How to Transition to a Life in Bags

Ashley on a trip to Denver in 2018 Waypost One

Travelling for two years means owning only what fits into a few bags. Here’s how to make it happen. 

On May 8th, my husband and I will fly out of Atlanta to live abroad for two years. With such a short time left, we have to have to sell everything we own and reduce our belongings to just a few bags. Recently, all our focus has been on that very task.

At present, we live in a 900-square-foot apartment, but when we leave, we'll be using only four bags. However, the task is has been made somewhat easier by already living simply. Our home has no Internet, no cable, almost no decorations and minimal clutter. Our walk-in closet could hold a car; however, it’s almost empty and has been that way since we moved in.

On the other hand, we love video games and have an extensive collection. We also love nature and until recently had boxes of hiking and camping gear.

Advanced planning for your home's "stuff" will save you time and stress later.

In college, we learned to buy only what we cared about. It wasn’t a fad or trend that inspired this but simply being broke. Our college budget taught us to save our money for things we enjoy. We love eating healthy, playing video games, and travelling. We spend less on belongings because of that. This understanding has taken on a new meaning with our still progressing downsize.

Give, sell, store, donate or trash

When you go from living in an apartment to living as a nomad, you don't need much. In the end, all you need is the clothing you need to wear and the technology you can't live without. 

The first step in such a drastic downsize is to look through each room. When you do this, decided for each item the soonest you can get rid of it before the move. With that in mind, determine what you will be doing with it. Advanced planning for your home's "stuff" will save you time and stress later.

• Sell: Your first option is to sell the item. Many of the expensive things in our home will be sold to fund the trip’s start. We’ve taken to using Facebook Marketplace to do most of our selling. It’s easy to use and much safer than Craigslist.

• Store: If you aren't willing to part with something, another option is storing it. We’re lucky to have a family with room for the things that we want to keep. We’re keeping the things that mean the most to us or would not be worth replacing when we get back.

• Give and donate: Sometimes an item isn't worth selling, but you don't want to keep it. In these cases, giving it away is your best option. You have the option of giving it to a place like Goodwill or just posing it for free online. 

• Trash: Though we try to avoid adding to the landfill, moving out of a house can do that. Grabbing a garbage bag when going through old boxes and junk draws might be vital. Of course, you can reduce the amount going to the landfill by recycling, where possible.

Make a plan

Since we knew I would be working full-time while Carter would be working full-time and taking a full load of classes, we knew we had to plan ahead. With a look around the house complete, the next step is timing it.

By selling and giving away our stuff over time (we started in November), it’s been less of a sharp difference and more of a gradual change. Planning has allowed us to continue working towards our goal with minimal interruption to our lives. Think about when you can sell away each part of your home and write it down. Follow this calendar to a new life.

Reducing belongings to almost nothing takes planning and time. If you are looking to become a digital nomad, it will probably be required. However, it’s not a bad thing. Getting rid of what you own is freeing and in many ways one of the better parts of the transition for us.

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Ashley Madden

Ashley Madden is a free-spirited digital nomad, writer, photographer and content creator. She owns Helianthus Advising through which she helps small businesses grow. In her free time, she creates videos to help the world.


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