things in storage. But I don’t really miss those things. If some of my favorite photographs on my walls are of great places, well I see new places and have interesting new scenery around me on a regular basis. That seems to fill that role. Also, in some ways I feel like how you set your apartment or home, is a way for someone entering it to get to know more about you. Likewise, but in a different way, the fact that I’m traveling and the small amount of things I have with me, is a way for people to get to know me in this traveling lifestyle.

I had plenty of entertainment media, a nice tv, sound system, movies, music, videogame systems, etc. But with a laptop, a small portable Bluetooth speaker, a decent small set of headphones, and an iPhone and iPad mini, I feel like most of that is covered. Granted I’m not set up as well to watch a movie with someone else, but that’s not really something that’s part of this lifestyle. There are a few PS4 games that will come out that I would like to play, but the next Uncharted will be waiting for me some day in the future, and honestly I’ll take visiting amazing historic sites myself instead (hopefully no pirates shoot at me).

I had a fair amount of kitchen stuff, but when I do have access to a kitchen in my travels, I pay more attention to the different and interesting things that I can buy from markets and stores than the way I might prepare them.

I’m actually surprised I don’t miss my “things” more. But perhaps the point of having things is to balance against the day to day sameness, but I’m not really facing that issue. I used to own a ton of books, but I’ve been reading more off a Kindle for the last few years, which is especially handy in traveling.

The only things other than a few more clothes I can really think of that I would have liked at times, are a few old pictures and videos, I’ve wanted to pull up photos from my summer abroad in college, but that was on film and I only ever scanned a few of them. Really, the only reason I don’t have access to those is because I didn’t have a chance to digitize as much stuff as I would have liked before I left. That’s not really a big deal, and I can do it one day in the future, in which case space isn’t an issue there either.

But, for as much stuff as I had, and I really did have too much stuff in my aparmtent, I am pleasantly surprised the degree to which I don’t miss it. At whatever point some day in the future I go through my small storage unit, I’m very curious to see what I’ll decide to do with the things that are there.

The non-accumulation aspect of my travels are something I’m enjoying. It puts things like souvenir shops in a very different light. And as I see things I do like, I take note of it, particularly as I find a new artist I might not have known about. Or as I learn how to make better Turkish coffee, what I would be looking for in a small stove-top pot. Who knows what types of things I might furnish an apartment with some day in the future, but I have a feeling that in addition to covering an eclectic mix of regions and styles, it will likely include a lot fewer things in it than how I was living previously.

Here are a few images for context:

A portion of my old wardrobe
A portion of my old wardrobe

Most of my current wardrobe, drying.
Most of my current wardrobe, drying.
My crowded storage unit, 4'x7'
My crowded storage unit, 4’x7′
My two bags for my travels.
My two bags for my travels.

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