Practicing a Lesson from the Trail
This isn’t the summer we had envisioned, but we’ll roll with it. Shingles ended our Appalachian Trail thru hike in April. Now, months later, North Star is still under the weather. Regaining her full health remains our number one goal. With our short-term sublet coming to an end, we decided to settle down in Fort Collins, Colorado, sign a longer term lease, and make this our home.
We began by moving our possessions out of a 5 x 10 ft storage unit in California and into our Colorado sublet. Fifty square feet of storage for two people’s possessions seemed small when we left to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but the trail changed our perspective. We realized one backpack was enough for each of us. Soon after completing the PCT, we wrote a blog post titled “Five Lessons from the Trail”. One lesson, quoted below, is especially relevant to our current situation:
Fewer possessions is freeing. We found that the less we had, the happier we were. Each possession was not only physical weight to carry, but also mental weight. Carrying just one set of clothes meant no decisions about what to wear in the morning. Instead of carrying chairs, which could break or get left behind, we sat on the ground or on logs. Taking only the food we needed made meal choices simple. We didn’t bring bowls and plates, all of which we’d have to clean. Rather we ate right from our pot. With less items to think and fret about, our minds could relax and be open to all the beauty around us. The simple lifestyle is truly freeing.
Moving was a great opportunity to put that lesson into practice.
We chose a small 525 sq ft studio apartment. As with a small hiking backpack, the apartment’s size meant we had to get rid of all non-essential items. In addition to choosing a small living space, we decided to transport everything on foot. The new apartment was five blocks from the sublet so if we wanted to keep something we had to be willing to carry it.
We tackled the piles and boxes bit by bit. Reducing duplicates was a huge opportunity for dwindling our possessions down. We both had so many shoes! Dishes, clothing, and outdoor equipment were in the same state. We possessed more than we could realistically use. Numerous boxes of these redundant items went to the thrift store.
Multi-purpose items are perfect for backpacking and the same holds true in the home. A simple kitchen knife can perform all the tasks of a cheese slicer, garlic press, apple wedge slicer, and more. We kept the knife and gave away the rest. In the same vein, we opted to keep just 6 all-purpose water glasses, donating all our single-purpose beer mugs and wine glasses.
Some items had sentimental value but no practical purpose. Race t-shirts that no longer fit, childhood items, and unused gifts fell into this category. We took a picture of each well-loved item to remember it by, then added it to the thrift store pile.
All of the decisions weren’t easy though. When we grew tired of sorting through boxes and making choices we noticed that we slipped into keeping too much. It was important to take breaks and downsize in stages.
It felt good donating most items to the local thrift store. A new owner will get more use out of them. Some of the larger or nicer things we sold on Craigslist. This had the added reward of putting over $500 in our pockets.
We hadn’t used the stuff in our storage unit for over a year so obviously we didn’t need any of it. As we settle into our new home, we’ll work continuously to keep only what’s useful and give away what’s not. Acting on a lesson from the trail, Fewer possessions is freeing, has been hard work, but we’re already experiencing the benefits of additional physical space and mental peace.