Stuff: On Leaving and What’s Really Important

Packing up my life and preparing for life on the road has forced me to think about what physical, material possessions I really need to keep and what else is just clutter, taking up unnecessary space in my apartment and my life.

Aside from a week’s worth of clothes, my laptop, my camera equipment, my kindle, and my journals, there really isn’t much that I need to thrive on the road. My apartment full of stuff is simply full of clutter, junk that had a temporary purpose but no longer needs to be a part of my life.

As I sort through my possessions and take stock of what I want to keep, sell, or throw away, it’s easy to identify my prized possessions. I don’t buy souvenirs when I travel, but instead hold on to tidbits that I acquire at each stop of my journey. Much of this stuff appears worthless to the casual onlooker, but serve as a tangible reminder of some of the best memories of my life:

Stuff 1

  • The yellow sarong my best friend Favorite Smol T picked out for me one day on the beach in Phuket on the last full day of our Thailand adventure together.
  • A tattered map of Split, Croatia, reminiscent of an insane few weeks that all began with this piece of paper.
  • The ticket from the 8:00am train that I missed because I was drunk on life, laying on a rocky beach watching the sun come up over the Adriatic, knowing that there was no place I’d rather be than exactly where I was in that moment.
  • The boarding pass from my flight to London, en route to Cambridge and a whirlwind of a summer.
  • Wristbands from Brussels, Prague, Miami – a reminder of the unforgettable nights with the unforgettable people I met along the way.
  • The journals I used to record my favorite details about the people and places I encountered on the journey.
  • The giant purple shirt that I wear to sleep in every night and sometimes just when I’m feeling blue, because it reminds me of the pure, unadulterated joy that awaits me once I get back on the road.

Everything else pales in comparison to the sentimental value these items hold. After all, it is just stuff. It seems silly to have an emotional attachment to stuff, yet this process of detaching myself from the rest of my material belongings has been much harder than I expected.

What I did not expect was that this process would extend far beyond simply the clearing of physical clutter in my life. Over the past few months, it has extended itself into the clearing of emotional clutter as well. The process of clearing my life of anything that no longer serves me has been incredibly cathartic, and has granted me far more clarity than I had ever hoped to achieve. By removing everything that does not bring joy or add value to my life, I can truly get closure on my time here in DC.

The thought of beginning a new life in Chicago and beyond with a completely clean slate is exhilarating. I’m leaving behind the majority of my material belongings when I leave in a few short weeks, but I’m looking forward to all of the prized possessions I have yet to acquire – tokens of my best memories that have not yet happened.

 

xoxo,

Hanna (Bubu Backpacks)

 

P.S. – If you’d like to follow my adventures in real-time, please follow me on Instagram and Twitter @bubu_backpacks. 

34 thoughts on “Stuff: On Leaving and What’s Really Important

  1. Put a lot of stuff in storage when we switched countries. Got rid of a lot too, mind. But it’s surprisingly easy to live without, for a while at least. But I am starting to plot to get some of it back. Mostly, as you say, the stuff with the sentimental attachment. Unfortunately even my fondue set has a little story behnd it, and that is super heavy.

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  2. Lovely and inspiring post. We’ve started the de-cluttering process this year by committing to get rid of at least one thing in our house every month. Best of Luck for you new Chicago adventure. I had to read this post as “Stuff” is always my default answer when I don’t feel like explaining things.
    What are you doing? “stuff”
    What’s going on today? “stuff” etc…

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    1. They’re way more interconnected than I thought! The process of going through your life and getting rid of everything that no longer serves you is surprisingly difficult but also incredibly freeing 🙂

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  3. It’s so nice to really boil down what you’ll need. I did 2 weeks backpacking around Romania out of a small carry on backpack and it was cathartic whittling down what I needed.

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  4. I’ve moved soo much in my life that I don’t hold much sentimental objects. However, I like to take pictures of boarding passes and other things to remember the occasion. I find it’s a good way to keep the sentimental link without keeping lots of stuff

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    1. Taking pictures is such a good idea! I’ll have to start doing that as I start traveling more. I have a small box of bits and pieces that I keep at my parents’ house but I try to keep my bag (and my life) as light as possible!

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  5. I tend to go through the same process once in a while, because was it for me I’d keep everything! Yet it’s good sometimes to just sort through your stuff, it makes you realize that there’s so much that has to go away! I should learn how to do it to the emotional part of me too!

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    1. Once I started traveling long term with only a small backpack, I realized how much I don’t actually need! We accumulate so much over the years when we’re in one place but it’s such a freeing feeling to just let it all go and get moving again 🙂

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  6. We went through this throughout the last year. We called it our ‘extreme minimalism challenge.’ We now have ‘everything’* we need and a small amount of stuff in storage with my parents that are sentimental and we may want again one day should we stop traveling full time. We are on the road for at least the next 5 years.

    *and more! LOL

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    1. That’s my goal too, to keep a small box of stuff in my parents’ house and lose everything else with the goal of being on the road for the long-term. I’ve got it down to two suitcases, two backpacks, and a random box of kitchen stuff my mom wanted me to keep but that’s it! It feels so weird but I’m sure it will also be too much once I move. The eventual goal is to keep my travel backpack under 30 pounds when I start traveling full time so we’ll see if that actually happens.

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  7. We moved quite often for about ten years of our life, and we also put several stuff that we loved or things that reminded us of our past in a huge box that we carried around wherever we moved to. Eventually, we ended up throwing away all the other stuff that we really never needed, when we finally settled down 4 years ago.

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  8. I can understand the sentimental value to such things. We also have lots of items that serve no more purpose to us but are just memorable to hang on to. Decluttering though always feels so revitalizing!

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  9. Good for you! I’ve never thought to declutter emotionally but that’s really important too for maintaining a healthy mindset and good emotional health. Good luck with everything in Chicago!

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    1. It just kind of happened as I was going through the process of cleaning out the physical stuff from my life – it because easy and necessary to clear out the toxic people as well 🙂 The mantra of getting rid of everything that no longer serves you really stuck with me!

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  10. I can so relate to that: I went with a big suitcase plus a carry on to Brazil. After my two weeks of class I travelled around for two weeks only with the carry on: Turns out, it was everything I needed – the stuff that I had parked in Rio was not necessary. I should learn from this – and from your experience for future trips.

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  11. I love this and have been going through the same process lately. Have you read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up?” It’s so true that you get to know yourself better by recognizing which things you are attached to and why. We really do need very little to thrive while on the road, and it’s strange that minimalism gets much tougher when you’re stagnant.

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    1. I’ve read pieces of it and love the whole approach to minimalism! The process of getting rid of anything that no longer serves you is super difficult but I know it’ll be worth it once I stop living a stagnant, sedentary life!

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