No, ladies and gents, that’s not a joke.
For six months, now, I’ve slept on a couch. I have not cheated. I have not strayed. I’ve been a pretty upstanding member of society, in fact, despite my never-ending delegation to the doghouse.
As my sixth-month anniversary with California fast approaches, though, I’ve started to look back. I’ve started to think back on my time here, and I’ve started to study my familiar blue ‘bed’ with the kind of critical eye you’d normally expect from an experienced furniture salesman. Why?
Couch philosophy. It’s all the rage.
This couch, for all intents and purposes, is my home. It’s indicative of a thousand different things I’ve experienced, sought out, and adapted to in the last six months, the tangible (and comfy!) proof of a decision I’m oh-so glad to have made. In the sort of flexibility you don’t normally expect from stationary furniture, it’s also going to double as my muse for the rest of this post.
See, this couch has proven a pretty important lesson. It’s something I’ve long suspected, something I’ve seen time and time again in the flesh, and something I have wanted to believe for every month I’ve been on the road.
Ready for this?
We Don’t Need Nearly as Much as We Think
There’s a bag in my room. It contains about nine shirts, two pairs of jeans, three or four pairs of socks, and about six pairs of underwear. Aside from a few miscellaneous items (hello, laptop!), this lone bag plays host to everything I currently own — my life, in other words, broken down, rearranged, and reduced to the bare essentials.
I have what I need.
Clothing? This might surprise, but it’s okay to wear clothing for more than one day. That’ll seem blindingly obvious to some, but it was a strange lesson to learn for me, as I remember pretty vividly being the kid who couldn’t stand being dirty — the kid who insisted on clean clothing every day of the week.
Oh, so much has changed.
Practically speaking, though, it’s easy to get by with maybe a week’s worth of clothing. Provided you’re like most modern humans and spend a majority of your day indoors, your clothing won’t attract enough dirt and grime to warrant an immediate wash, meaning you’re free to rock a t-shirt more than once a week. I’ve topped at four days, personally, with a day’s gap between each.
This leads to a bigger point: people don’t care if you re-wear clothing. The average person won’t even notice, I’d argue, and anyone with the audacity to comment on your wardrobe likely isn’t the kind of character worth keeping around in the first place.
Entertainment? I have a laptop. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suspect you have some form of computer too. It’s not much of an understatement to say that modern computers do everything, negating the need for stacks of DVDs, books, etc. whenever I find myself with spare time on hand.
Food? A friend of mine was shocked to discover that I spend an average of $150 each month on food. It helps, of course, that I eat just once or twice per day (and that I’m purchasing food for just myself), but here again we don’t need as much as we think. Buy some protein (eggs are an inexpensive choice), plenty of vegetables, some fruit, and you’re set.
Funny, isn’t it, that the formula for strong, healthy living can be reduced to a single sentence?
Sometimes it’s as simple as that. But don’t get me wrong — I’m not advocating you shove your house into a box and hop a plane to California, tempting though that may be. There is value, I think, in downsizing, but there’s just as much value in realizing what’s actually important to you.
What would you put inside your backpack?
Let’s try an exercise.
- Pretend, for a moment, that you have to consolidate your life down to just one bag.
- Make a list of everything you’d put in it. Be serious in cutting the fluff.
- When you finish, read over the list a few more times and take stock of how many items are on it.
You can guess the point here. I can guess the majority of you skipped the exercise completely, since I (admittedly) probably would have done the same thing. But here’s the thing: if you want to declutter, to streamline, to minimize, to simplify above all else, you need to take a critical eye to your life in the exact same way I’m studying my couch.
Your life can fit in a bag. You can be twenty, thirty, sixty or seventy — the age, as ever, doesn’t mean a damn thing. No matter what stage of life you’re in, no matter how cluttered or clean your home may currently be, you just need to remember that the bare essentials of what you need to survive — to thrive — don’t demand a space much larger than a backpack.
You don’t need a huge closet stuffed to the brim with clothing, you don’t need stacks upon stacks of CDs and DVDs, you don’t need a pantry chock-full of food you’ll never eat, and nor do you need any of the trappings thrust upon us as required — as normal — in modern life.
Here’s what you need instead.
You need friends. You need family. You need to crouch beside the fire with the best of both and roast up a big plate of s’mores, swapping the milk chocolate for a Reese’s peanut butter cup and laughing maniacally all the while (and, you know, fasting the entire day after). You need one night each week where everyone huddles in the kitchen and whips up a delicious meal, pooling your collective mediocrity at cooking into something surprisingly spectacular by the end.
You need those little snippets of life that stick with you for as long as possible. Funny thing, too, that so few of them demand piles upon piles of clutter on your shelves.
It’s different for every person, sure, and I’m not pretending that living out of a backpack is the only — let alone the best! — way to live. The one common thread is this: you need to take stock of your life, now, and realize just what you need to live it.
I think you’ll be surprised with what you come up with. I think you’ll be surprised to discover that you could probably shove it all in a backpack, too.
Me? I just need a bed, I guess, and my backpack. That’ll no doubt change in time, but for now, at least, I’m pretty content with the baby blue couch I’m sitting on as I type this — the three-cushion cradle I’ve called home for six strange, incredible months. I’ll be moving on soon to destinations unknown, but I’ll be happy as I go — content in what I’m carrying, as it’s everything that I need.
A Few Words about WDS
You’d think I would have mentioned this sooner.
I’ll be in Portland, Oregon for the World Domination Summit next week. Are you going too? If so, let me know! I’d love to meet up. I arrive on July 2nd and depart on the 7th, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Thanks so much for reading!
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