About two years ago, we sold our house and got rid of most of our possessions. Doing so gave us a feeling of relief and lightness. Since then, we’ve been living out of what could fit in one carry-on suitcase, and one backpack each. I wondered if our kids would miss all the toys, or if we’d miss certain decorations or other items. I’m pleased to report that we are happier than ever to be living with less, and we plan to continue that way.
There are a few extra items we’ve collected over the past couple years. We bought a car, a foosball table, and a small Bose speaker system to play music in the house. We also picked up a few household items, computers, clothes, and kids toys. But it’s much less than we ever had in the USA, and we’ll be getting rid of all of it and more when we move to Malaysia in a few weeks. We’ve realized we need even less than we thought we did. Now we have a new member of the family, and the usual baby stuff to take along with us, but we still don’t plan to check any luggage, and we may even leave Costa Rica with less than we came with. Click here for the list of what we’re getting rid of.
Our first experience practicing living with less was when we traveled to Panama for six weeks in 2009 to test the waters of living abroad. We didn’t bring any toys with us, but the kids found plenty to do. We bought a pad of paper and pencil for them to draw with once we got there, and when they got tired of drawing, they made paper airplanes or did origami. They also enjoyed bubbles, as well as the imaginary games they made up.
Last year we had the opportunity to travel to South America for a couple months. We decided for that trip, that we didn’t need our suitcases, and would be able to get by with a small backpack each. We’re so glad we did! And that’s how we’ll travel everywhere from now on, unless we’re moving. It’s so much easier. We felt sorry for the other travelers we saw lugging around several heavy bags each, and wondered what they might possibly have put in there. A few shirts, a couple pair of pants, underwear, a computer — what more did we need? Toiletries can be bought when we arrive, and paying someone to wash your clothes is very cheap in that part of the world, so we didn’t need a lot of clothes.
One of the great lessons I’ve learned from my time abroad is that you don’t need lots of stuff to be happy. And the more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to worry about. If you don’t use it, why keep it? It just clutters up your life.
Having lived with less for so long, our kids are understanding this lesson as well. Emily chose to donate her eighth birthday to help a poor child in India receive an education through SeeYourImpact.org. Emily didn’t want any presents or new toys (just a watch so she could practice telling time, which we got her). She knew that more toys wouldn’t make her any happier than she already is. But she did want to make a difference in someone else’s life. Her goal was to raise $250 and she raised $271! Well done Emily! And thank you to everyone who donated. In a couple weeks, we’ll have a story and pictures of the girls she helped. Here’s the donation page on SeeYourImpact.org if you’d like to check it out or contribute as well.
Living with less isn’t for everybody. But we’ve found it not only surprisingly easy, but extremely liberating to carry with us only the things we use regularly, and to not purchase new items we won’t use. We spend less money on things we don’t need, so we have more to spend on things that are more meaningful to us. And that enriches our lives.
Be sure to check out these other great bloggers and families who are living with less and have written about the same topic recently:
Worldschool Adventures: Getting Rid of Stuff
Family on Bikes: Enjoying life with less
Break Out of Bushwick: Live with less – Lessons learned from downsizing
Family Travel Bucket List: Living with Less and 5 Kids? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
Carried on the Wind: Living with Less
Our Travel Lifestyle: Does having all our gear again really make us happier?
Livin On The Road: Four Kids and Almost No Toys
The Drop Out Diaries: Anchors Aweigh
Discover Share Inspire: 1 Truck, 2 Continents, 7 People – How We Live With Only @321 Things
New Life on the Road : Living With Less Stuff