It can be a daunting thought, packing away your life’s belongings before hitting the road. As our departure date draws ever closer, I have started to think about how I’ll condense all my gear into a small van. Luckily, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to pack everything away and, through experience, I have learnt a very valuable lesson: You don’t need much! Whilst some things are important for setting up your life in one place, you can easily do without most of them when you’re on the road. Books can be exchanged, clothes wear out and will need to be replaced anyway and furniture is only useful when you have a room to put it in.
Perhaps I was too ruthless with my first clear out. I was about to leave Perth on a solo backpacking adventure across the tropics and had accumulated a lot of stuff! But it was time to embrace freedom. I sold my vintage 1950’s electric sewing machine, surfboard, bike and electric piano on Gumtree. I lost a lot of value on hundreds of books, which the second-hand shop did not truly appreciate and I gave my large box of paints and art supplies to friends. Everything went to a good home and I kept only those items that had sentimental value. Do I miss anything I threw away? Not really.
In the end, it will be memories that keep us going into old age. All that extra stuff can be recycled and given away to people that need it. There are far too many things in the world anyway and I sometimes wonder why people keep producing when so much gets tossed away.
Ten tips for condensing your possessions:
1. Think about storage space. Where will you keep your belongings while you’re on the road? If you are lucky to have a space (like your parent’s garage, or a friend’s spare room) think about how much you can respectfully fit in there. You may need to pay for a storage unit, which can be quite costly. On my first unlimited adventure, I packed all my belongings into six big suitcases (the maximum luggage space on the aeroplane) and stored them at my parent’s house.
2. Only keep the essentials. When you get back from an adventure, however long, you do not want to unpack rubbish that’s no longer important to you. It is much nicer to open your suitcases as though it’s Christmas time and marvel at all your most treasured belongings.
3. If you haven’t worn it in a year, give it to charity. Keep expensive clothing items like a good jacket, boots and scarves. If you do return from your adventure flat broke, it is nice to have some warm, quality items to get you through to your first pay check. But in general, try not to hoard clothes that you only might wear again one day.
4. Keep your bed if you have space. It will save you troubles and expenses on your return. I spent my first three months in Melbourne on a blow up mattress from Aldi, until it popped and a real bed was required! If possible, try to invest in a bed that can be pulled apart and stored in a small space. Otherwise, sell your bed/mattress online and save space.
5. Bathroom products expire, so keep what you want for the road and donate the rest to your family or friends. You might want to save a set of towels and bed linen if you have room (to make for a comfy return), but otherwise, they are easily replaced.
6. Breakable kitchen items are tricky to store and require a lot of padding, so keep it compact. Unless they are particularly special, give them to charity. The only kitchen crockery I wish I hadn’t thrown out were my tea pots, but I have a lovely new one now so no regrets!
7. Keep furniture and store it well, but only if its worth your while. Worthless pieces can always be left out at hard-rubbish collections (also a great way to stock up on free furniture when you need to set up house again).
8. Sell things online. Bikes, cars, surfboards, sewing machines, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, tools, musical instruments. These can be sold for a good price and are a great way to top up your savings for the adventure ahead. Just make sure you allow yourself plenty of time so you get value for money!
9. Remove Knick Knacks. I try not to acquire too many knick knacks. They are the kinds of things that serve no particular purpose, are awkward to pack and break easily. Having said that, you may have some objects with real sentimental value. I do have a selection of paintings, posters and maps that roll up easily and hold a lot of fond memories. Keep the essentials. Donate the rest to a friend and make their day!
10. If in doubt, throw it out! When I say ‘throw it out’ I don’t mean put it in the bin. There are too many things going to waste in this world without us adding to it. But donate it to charity, give it to a friend in need, sell it online or have a garage sale (and don’t do this two days before you leave or you won’t have time to dispose of all the things you didn’t sell). Just try not to hoard things you ‘might need one day’ because, chances are, they will gather dust in your garage until you die!
It is such a liberating feeling to condense all your finest possessions, put them into safe storage and be free to travel the world with only a back pack. In the future, you will think twice about wasting your money on things you don’t need and will only collect items that have real significance to your experiences. One day, when the travel bug miraculously disappears (though I suspect most people catch it for life), you will be able to settle down to a cosy home, covered in art work, maps and all those memories to keep you company into old age.
Good luck and happy travels!
Photo taken by Syd Eisenberg ( http://sydeisenberg.wix.com/photography )