My “Minimalism” Project

Demeter's Empty Apartment

Where is your storage unit?

When you’re living on a continent comprised solely of expatriats and people who travel almost professionally both questions “where are you from?” and “where do you live?” become difficult for most to answer. The more-commonly heard phrase on ice is “where is your storage unit?”.

This replacement query better completes what you probably really want to know such as “to where will you be returning?”, “where do you place your roots?”, “with where are you familiar?”, “where could I come visit you?”, or a myriad of other things hidden at the root of the original question. Personally, I usually wanted to know whether or not it’s feasible to think I might ever run into them again back in the default world.

Ask “where is your storage unit?” and many would toss out a city name, a state, or a country (looking at you, Kiwis) but one answer both surprised me and threw off my entire point of asking the question that way. “I don’t have a storage unit; everything I own came down to Antarctica with me.” Well. Crap. To get the information I really wanted to know I went back to my original type of queries.

I think about that conversation more often than I’d like to admit. To have everything he owned with him meant everything he owned could fit into two suitcases and a duffel bag (and had a weight limit attached to that too!). Even more extreme, during further conversation, I learned he’d only brought one large duffel bag.

One bag: what freedom that offered!

He could move anywhere with a drop of a hat and have everything with him.

I immediately envied him. I had a storage unit that I paid $80 a month to utilize, some crap tossed into the basement of my mother’s house, AND items in my dad’s garage.

I don’t live in furnished housings anymore, I have pets, and I don’t choose to live outside in a tent at the moment so one or two bags isn’t my current goal, but overall I would love to live simpler.

I just watched from a distance as my aunt packed up her life and moved back to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; she tried selling her things on LetGo App and had some success but many of her belongings were left behind for the rest of the family to deal with and I heard  stories from my mom about having to help empty out my aunt’s apartment. My aunt didn’t have the flexibility of my colleague above to just shove everything in one bag and go.

I don’t care to become a complete minimalist at this time, but I would love to be better able to pivot and flex with my upcoming life plans.

I like my current job well enough, but I don’t plan on having it forever. If an opportunity comes up a year or three from now I want to be able to volte-face without having to worry about leaving behind a bunch of stuff for my family to deal with; I suppose that comes from my desire to be self-reliant.

A new mantra I came up with my best friend the other day – If I wouldn’t pay to ship it to an apartment in Norway, then I won’t buy it. I also don’t want to have to spend energy going through all my belongings and making those decisions when I could be focusing on the cool things I’ll do in my new destination.

If I wouldn’t pay to ship it to an apartment in Norway, then I won’t buy it.

So this is a great start and a mantra I’ve been pretty great at sticking to for the last 3 weeks, but I want to take a step further.

Not only will I not buy new things that don’t fit that new designation – I want to go back and limit my previous belongings. I’ve already kind of started this process – I gave away about 6 super large contractor bags’ worth of belongings when I moved out of my old apartment in August. I also packed up 4 totes of clothing so I could slowly begin to acclimate to not using them – and make sure I don’t regret “getting rid” of any specific piece and can happily report that I haven’t opened the bins yet and it’s been about six months.

But now, I’ve been given a new perfect opportunity to minimize.

As I unpack into my new place, I’ll place some items immediately into my “un-own” pile.

I’m going to set up a few rules for the process:

  1. Keeping anything hobby-specific for any hobby in which I’ve participated this year. If it was over a year ago the last time I participated, it goes.
    • This means I keep my
      • Rock-climbing equipment
      • Hiking and camping gear
      • Winter glamping gear (this is one HUGE area of my belongings)
      • SCA/historical re-enactment garb and gear
    • This means I’ll get rid of my
      • Soccer shoes and shinguards
      • Snorkeling equipment
      • Most LARP gear – this is one I haven’t done in over a year, but have solid plans to in the next three months
      • Board games we haven’t played recently
  2. Books are heavy and I have a lot of them. I get to keep one shelf of books + any I haven’t actually read yet
    • The rest I will place on a specific bookshelf with “FREE BOOKS” sign and let my friends take what they want to start
    • I will get rid of the rest after a year or whenever I move next
  3. My costumes are important to my Renaissance Festival job… though I know technically I could wear the same outfit or two every weekend like the cast does. Instead of just automatically dropping all of these I will aim to get rid of 2/3rds or 7 complete outfits – whichever feels more right at the time.
  4. Kitchenware I can keep anything artisan-made plus one set for 8 at the dinner table and enough Tupperware for a weeks’ worth of food.
    • When it comes to actual cooking implements I plan on paring down over time because I know I have more mixing bowls and baking dishes than I will ever use – I want to keep enough to cook a large meal at the same time and get rid of the rest
  5. Electronics are rough because I don’t need to have two Google Homes and a Smart lighting system. However, I figure that those $50 light bulbs are something I would totally pay to ship to Norway with me so as things break/lose usage I will replace them only with smart items and only items with multi-use. Things like my Kindle Fire aren’t really a necessity to replace but I will keep around for now.
  6. Figurines and decor – I have SO MANY little knick knacks that sit on my bookshelves. I plan on paring down some as I unpack. In my old apartment I had decor that sat in boxes for the entire time I lived there. In the new place anything that doesn’t have an immediate home gets added to the pile of things to un-own.
    • This is another strange category because I know I won’t keep all my decor if I were to move to another country. However, as I learned in Antarctica, decor really helps with my mental space.
    • If I were to move, I could easily give away or donate 90% of my decor – it’s not something that I would be stuck throwing away or storing.
  7. Furniture – I’m not paring down my furniture. It’s already pretty simplistic (4 bookshelves, a bedroom set, coffee table, two chairs, and a couch). I love them, but they are things I could leave behind were I to move. See notes on decor.

Pictures to come next week as I actually implement the process!

Next week I also hope to have some awesome posts about what I’ve been up to this summer! Topics I’ve started drafts on include:

  • Pennsic and the SCA
  • Regional Burns such as Frostburn and Scorched Nuts
  • The Ohio Renaissance Festival and what it means to be a “rennie”
  • My upcoming travel plans to Norway
  • The Foreign Service Officer Test to become a US Diplomat
  • Cheap travel resources
  • Other ways to work abroad


(featured image: my new apartment!)

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