Two years ago, when I moved to the UK, I thought it was pretty impressive that I lived out of a duffel bag for six weeks.
Ha! I’ve been doing it now for over three months.
My husband and I gave up our flat in February, and decided we didn’t want to commit to any long-term housing options. Therefore, we’ve been in and out of hotels, sublets, and extended stays ever since.
In two weeks, we’ll be moving into our fifth “home” in less than a year (“home” being somewhere we’ve stayed longer than a month).
Last fall, my home was a 390-square-foot one-bedroom with high ceilings and enormous windows. That was my first taste of tiny living.
Earlier this year, my home was an extended stay studio with yellow walls, green carpeting, a red sofa, and a small kitchenette. That’s where I filed my tax return.
Right now, my home is a 1200-square-foot apartment in a grand old Victorian mansion. Architecturally, it’s one of the most stunning places I’ve ever lived, but is filled top to bottom with someone else’s stuff. (I fantasize at least once a day about emptying it out and painting it white!) That’s where I’m writing this post.
Next month, my home will be a small one-bedroom in a converted warehouse, in close proximity to a lovely park.
I know it sounds like a royal pain to be always on the move, and hunting for new digs. Fortunately, though, we’ve been lucky enough to find nice accommodations; and moving day has been reduced to stuffing our bags in a cab and taking it across town. To be honest, this nomadic life has been quite easy and carefree—and dare I say, it’s begun to feel “normal.”
I remember when my husband and I bought our house back in 2003. It took about a month before it really felt comfortable to me, before I could walk around in the middle of the night without bumping into things.
Since then, my adjustment period has drastically decreased. Now it takes me all of a few hours, from the time I first plop down my duffel bag, to think of a new place as home—even if it’s furnished with stuff I’d never choose, or the closets are packed with someone else’s clothes.
I’ve become accustomed to (and quite fond of) the fact that the sum total of my possessions are in packing cubes in my duffel bag, a toiletry case in the bathroom, and a handful of cooking implements on the kitchen counter.
I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to put my clothing in a closet, my books on a shelf, my spices in a drawer, or my lotions and potions in a medicine cabinet. It feels like ages since I’ve slept in my own bed, or received mail at a regular address. I’ve become adept at tracking things down on an as-needed basis: I’ve borrowed office supplies from hotel reception desks, cleaning supplies from housekeeping, and kitchen supplies from various landlords.
Furthermore, I now analyze the portability of every potential possession. I buy shampoo, laundry detergent, and olive oil in the smallest bottles possible. I calculate whether I have room in a packing cube for a new shirt or pair of socks. And yesterday, I passed on buying a bag of flour because I didn’t want the hassle of moving it in two weeks.
Most importantly, though, drifting from place to place has changed my way of thinking. Lately, I’ve been contemplating, do we ever really own anything? Whether it’s books, clothing, tchotchkes, cars, or even houses, things feel radically less permanent to me. In the grand scheme of things, it seems they’re all on temporary loan until we can’t (or don’t want to) use them anymore—at which point we pass them along, or they get passed along for us.
As such, I think material things deserve far less attention than we tend to give them. I’ve become more and more enamored with the notion of the itinerant monk, wandering with only what he can carry and meeting his needs on the go. Sure, I’ll never reach that level, but I like it all the same.
I’ve become acutely aware of how possessions can needlessly complicate things. If I were carting around a houseful of stuff, this past year would have been nothing short of a nightmare. However, it’s been just the opposite: minimalism has made this experience surprisingly pleasant and enjoyable. As someone who thrives on change, I love the novelty of trying out a variety of neighborhoods and living arrangements. I like the idea of not knowing where I’ll be three months down the road.
I can certainly see the value of having roots, a community, a permanent address. But given our current situation, it’s just not in the cards right now. We’ll likely be drifting for the foreseeable future, and to tell you the truth, I don’t mind a bit.