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Minimalized stuff

Why So Much Stuff? Birth of the Colombian Digital Nomad

A couple of years ago, I lived in a hotel for six months. Trips back and forth between Colombia and the U.S. made paying rent for an unoccupied apartment in Colombia nonsensical. I didn’t take all my stuff with me to the Colombian hotel, only the papers and things currently being used and only the bare necessities in peripherals. The same went for clothing.

When packing, I came to an interesting realization. Even with all my clothes in the same closet, I only wear a small percentage of it. I only use a fraction of what I own.

Why so much stuff? Why do we acquire?

Of the twenty-plus tee-shirts and polos I own, I wear five regularly. Of the seven or eight button-down shirts, two come off the hanger weekly. There are six or seven pants I cycle through, but four of them are jeans that are blue, credible argument for shrinking the pants number to three.

I’ve been paying rent for a 10×10 storage unit in Lancaster, PA. In the almost five years of life in Colombia, I’ve not stepped foot in the place. All those clothes (and everything else in there!) areunnecessary. If I haven’t missed it in five years, I don’t need it. That rent is a wasted, unnecessary expense.

If I only use 10%, why keep the other 90%?

George Carlin was ahead of his time. I’m smack-dab in the middle of mine.

Plastic stuff

Twenty-first century excess doesn’t end with clothes or stuff on shelves in our homes. When I go to a restaurant and order a drink it comes with a plastic straw. Ten minutes later I’ve finished my drink. But that plastic straw will exist – somewhere, either in a landfill or the ocean (which we’ve been using as a landfill) – for longer than the rest of my life. I used it for 10 minutes! Is that 10 minutes of functionality worth a hundred or more years of existence as garbage? Rewind. I said my drinks come with straws. I now make a point of requesting that I notbe given a straw. My server, who appears to be paid by straw distributed, thinks I’m strange. Folks I dine with sometimes think I’m a pain. Fine by me. My lips fit on the edge of a glass comfortably fine, thank you very much. Fortunately, more and more I’m being asked if I want a straw. The other day the juice stand I was at had paper straws.

I decided to stop using straws after seeing a video of a sea turtle with a straw jammed in one of its nostrils. We’re killing the planet, or at least making it suffer. Because of stuff, because of our supposed convenience.

Saying no to a plastic straw is easy. Not being bothered with the majority of my stuff, when I live in a space not all that much bigger than my stateside storage box is easy too. Out of sight, out of mind.

But I still want stuff! What to do about that?

My Abbreviated List of Stuff

Here’sa partial list (in alphabetical order) of things wanted to-date:

  • A street motorcycle; could be a BMW R Nine T, a Triumph Street Triple R, or a Royal Enfield Classic 500 (for touring Colombia I tell myself)
  • A touring motorcycle; a BMW 1200 GS Adventure motorcycle (for international touring and laps around the United States)
  • A black straw pork pie hat w/interchangeable yellow and purple hat bands (Friday night outings)
  • A cream-colored short-sleeved button-down shirt (for casual Friday evenings out)
  • An electronic keyboard or maybe even a piano (for when I get a house, I suppose)
  • A cooler backpack than the three I already have
  • An Original Grain watch
  • A pair of Vibram Furoshiki wrap shoes
  • A set of bongos
  • A soprano saxophone
  • A Stanley Transmodule toolbox (currently only available in Central America, coming to South America soon)(and which I won’t worry about acquiring until I have a house with a garage, or similar place to put it in)

Mental Clutter of Stuff

The fact that my unabridged list-o-stuff takes up space in my head worries me. Look, now I’m stressing about the desire itself!

In truth, I don’t have to worry about accumulating in excess. Limited finances controls that.

My past hotel living situation compelled me to purge. But that minimalist desire only came from those extraordinary circumstances. Once in my own apartment again, I flipped back into acquisition mode. (For some reason, Tracy Chapman’s song “Mountain O’ Things” mysteriously popped into my head.)

Anyway, since I’m confessing, I might as well cop to having a bit of trouble throwing things away. Toothbrushes for example. Packing for that hotel move, I counted seven in one drawer alone. There werethree or four more in a jar on a shelf in a closet in another room. I’m a wannabe do-it-yourselfer. The crap I don’t toss represents raw material for projects I’ll never undertake.

Back to the subject of purging. Am I just some sort of reverse bulimic? Will I just replace the discarded stuff? I haven’t been shopping in about a year. That’s only because my budget’s been abnormally restricted. Once it eases, will the buying binge consume me?

My life was simpler in that hotel and only a smidgen less comfortable. The simplicity served me well. The drop in comfort level is forgetful, if not negligible.

Here’s a more permanent solution.

Colombian Digital Nomad

The lease on my apartment ends next March. I’m planning to become a Colombian digital nomad.

Digital nomads are a new demographic that have emerged over the last 20 years, folks that earn their living through their computers and the internet and aren’t tied to a place. Typically, they stay in a country from three to six months and then keep it moving.

Since arriving in Colombia I’ve referred to myself as a digital expat, precisely because I haven’t been nomadic. But perhaps that lifestyle withinColombia is just what GrupoAmos on Colombianeeds! So much happens around the country throughout the year. I can’t cover it all from Medellín. Traveling region-to-region, city-to-city, town-to-town, experiencing Colombia as no one has done before sounds exiting and enriching, doesn’t it?

I’ll only take the 10% of the stuff I use.

I’m working on a plan for the cats. More to come as the idea develops.

In the meantime, please stop using plastic straws!

There’s a lot more to tell … on Colombia.


Note:   Turns out there’s a whole minimization movement afoot. Here are a few websites in case you want to learn more: www.bemorewithless.com/ www.davidmichaelbruno.com/ www.zenhabits.net/ or search the internet for “100 things challenge”