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Material Freedom – Does Your Stuff Own You?

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I remember having a conversation when I was about 25 with my best friend at the time, Brian.  I told Brian that I didn’t want to be burdened by a bunch of possessions.  My ideal was to be able to fit everything I own into the back of a pickup truck, and to be able to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  This was my idea of what it meant to have “material freedom”.


The more crap you have, the harder it is to change course.  I didn’t want my possessions to limit my possibilities or dictate my path.  I didn’t want my stuff to own me.  Unhindered experiences were vastly more important to me than material possessions…. or responsibilities, for that matter.


Now that I’m in my 40s, with a wife and two kids, things have changed a bit.  The days of unfettered wanderlust are long gone.  We’ve lived in the same awesome 3-bedroom house for almost 10 years now, and we’ve accumulated a few small things along the way.  But I still think the ideal behind material freedom is something to strive for.


Material Freedom

When I tell people that we’re quitting our jobs, pulling the kids out of school, and going to South America for a year, most people say something like “Wow, I wish I could do something like that.”


I often wonder, why can’t they? What, exactly, is holding them back? Relationships? Money? An unhealthy dedication to a company or a career?  All of the above?


For some people, their material things and the obligations that come with them hold them back from great adventures: the boat payment, the new car payment, the mortgage on their vacation home.   If this describes you, then you have to wonder, do you own your stuff, or does your stuff own you?


Gonna Need A Bigger Pickup

We’re now about 1 week away from leaving on our Family Gap Year to Bolivia, and it’s time to clean house…. literally.  We will be renting out our house while we’re gone, and putting our stuff into long-term storage in San Diego.  Unfortunately, we’re gonna need a little more space for our things than just a pickup truck.


We spent the last week winding things down, purging what we can, and packing the rest up.  Our approach has been to sell, donate, or toss as much as we can, and only keep things that we will otherwise need to buy again when we return.


The Storage Containers

The company we’re using has 5 x 7 x 8 foot containers, delivered to your door.  We pay about $100 for delivery, and $50 per pod per month of storage.


I originally planned to use 3 pods – which supposedly is enough for a typical two-bedroom apartment.   This was going to cost about $2,000 for the year, including the pick up at the beginning and drop off at the end.   Each additional pod would cost us another $600 for the year.  We really didn’t want to spend more than $2k on storage, so we had to make it work with 3 pods.


Our challenge was to get all our sh*t for a family of 4 from a 1,500 square foot home with a garage business into only 3 small pods.


An Enema For Our Stuff

We all need a good purge from time to time, and so do our belongings.  And believe me, this was a good purge.   After all, we’re paying good money for storage – we don’t want to pay to keep unnecessary things.


We sold a bunch of things on craigslist, and to friends: our bikes, some tables and chairs, sports equipment, and a few other odds and ends.  We probably made about $1,000 from the things we sold.


Most of our furniture is not the highest quality, to put it kindly.  And furniture takes up a lot of storage space.  So, we gave most of it away for free.  We figured we’d rather buy new furniture when we return than to pay good money to store old furniture for a year.


We’ve also piled a massive load of clothes, toys, books, and other things for donation.  Our kids will outgrow most things by the time we return in a year.  And I personally am such a fashion hound, that I’d never be caught wearing 2017 styles when we return in 2018…. yeah, kidding.


Anyway, we cleansed a LOT of stuff.


Only 2 Pods! Yeah!

We had so much purging, that we somehow managed to get everything into only 2 containers, instead of 3.  We used every single nook, every cranny, every crack, and every crevice.  Those pods are FULL.


The great news is that by fitting into only 2 pods, we’ll save $600 off our budget, bringing our total cost of storage for the year down to $1,400.  Not bad at all!  We’re under budget, and on schedule!


The Journey

This week wasn’t easy.  Moving and purging is stressful.  It’s physically and emotionally demanding.  But, it’s all part of the journey of our gap year.


So, while it has been a stressful week, in the end, our family of four just packed all our material belongings into the back of a proverbial pickup truck:  2 tall boxes, measuring a mere 5 x 7 x 8 feet each.  That’s 560 cubic feet, or 140 cubic feet per person.  That is, admittedly, a bit more than a Ford F-150 bed, but not much.


Our house is now empty, and we have just a few days to finish the final details before we head south on our gap year.  I think I can safely say that my stuff does not own me.



Jojo Bobo


4 Responses
  • DrJ
    June 4, 2017

    Good for you! We are doing our own “gap year” (academic sabbatical) but have rented our house furnished to another academic family. It is still a huge undertaking to pack all our personal belongings and move them to storage (our garage). We are each taking only 1 bag so we will see when we get back if we find we still need any of the stuff we packed away…

    • JoJoBoBo
      June 4, 2017

      Wow, 1 bag… I can only imagine. We have 6. Where are you going? – JB

      • DrJ
        June 12, 2017

        We are going to Europe. When I said 1 bag, that was 1 bag each – there are 6 of us so 6 bags total. Still feels strange to distill all stuff for 1 year into a single suitcase. It is a good exercise for the kids but I have told them everything that I want them to bring (hats, boots, coats, etc) has to fit and they get whatever extra room there is for toys/books/ clothes that they would like to bring. Their “extras” change daily so it will be interesting to see what makes the final cut.

        • JoJoBoBo
          June 12, 2017

          It was painful for some (unnamed) people in our family. Not for me though. I’ve never been very attached to my stuff. -JB

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