Can stuff set you free?

I finally cleaned out the trunk of my car, throwing unworn shoes, clothing, and miscellaneous junk on an already large pile of stuff I cart around with me everywhere I go. Most of my belongings include clothes, with the occasional climbing harness or hiking equipment that I use so little of in southern Florida. Every six months or so, as I prepare to move, I give my belongings a once over and decide how much of this stuff I actually need.

I filled two large suitcases, two laundry baskets, and a storage container with stuff, separating the things I will take Salvation Army and those I will keep. While my stuff waited on the curb, I took my car to get a deep cleanse at the car wash around the corner, and on my return found three bums sifting through the “free” goods.

“Woah! This is not free!” I shouted at them, panicking that I was too late and had lost my most valuable gear already.

“Oh, sorry,” a younger lady bum without shoes replied. “We didn’t know. But can I have this shirt?” She held up a shirt I bought from target and wore only one time. It wasn’t in my give away pile but I suddenly felt the urge to lighten my load. Why was I holding onto this shirt that I didn’t even really like that much?

I moved my important suitcases onto my front porch, and left the rest of my unwanted belongings on the side of the road. I returned ten minutes later and every last item was gone.  I was left thinking how easy it is to give up all of this stuff.

My dad has always been a messenger for simplicity, wearing his favorite pair of jeans for twenty years and using his old leather wallet until it disintegrates. With my nomadic lifestyle it has always been important for me to mimic this mantra, but of course is not always easy. I always thought that the latest technology, houses, furniture, and gear was tying me down.  My guitar, snowboard, and snowtires each saw about 4 months of use and have since been left in the garages of helpful friends. Stuff sometimes can be a burden.

Perhaps it is that I am getting older, and so those “unnecessary” things like furniture, dogs, and iPads, now hold more appeal for me. These are all purchases I have made in recent months, and while they definitely make things more complicated, before each purchase I ask myself these three simple questions:

(1) Can I afford it?   (2) Can I fit it?  (3) Can I still be free?

There is something to say for the Rainbow people who own next to nothing (not even shoes), and so have nothing to tie them down. The three bums rumaging through my belongings likely own next to nothing and have no attachment to any stuff. However, belongings and obligations go hand in hand, and without these I am simply roaming.  I could wander forever, but then am I ever getting anywhere?

This year, Bruce has nearly completed his 52-foot Catamaran, Shantiway, and we can add this to the list of stuff. But while Shantiway is an added responsibility, it is also a method for exploring, experiencing, and living.  It is part of a lifestyle, and so my conclusion is that it will help, not hinder, the future as long as it becomes a way of life.  There are plenty of people who own boats that only see the water for 3 months a year, and the owner spends more time on maintenance than actual enjoyment of the vessel.  This simply ties them down.  But when stuff becomes a part of a daily, necessary routine, than it is not hindering, it is liberating.  It is convenience, security, and freedom all in one.

I am 26 now, perhaps not old yet, but old enough to acquire a certain amount of stuff that helps me achieve.  Sometimes I am worried that the things I purchase will tie me down, but often I end up accomplishing more than would have ever been possible without all of that stuff. My next task is to make sure it is the right stuff.

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One thought on “Can stuff set you free?

  1. Pingback: Spring cleaning twice a year | The Trail is the Thing

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