An unexpected benefit of living with less

Words by Shannon Colton

My family was fortunate to be able to live abroad for a year. My husband and I wanted our two teens to broaden their perspectives by doing something different and living somewhere else. So we spent a year in my husband’s country of birth, Italy.

We all brought a backpack and a couple pieces of luggage filled with the stuff we thought we’d need for the year: shorts, flip flops, swimsuits, jeans, winter gloves, puffer jackets, hats, umbrellas, raincoats, boots, laptops, chargers, cables, adaptors, and toiletries. Each of us found a way to squeeze in our pillow as a comfort item from home. 

After settling into living abroad for a bit, an unanticipated consequence hit me: I realized it was refreshing to live with less. It was freeing. Less stuff. Fewer choices. For example, a simplified closet with just a few pairs of pants, shorts, and tops worn repeatedly.

We went abroad for our teens to gain new experiences, but the minimalist notions I gained were serendipitous and welcome. 

After the year abroad, we returned home to a house full of stuff. It felt like too much. I had a strong desire to minimize, so I took some time to declutter and clear things out. I started to prioritize experiences over things. 

The freedom from living with less was an unexpected benefit that still carries over well beyond our year abroad. 

Shannon Colton

Shannon Colton lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Back when Shannon was just starting out as an adult, she moved west from her home state of Virginia to California with her now-husband Paul for adventure and opportunity. Embracing uncertainty during that move west as a young adult felt like the right thing to do and taught her to follow her intuition and listen to her gut, which have come in handy for her most important job: raising her two teens to become healthy, independent adults.


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