Houses are the Graves of the Living. How I became a minimalist.

Somewhere between last October and this October I decided to start the process of becoming free of material objects. Maybe it was the $80,000 in student loans or the claustrophobia I was feeling from a house full of furniture and junk or the job that was taking me nowhere but the overall result was that I had an overwhelming urge to only own and have what I immediately needed. In the words of Tyler Durdin from Fight Club, “Sooner or later, the stuff you own ends up owning you.” I began the process of owning myself again.

Houses are the graves of the living. – Tuareg Proverb

The Tuareg people have roamed the sands of the Sahara for thousands of years. They are proud nomads whose way of life is being threatened by government regulations and urbanization. Tuareg believe that a sedentary life is not life at all. Freedom comes from movement and ownership of your own possessions, your own travel, and your own life. The proverb, “Houses are the graves of the living,” speaks strongly of how the Tuareg people feel about “settling down” and explains the permanency and finality of “living” in a house.

Picture of the Tuareg People

In the United States, owning a home means 30-40 years of being in debt.It also means days full of leaf blowing, garage cleaning, and plumbing repair. It’s re-modeling, weekend projects, and maintenance bills. It’s a place to collect Christmas decorations, that toboggan you used once, boxes and boxes of stuff…do you remember what is in those boxes? A house in the United States is a place that becomes you. It dictates your feelings of security, your sense of belonging, and your future plans. It’s the biggest cause of security, “I have a home!” and the biggest cause of insecurity. If you “own” a home on credit, a house is more than likely a big source of insecurity when you think about your ability to pay the mortgage without a job.

Living the dream in suburbia

My life goals did not match up with the societal standard of being extremely in debt. I want to travel. I want to have fun. I want to work to live not live to work. So I started selling things. The more I sold the more I realized I could meet some life goals as long as I stayed focused and re-prioritized. The “Becoming a Minimalist” process has actually been done in three stages over the last year – the outline below describes the process through three stages: Stage One: Change of Scenery. Stage Two: Downsizing Again and I am currently on Stage 3: The Final Frontier. There is no real “How-To” on minimizing your life and freeing yourself to be able to do more of what you want to do. This is just the steps I took to get myself into three Patagonia bags, a few foldable shelves and an Action Packer storage bin.

Step 1: I got rid of my house

You might think this step is a pretty drastic first move and a little overboard. My reasoning behind the move was that if I was serious about getting rid of stuff then I needed to live in a space that reflected that and I needed to make some plans to move forward to a place that would support my desire to have less stuff. Less space equals less stuff. I was renting at the time so I had to negotiate a little bit with the management company to get out of my lease. I wanted to move into something much smaller and I wanted to save a lot of money on rent. After coming to agreement with the management company, I simply posted my apartment up on Craigslist and within a week it was rented. I then had thirty days to get rid of most of my possessions.

Step 2: I got rid of the big stuff

I looked around the house and thought, “So…where do I start??” The easiest place was to start with what I didn’t want to carry down three flights of stairs, into a moving truck and into a new place. I started with the big stuff: couch, bed, dresser, curio, chairs, shelves, etc. As soon as I started making a “to sell” pile, I started selling everything.

Step 3: I became an expert on Ebay and Craigslist

I did sales comparisons for current items being sold on Ebay and Craigslist for items I was trying to sell. Then I took pictures of all my junk, threw it up on either one or the other with a catchy advertisement and waited for it to sell. While waiting, I boxed and labeled everything. Whatever didn’t sell, I put in the “giveaway pile.”

Next stop: Ebay, Craigslist and Salvation Army

Step 4: Salvation Army Truck Day
After finishing up my first round of Ebay and Craigslist sales, I decided on items that I just didn’t want to be bothered with in trying to sell anymore. I would more than likely only get a minimal profit on certain items and for these, I decided to donate to the Salvation Army. I donated 9 garbage bags of clothing, shoes, handbags, and jackets along with three shelves, most of my kitchen items and a lot of books. I hope they have all found good homes out there in the world of thrift.

Step 5: Moving and The New Set Up
With 75% of my worldly positions either sold or given away, I moved into a small bedroom in a small farm house with a desk, a bed, a couple lamps, some books and a lot of clothes. A few months later, I moved again and got rid of the bed, desk and lamps. My final move (Stage 3) has been to a small apartment and the final purging process is almost complete. Over the last six months, it’s been easier and easier to get rid of stuff I just don’t use or need. Now, life looks a little messy but it would be very manageable to leave the country on the spot – which…I just might do.

“We wanted to do something big and different and away.” – Me

Heading to Honduras

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road: The Original Scroll

“Houses are full of things that gather dust”
Jack Kerouac

“I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.”
Jack Kerouac

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
John Muir


6 thoughts on “Houses are the Graves of the Living. How I became a minimalist.

    • We are in the process of getting ready for big changes as well! Where did you end up moving to? Being free of “stuff” really sets you up to be able to follow more dreams as they arise.

  1. Pingback: An Irish Journey: Day 10, Doolin to Galway « Trust Your Journey

  2. Welcome to my world, two bags of stuff, lol, never had the house to get rid of, travelled a bit though, funny people like this, I always thought whoever dies with the most stuff wins was the status quo.

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