A nomadic lesson in appreciating space with fewer things
College was so much easier. Living in a dorm room with limited space molded me into a minimalist… as if I really had a choice. I had two drawers and a small closet that could barely fit my guitar. Even if I wanted to own a lot of stuff, I didn’t have the space. I could complain about the lack of space, but the room was effective. I didn’t need much to live on—a few sets of clothes, my laptop, and my guitar. It’s all I owned. It was simple.
Five years later, moving from a dorm room to a three bedroom home began to change my mindset about owning items. Of course, during those years, the space gradually grew and the things I accumulated went unnoticeable until I moved again. It’s interesting to see that we collect things to fit the space we own. This realization couldn’t have been more clear than when I received a notification that I was going to be stationed in Colorado for my second assignment. You see, I was now in the Air Force. I had a family, more money, and more space. I did what most people do when they have more disposable income. I bought more stuff.
A big TV, power tools, sporting equipment, tech gadgets, kitchen stuff, and yard furniture. It was exhausting having to handle all that stuff when it came time to move. A funny thing is that after 4 years in that house my wife and I decided to unbox the last few boxes in our closet that we never got around to and apparently never really needed. Once the final box was unpacked, I made a Facebook post that said, “Now that our last box is unpacked, watch us get orders to another place.” Sure enough, later that afternoon I received an assignment to Colorado. Quite comical, yet at the same time frustrating.
The following week we began throwing things away and packing up only what we needed, as we weren’t sure what size our new home would be. If you’re aware of the housing market in Colorado, specifically Boulder, it’s quite expensive. We had to downsize to a two bedroom apartment which meant most of our stuff was going in storage. We kept the essential items for use and put everything else in storage. For almost two years, the items stayed in storage until we moved again. A year in our new home added up even more stuff. Fast forward another year and we still had boxes unopened in the closet and here came another assignment. Another move. Another purge. We downsized drastically. I think we finally learned our lesson.
All our memories from each move didn’t involve stuff. It involved experiencing new things. Eating new foods. Family trips. Getting ice cream. None of that involved items at our house. The true value came from each other.
On my next assignment, I only moved with one duffle bag, a carry on suitcase, and a backpack with my laptop and camera. I’ve been here for two months with quite literally the minimum.
After learning my lesson from the previous three moves, I’ve come to appreciate the time I had in my dorm years ago. It was so much simpler with fewer things and even with less space. I now have a four bedroom house with more space than I’ll ever need, but there is no desire to fill it. Space feels good when it’s not filled.
Take it from a nomad that has learned what it’s like to live with less and what it’s like to live with a lot stuff. This is the fourth move in under nine years. Life is so much easier when you don’t have to manage things you’ll never need or don’t use. I’ve learned that stuff is not as valuable or important as we make it out to be. The things I might need are not worth keeping just in case I may need them. Don’t waste the room, get rid of the stuff. Make room for experiences. Make room for memories. Make room for what’s more valuable—people.