At the age of 29, I now own fewer possessions than I’ve ever owned in my entire life. After years of downsizing I have achieved one of my long-sought-after goals of being able to fit everything I own into a backpack that fits comfortably on my back. It has been a long road of transition making continual progress little by little. 5 years ago, I moved to California and rented a 3 bedroom apartment. I took the largest bedroom in the apartment and had the spare closet full of stuff. Quickly after, though, through the influence of documentaries, books, inspiration from others and my own ideals coming to light, I became set on living a non-materialistic life. Each year, I cut my possessions by half by getting rid of the stuff I hadn’t used in the last 6 months to a year. One of the biggest steps was getting rid of my car. I went from the biggest room in the house to sleeping in the 6×6 closet and by then almost all my possessions fit in there with me. Then, in January of 2015, I moved into a tiny house that I bought used on Craigslist for $950 where I lived off the grid without a bill or debt to my name. I lived there for a year and that brings me to where I am today. (See more of the transition at From Drunk Dude to Dude Making a Difference). I am now traveling indefinitely with every single possession that I own in my backpack. I have 111 possessions to my name. I have nothing stored anywhere and no home to go back to. The Earth is my home and I feel as home here as I have felt anywhere else.
Here I am with every single possession that I own.
The reason I’ve chosen the 111 possessions that I have is to meet my most basic needs and to aid in living an environmentally friendly life. I aim to cause minimal harm to the earth, to other species, and to other humans, and these possessions are largely designed to help me to do so. The number 111 isn’t actually that significant to me. The purpose of my minimalism is to keep myself from focusing on material possessions, to keep my life simple, to curb my consumption, and to live an environmentally conscious life. It’s also designed to keep my involvement with money to a minimum and to live with a great level of happiness, health, and freedom. Through my years of downsizing, I’ve found that material possessions don’t create long term happiness or fulfillment for me. I’ve found my greatest happiness in education, truth, experiences, and relationships. I’ve found that an overabundance of possessions hinders my purpose and passion rather than facilitates it.
The following is a list of every single possession I own, as well as more detailed photos. The number in parenthesis represents how many possessions I consider that item line to be. This, of course, is a debatable figure and comes down largely to a matter of opinion of what one would consider a possession. However, I believe that I’ve taken this to a pretty meticulous level and that many would consider this far less than 111 possessions. For example this includes my debit card, birth certificate, and social security card. Again, the exact number isn’t that significant but the intentions and the implications of owning fewer possessions is significant. This exercise has made me realize the absolutely ridiculous number of possessions that I must have owned at the peak of my materialism and consumerism.
(1) Osprey Kestrel 38 backpack
(1) REI Flash 18 day backpack
(2) pairs shorts
(3) pairs pants
(2) running shorts
(3) l/s shirts
(1) short sleeve button-down
(1) long underwear
(5) pairs underwear
(3) hats (brim, full brim, winter)
(1) pair of Merrel barefoot shoes
(1) pair of Xero shoes (the simplest shoes I could find)
(2) pairs socks (long and short)
The above is every item of clothing laid out and below is all of them packed into a 20 liter compression dry bag. As you can see, it’s about the size of my chest. Nearly all of my clothes are Patagonia brand because they are one of the most environmentally and ethically sound clothing companies.
Food, Cooking, and Zero Waste Living
(1) Travel pot
(3) Travel plate, bowl, and bamboo utensils
(2) klean kanteen stainless steel food canisters
(2) Reusable grocery bags
(1) Nut milk bag
(3) Ball pint jar (measuring units on sides) with 2 sprouting lids
(4) Neat-os reusable bags
(1) Hempy Scrubby
(1) Leatherman super tool 300 multi-tool
(1) Flint and steel
(1) Small quick dry towel in mesh bag
(Note: the bottom left item is a natural sponge I found on the beach that I didn’t count as a possession.)
(1) Toothpaste (Jason Powersmile)
(2) Essential oils- tea tree oil and lavender
(1) Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle that I refill
(1) Soap nuts and canvas bag
(1) Finger nail clipper
(1) Hempy Scrubby
(1) Manual hair trimmer
(1) Massage oil bottle
(1) Large quick dry towel in mesh bag See my natural personal hygiene for more information.
(1) Sleeping bag with stuff sack
(1) Sleeping bag liner with stuff sack
(1) Sleeping mat with stuff sack
(1) Pillow with stuff sack
These possessions ensure that I can nearly always pass the night comfortably without having to spend money. See how and where to sleep for free to learn more.
Electronics, Technology, and Off the Grid Living
(1) Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel
(2) iPod touch and case
(1) wireless remote
(0) (I’m using Cheryl’s USB, wall plugin, and headphones since we don’t both need our own and we’re traveling together).
(1) Luminoodle string light and Lithium 4400 battery including USB charging chord and bag
(1) Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp
These items allow me to live completely off the electric grid should I choose to. Every electronic item that I own can be charged with this solar panel. The iPod touch allows me to make videos, take photos, blog, do social media, and connect with others who are elsewhere, all without having to spend any money or plug into the grid. When I stay in people’s houses, I can use my light powered by solar and not have to use their electricity to light the room. I’m far from doing this perfectly at this point, but I’m capable of doing it 100% and am doing it quite a bit.
I recently got rid of my computer and this is the first time that I’ve not owned a computer since I first got one before university over 10 years ago. The following are the sites I use to keep myself mobile without any monthly bills:
Gmail for email.
Google voice for making and receiving free calls.
Dropbox for storing my documents, photos, videos, and spreadsheets. Evernote for storing simple notes and lists.
My entire life is of course not off the grid but I have worked to drastically reduce my environmental impact and my dependency on money. These sites have been really great tools in helping me on this mission.
MSC- these are pictured in the main photo.
(1) Passport in sleeve
(1) Vaccination card
(2) Notebook and pen
(1) Daily goals sheet
(1) Checks for Happy Healthy and Free and personal bank accounts
(1) Happy Healthy and Free debit card
(1) Car2go card
(1) Drivers license
(1) Social security card
(1) Birth certificate
(1) Stamp to stamp money out of politics
(1) Surgical sutures to stitch myself if needed
(1) Sewing kit (needles, thread, buttons)
(1) Stick of Palo Santo
(1) Bunch of Sage
(1) Pair of earplugs and case
(1) Paracord 550
(1) Swimming goggles
(4) compression dry bags
(1) Patch kit for sleeping pad, tent, etc
All of my gear fits into what is considered a weekend pack. It fits pretty tightly in there and there’s not much room for more. It weighs 37 pounds which is about 26% of my current body weight (146 pounds).
To give you some perspective, a five gallon jug of water weighs more than everything I own. My bag weighs the same amount as the average 4 or 5 year old US American child.
Imagine being able to do a push-up with every single item that you own on your back!
And here is the love of my life with me. She left 4 medium-sized boxes worth of stuff stored in San Diego and is traveling with just a backpack that’s smaller than mine at 27 pounds. She’s loving the simple life with fewer possessions!
When I left San Diego two weeks ago I started off with about $900 cash and I have $3,300 to my name including what’s in my credit union account. The value of my possessions is about $3,000, which means everything I own-my money and my assets-total up to about $6,000. I’ve taken vows to have less than $15,000 in currency and $15,000 in possessions at a time, so at this point I’ve succeeded more than I expected in meeting my vows.
By moving out of my off the grid homestead I have, in some ways, increased my dependency on others. Some would not like to be dependent on others however I think it’s largely an illusion in our current society to live completely independent of others, unless you live a pretty secluded life in remote nature. Money has created an illusion of independence for many but I believe it’s just disconnected us from how dependent our lives really are on each other. Just because we don’t make the electricity ourselves, for example, does not mean that we are not depending on the people who worked at the plant, the miners who extracted the resources to make it, the businessmen who sell it, and the people who designed the technology. The same goes for buying food at the supermarket, the cars we drive, and the clothes we buy at the store. Those are just a few of the hundreds or thousands of ways where we think we live independent of others but really do not. I’ve designed my life to be dependent on others because, as the world is with 7 billion people and growing, I think we must realize that we’re all dependent on each other whether we realize it or not. We’re dependent on the health of the oceans, the forests, and the millions of other species who we share the earth with as well. We must be there for each other and help each other. By freeing myself of materialism and the need for a lot of money I have freed up my time to be in the service of others and the earth. But also by simplifying my life so much and focusing on basic needs rather than wants I am able to live completely independently should I choose to. This combination of being connected with the earth and others I find to be a joyous life.
I’ve gone into such depth of my possessions to serve those of you who are on a similar path or would like to be. I am one example of many, and you’ll most likely find your greatest success by adapting what serves you from multiple different resources. If you think that a simpler life, where money isn’t the central aspect of daily life, is right for you, then I encourage you to downsize and own possessions that really serve your best mental and physical interest. Support ethical companies, buy quality stuff that will last, and learn to make your own things. I wish you great success!
Note 03/27/16: One possession that I will likely own again in the future is a bicycle as well as basic cycling gear. For the moment I do not need a bicycle but I’m certain that I will own one again in the next few years. In the mean time I turned my bamboo bike into a community bike that I hope a different person will ride across the USA each summer. Also I intend to paddle the entire Mississippi River one summer and will accumulate a canoe and basic gear to do that. At some point I plan to immerse in permaculture and growing my own food and will likely accumulate some basic possessions for that. The only possessions I feel like I am missing at this point in life are a hand crank blender to make smoothies, juice, nut butters, and nut milks as well as a pair of swimming shorts, which I’d switch out for a pair of my running shorts. As I said, the number 111 isn’t what’s important to me. What’s important is having just what I need and nothing I don’t. I plan to live out the rest of my life very simply but my possessions will vary from time to time.