Boxes and backpacks


I’m sitting here in my bedroom, surrounded by what’s left of my stuff. It’s a daunting task, sifting through the remains of a life I’ve decided not to live anymore; to say my goodbyes and start over. It’s funny, getting rid of the big stuff was so easy, fun even. Listing things on ebay and watching the bids increase, selling clothes at markets and deriving more pleasure from watching my wardrobe dwindle than I ever did watching it grow; it was cathartic.

It changed me.

But now all that really remains are the things I love but know I can’t keep, and the process has become so much harder. I’m trying to decide what – if anything – will be kept, what will be sold or donated, and what will simply be thrown away. I’m trying, but failing. Instead, I’m procrastinating here on my blog and listening to the moody tones of Lana Del Ray, becoming more melancholy by the minute.

I’m struggling to suppress my overwhelming desire to just chuck everything in boxes and donate it all to charity and be done with it. I almost do, but then the sentimental part of me lingers over an old book, or the practical part of me thinks a jumper will be useful for when I travel to colder climes, and so the slow sifting continues. There’s no escaping the process, and no speeding it up either. So what stays, and what goes?

Clothes = Going

Apart from the few essentials patiently waiting to be lovingly bundled up in compression sacks and stuffed in my 40l backpack, the only items I will be keeping are some winter clothes and ski gear, and a few vintage dresses (they’re fabulous daaarling, and I love the stories they tell). My mum will be kindly storing these for me.

Jewellery = Gone

I recently sold all of my silver and gold by weight for a handsome sum. Gold is at a premium, especially 18 carat, and I was surprised to find that silver also has a high re-sale value. The only pieces of jewellery I have kept are a few sentimental items, and some Balinese rings carved out of shell that have no worth, but are priceless to me.


Furniture = Gone

I have already sold every piece of furniture I owned, apart from this chair. I love this chair. My mum will be loving this chair for me until I decide to ship it over to my future $5 a night slice of paradise in a tropical jungle à la Torre DeRoche.

General Stuff = Gone

If I bought it in a shop, it’s gone. If I picked it up on a beach and lugged it halfway around the world in my backpack before bringing it back to England, it has been rehomed to my mum’s living room. I am obsessed with collecting shells, stones, drift wood and anything else that catches my eye on the sands of my travels.

Books, DVDs and CDs = Gone

I have sold all of my CDs and DVDs, and have kept just one box of books that are precious – a first edition of The Blue Lagoon that my dad bought me, a signed Alice Walker book, and some other books that just seemed too beautiful to part with yet. Maybe they’ll go later, but for now it’s off to the attic for them.

Car = Going

I’ve already agreed the sale of my car and will be handing over the keys just before we leave. Until then I’m making the most of her by teaching Lee to drive, and enjoying the chance to acquaint myself with the passenger seat.


As difficult as it is to finally let go of the last of my possessions, it is also wonderfully freeing. In just twenty months I have gone from being £15K in debt to happily in credit for the same amount. Selling my stuff released me from the shame I attached to every item bought with money that wasn’t really mine. It has brought so much awareness and gratitude to my life, and changed my view of the world, and what I need to survive in it.

As I stare at my lovely new backpack, casually resting against the wall, it all makes sense. That bag is my new home – it will hold everything I need. There will be beach huts and hammocks, tents, airport lounges and housesitting stints. I’ll find temporary homes in hostels and do my fair share of couchsurfing.

The location of my home will be ever changing, but that bag, and the man I share my life with, will be all the home I need.

Though it’s sad letting go of the last few remnants of life as I know it, I have never questioned whether or not I am doing the right thing. I absolutely am. The indescribable feeling I’ve given myself over to for all these months will finally be abated; the mantra that urged me forward will be qwelled.

And just like that, I’ll be gone with the wind.


{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Toni July 4, 2012 at 12:57

Beautifully written as ever hun. It is incredibly hard to leave certain things behind and as I spend my days looking around my room, I too fear some of the things that I know I will have to lose.
You’re right about it being very cathartic but I also think it signifies a new era. You’re saying goodbye to the person that lovingly collected those dresses and keepsakes etc which can be hard and you’re waiting to meet the new you, the one that lives her life in a completely minimalist way but you’re spot on when you say that actually, that 40l bag and your boyfriend encapsulates almost everything you need for your new life; good for you! xx


Hannah July 6, 2012 at 18:58

Thanks Toni. It’s been a process that has stirred up so many different emotions, but through them all I feel I have emerged as my most authentic self, and the freedom from ‘stuff’ has been the instigation of so many wonderful realisations. I’m happier than I have ever been, and I am sure that you too will be able to take many positives from your own journey to minimalism. And you know I’m right here for you every step of the way xxx


Lindsey July 4, 2012 at 13:25

Ahh, congratulations! I’ve just started this process myself and I’ve found that I have attachments to the strangest things, and no attachment to some of the things I’d find hardest to part with.
“All that really remains are the things I love but know I can’t keep, and the process has become so much harder.” I think this sums up the feelings we get when we realise the full price of life changing decisions – that there are some things that we didn’t realise would fall in the crossfire. I know that the significance of these things will slowly fade as you embrace your new life 🙂 But they are hard to part with and I wish you the best possible transition as it comes to passing them on.


Hannah July 6, 2012 at 19:07

Thank you so much Lindsey. I have been following your blog too and am so excited for your adventures to begin – I hope our paths will cross in Asia at some stage. Until then I wish you all the best with your preparations and look forward to reading more 🙂


carmel July 4, 2012 at 18:15

I keep trying to think of it in this way…if we had a major fire and lost everything, what would I miss most? What would really hurt? We had some friends who recently lost most of their belongings in a flood, including their amazing record collection. It was obviously not easy having those things taken away, rather than choosing to get rid of them, but they’re rebuilding. Granted, we’re keeping our records, but it helps me decide what I really want to come home to.
I remember traveling abroad for the first time when I was 19 to go do my study abroad in Spain for 6 months. I took way too much stuff. As the months passed by and then I had to travel home with all of it (and some new souvenirs), I realized how much all that stuff weighed me down, literally and figuratively. I bet in 6 months, you’ll forget you even had trouble letting go.
On a side note…I get to see you in 33 hours!!!!


Hannah July 6, 2012 at 19:11

Wow, how awful for your friends – losing things in that way is so tragic. At least we have the time to process our feelings and work through our attachment issues. It has been a blessing for me to learn to live with less, but I can’t imagine having to cope with a loss like they experienced. Please send them my best wishes xxx


Candace Rose Rardon July 4, 2012 at 19:44

I love the blending of physical and emotional stories in this post – the physical stripping down of all your belongings, which mirrors your own continual process towards getting ready to leave. It’s so true, and it really is even more remarkable to hear about how it has redeemed some of the shame you felt when buying things on credit. I do hate parting with things you love, no matter how long or short a time you’ve had them, so good luck! I’m sure you’ll be happy to have such a streamlined pack come September 🙂


Hannah July 6, 2012 at 19:17

Yes, it has been an unexpected process of healing and therapy! I love the freedom of owning so little – the value of my life now lies in the way I choose to live, and the people I share my world with, not in the things that accessorise it. I can’t imagine ever switching back to my old mindset, and can’t wait to delve deeper into this new way of being 🙂


EM | Cubicle Throwdown July 4, 2012 at 23:33

I love seeing posts at just the right time. I’m just beginning this myself as the countdown is on – the mobile storage locker is arriving on my front lawn in 25 days, and it’s only big enough to hold about 30% of what I own right now. I keep telling myself over and over that if/when I come back I can buy whatever I need…. there has been so many times even in the same city that my possessions have come and gone, so there is no reason to hang on now. Still having a hard time saying goodbye to my vintage vanity though 🙂


Hannah July 6, 2012 at 19:28

How exciting, you are so close to your dreams now! There’s no set rules on what you have to keep or purge, so go with what makes your heart the happiest. Maybe someone could rehome your vanity for you until you come back? I’m looking forward to reading about what you do decide to keep in the end – good luck with it all, Roatan awaits 🙂


Sarahsomewhere July 5, 2012 at 00:17

Hannah, a beautiful insight into a very poignant moment in your journey. And of course, I can totally relate! I found that eventually, the only things I kept were old photos, a vintage Turkish quilt and Moroccan ceramic bowl, a papyrus print from Egypt and my hiking boots (that I could send for at a later date!). It goes to show how important travel has always been to me, and though on this trip I am not collecting many trinkets (though I did treat myself to a silver lotus-flower ring in Bali), I have the world itself to live in and explore, and I’ve never felt so free. I know you will feel the same. Much love, I enjoyed reading this so much and am blessed to have found a kindred spirit like you to share this journey with.


Hannah July 6, 2012 at 19:35

We are indeed kindred spirits; your support through this whole process has been wonderful. I’m so impressed with how little you kept in the end – I think I will probably have a further purge when I come home to visit after our first year away, but I’m lucky that my mum is so happy to store stuff for me. I have a present for you to add to your small list of belongings too – I’ll give it to you in India 🙂


Mike Gothard July 5, 2012 at 13:14

Hey Hannah, loved this post. I empathize with you, though for different reasons. I was divorced 18 months ago and have been attempting to change careers midstream, all while living “here-and-there,” though most recently staying with my parents, 650 miles inland. Having lived on the coast the past 20 years, I’m feeling scarily landlocked these days as I contemplate taking a similar path as you’ve chosen. I’ve been following your blog for several months, excited for you as your adventure continues to unfold. I was so happy that in the midst of weeding out your possessions, you’ve decided (for now) to keep a few books. I have a storage unit back on the coast that among other things contains my 3,000 volume library. I’ve seriously thought about letting it go but have yet to make that move. I seriously believe that one day I would regret it if I did. All that to say, if you ever get to the point that you want/need to get rid of the few volumes left, please don’t. Though I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, I will keep them for you if at any time you feel the need to further purge your stuff. While almost everything else is replaceable, I would just hate for you to wake up one morning and not have that first edition of The Blue Lagoon that your dad bought you. But other than your books, keep lightening your load in preparation for your travels…and keep writing 🙂


Hannah July 6, 2012 at 19:58

Wow, Mike, what a wonderful offer – thank you so much! My mum is kindly looking after my remaining belongings, but I am so touched by your generosity. It sounds like you have had a very difficult time of things, and I hope you are able to realise your travel dreams and find peace by the water again. And don’t worry, The Blue Lagoon is staying 🙂


Hannah July 6, 2012 at 01:33

I can really relate to this post. I am going through the same process as you right now. I have sold nearly all my furniture on Craigslist – only thing I’m waiting to sell is my bed! I really agree that the big things like furniture are easy to get rid of (and I get the same exhilarating feeling each time I sell something!). It’s the smaller things that you can agonize over again and again…for me, it’s my foreign language books and a wall portrait of a Bedouin & his camel that I just can’t seem to let go.


Hannah July 17, 2012 at 16:24

I would definitely keep the Bedouin portrait! I am finding that the pain of letting go of the smaller, more sentimental items, is fleeting. Within days I am merely grateful for the freedom I am now blessed with, and the wisdom this process has granted me. I’m so excited to follow along on your journey – it’s great to have someone in the same position – I’ll drop you an email 🙂


Kim July 8, 2012 at 18:40

I so relate to this! I don’t miss a single thing i gave away and you won’t either.


Hannah July 16, 2012 at 17:02

I already don’t and it feels great 🙂


Jeremy or IHeartTravel July 9, 2012 at 04:52

Everyday that passes I get closer to accomplishing personal goals. This path will inevitably lead me to a day like the one you have just described.
I can almost guarantee I will go through some of the same feelings. At the same time realizing like yourself that the life beyond these possessions is ready & waiting!
I’m glad that your day is coming closer, and that everything you need will be right where it needs to be : )
Cheers friend !


Hannah July 17, 2012 at 16:25

Jeremy, I love your outlook on life and the positivity you exude. I am so excited to watch your trajectory, and feel blessed to call you my friend 🙂


Patricia GW July 9, 2012 at 15:46

You’re such a beautiful writer, Hannah. Deciding what stays and what goes is a hard process when it boils down to the things you love most. It’s such an emotional process, rather than a logical one. I’m glad you have your mum’s support, so she can store some things for you. Then at least you can hold onto some priceless things, even if you can’t carry them with you. How is Lee progressing with his driving? 🙂


Hannah July 17, 2012 at 16:27

Wow, thank you so much Tricia. Lee is doing great with his driving and has his test coming up soon so I will keep you updated. It’s so lovely being driven around for a change – I have noticed so much more about my hometown now that I have the chance to look out the window for a change!


Marisol July 9, 2012 at 19:08

Hi Hannah, what a beautiful, touching writing as usual.
When I left the Philippines for New York 20 years ago, I only had one luggage full of belongings with me. Like you, I purged a lot of stuff mostly clothes but I still left tons of “sentimental” stuff at my parents house – to be retrieved later. I went home for visit a year a half later and found that I no longer felt any attachment to those things I left behind. It felt liberating. It’s funny how time and distance remove your attachment to objects. You’re right, all you need is your backpack to store your needs for the moment and your man:)


Hannah July 17, 2012 at 16:29

Thank you so much Marisol. I have been musing on that myself lately, wondering how I will feel about things when we come back and visit in a year. Like you, I have a feeling I will feel quite removed from it all, and will undoubtedly get rid of a few more things!


Victoria July 10, 2012 at 17:53

Beautiful post. You’re doing much better than us at letting go. We still have a house in London with all our furniture in it, just with different people living in it. A lot of our ‘stuff’ is packed in boxes in Steve’s parent’s basement. The more we travel, the more I think we might sell some of that ‘stuff’ when we next go back to visit. If we don’t need it here, why do we need so much of it there? Btw, I wrote a packing list on our blog that might be useful. Never Ending Voyage has one too.


Hannah July 17, 2012 at 16:35

Thank you Victoria. In a way it has been a huge blessing that I don’t own my own home where I can leave things. This whole process feels so much richer for the sacrifices I have been forced to make along the way, and now that I look back on them, I don’t even see them as sacrifices. They are gifts; vital lessons I needed to learn. I am sure when you guys visit you will be ready and willing to purge a lot of your things, and will get a lot out of it too 🙂


Victoria July 19, 2012 at 04:21

Yes, I imagine you must feel so much lighter. I will certainly be purging more when we go back. You must be getting so excited now. It’s not long til you go! I’m so happy for you. Keep up the wonderful writing. Your posts are always a pleasure to read.


Hannah July 21, 2012 at 14:51

Thank you 🙂


Adam July 10, 2012 at 19:15

Wow. Damn brave. Probably a bit horrifying but liberating too. When I was a kid I was a saver of everything. Not like the show “Hoarders” or anything, but my own version of it. It wasn’t till I packed up and moved away 2 months ago that I realized that I must have changed along the way, cause I had basically nothing. I need my laptop, music, phone, and that’s about it. I’m sure you’re gonna love your travel, though. You earned it for sure.


Hannah July 17, 2012 at 17:48

“Horrifying but liberating” – yup, that about sums it up! In all honesty, I have really enjoyed the process, and like you, have found the changes that occurred along the way have been pretty huge. When it comes down to it, what do any of us really need apart from our health, friends and family, and a safe place to rest our heads? Here’s to the freedom of less!


Will Peach July 11, 2012 at 06:29

Looking forward to hearing more about your adventure, it’s always a great feeling to let go of all those things that are constantly cluttering our lives and apartments.


Hannah July 16, 2012 at 17:01

Cheers Will! Great to have you reading along – I’m looking forward to hopefully crossing paths one day and sharing a tequila or two 🙂


Kelly July 11, 2012 at 12:45

Ever since my college newspaper days, I’ve loved the phrase “daunting task.” I also love (and am envious) of what you guys are doing. Until my student loans are taken care of, short trips abroad will have to do! 🙂


Hannah July 17, 2012 at 17:50

Ha! Yes, ‘daunting task’ is a great one! Good luck on whittling down your debt and pursuing your own dreams of travel – I’m excited to follow your progress 🙂


Arianwen July 15, 2012 at 09:38

And I thought it was a big task just lugging my belongings a few feet to my garage, where they’ll sit for the next 7 months. Well done for overcoming the sentimentality. It’s great to finally get to that stage where all the travel prep is done and you’re just about to start the adventure!


Hannah July 16, 2012 at 16:59

Thanks Arianwen – it hasn’t been an easy process, but I am definitely at that stage now where I am loving the freedom of owning next to nothing, and feeling richer than I ever have in my life 🙂


Jonathan Welford July 15, 2012 at 11:05

Well done you, I did something very similar when we took a year out. We did the 100 item challenge, where we lived our lives to just 100 items, it was amazingly liberating. The things I had sentimental attachment to suddenly didn’t, I had the memories of the people, I didn’t need the things.
I am looking forward to hearing your travelling experiences through this site. Keep up the good work.


Hannah July 16, 2012 at 13:58

Thank you Jonathan. I LOVE that you guys did the 100 Item Challenge – if I wasn’t whittling down my possessions to travel I would definitely do that. It is incredible how the simple act of letting go of our ‘stuff’ opens us up to so much more – we can finally see the real value in our lives – the people, not the possessions. I’m so happy to have you following our journey 🙂


Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) July 19, 2012 at 16:02

I think the whole “getting rid of all your belongings” preparation phase of these trips is hard for all of us in different ways. In my case, I feel really lucky that my parents were willing and able to store a good deal of stuff for us (I love my books! I don’t think I could have sold all of them, and even after culling, I still had 6 bins worth!), but we still sold/donated/threw away at least 50% of our belongings. It was cathartic, but also incredibly stressful at times. It definitely opened my eyes to just how much needless stuff we had been storing in our home, and I think that no matter where we settle or how we choose to live following our trip, this will be a new leaf for us as we attempt to embrace a minimalist lifestyle!


Hannah July 21, 2012 at 14:50

Yes, it’s definitely a process that opens you up to so many important life lessons concerning our consumption habits and material desires. I’m so glad your parents have been able to help you store the things you hold dear – I am so grateful to my own mum for helping me do the same. Here’s to a minimalist future, hopefully with minimal stress-levels too!


Alex July 21, 2012 at 15:42

Hannah I am so impressed with how much you’ve let go! I went through a similar process a year ago but I was nowhere near as brave as you. Basically I compressed two living spaces (my apartment in NYC and my massive room in my childhood home upstate) into one, and my parents graciously store everything I couldn’t let go. I’m overwhelmed when I’m home by how much I have! Good for you for trusting your journey and now feeling the need to keep everything “just in case.”


Hannah July 23, 2012 at 15:12

Thanks Alex! The good thing in my case is that I have had a lot of time to do this. I started paring down two years ago, and have slowly been getting rid of more and more. Things I felt certain I would keep have seemed less important further down the line, so I have been able to let go of a lot more than even I originally anticipated 🙂


Nate Robert July 22, 2012 at 16:15

Hi Hannah, first time comment for me here.
I am going through a similar process, my partner and I leave for indefinite travel in just seven days time. Your thoughts, and your process, is very familiar to me. I’ve noticed there are quite a few of us heading off for the class of 2012 it seems.
Good luck with your journey in life, I’ll check in now and then to see what you’re up to.


Hannah July 24, 2012 at 21:54

Hey Nate, great to have you here, thank you so much for commenting! ‘The Class of 2012’ – I love it! I never finished college but I know I’ll graduate with flying colours from the school of life. All the best for your own travels – I hope our paths will cross along the way 🙂


Scarlett July 23, 2012 at 12:42

I can’t believe how far you’ve come in just 20 months – you truly are an inspiration to dreamers everywhere! IT just shows what you can do when you put your mind to it! I can’t wait to hear about yur adventures from here onwards! xxx


Hannah July 23, 2012 at 15:26

Thank you my dear, what a lovely compliment. Determination is definitely key, and something I have LOADS of, so I guess that has helped 🙂


Ayngelina July 23, 2012 at 16:03

Lady you need to take the information you wrote about how you went from -15K to +15 in 20 months and sell it as an ebook for $10 – you’ll make a fortune.


Hannah July 24, 2012 at 21:52

Wow – I never thought of that, but I love the idea! Thank you for the vote of confidence, and the inspiration 🙂


Tiffany @ theUnimaginedLife July 26, 2012 at 12:28

I just recently found your blog via Sarah Somewhere, and I absolutely adore your writing style. Your words are infused with passion, and they are a pleasure to read. I remember all too well sorting through the remnants of my former life, as well, and while it was completely overwhelming at the time, I can now tell you with complete certainty, that I’ve never felt more free. I can’t wait to start following your journey…xoxo Tiffany


Hannah July 30, 2012 at 11:14

Wow, thank you so much for your unbelievably kind words Tiffany, I’m thrilled to have you following my journey 🙂


jenjenk July 26, 2012 at 16:33

so thrilled for you!!! i can’t wait to start reading your travelogues!!!!


Hannah July 30, 2012 at 11:14

Thank you so much for your continued support Jen 🙂


andrew July 26, 2012 at 20:56

Selling everything and taking off, sounds like a great idea. Looking forward to your blog.


Hannah July 30, 2012 at 11:15

Cheers Andrew!


Vacay Girl July 27, 2012 at 13:31

I can’t help read this and wonder what my blog will say when I get to my “down to nubbins” date. I’m so proud of you and all you have managed to achieve. I hope all goes so smoothly with you. You know we are all living vicariously through you so you have to keep up the great work. (Aaah the pressure!)
I can only imagine how letting things go at this stage feels. Through life we manage to keep a certain amount of valuable personal possessions with us everywhere we go that I can’t imagine streamlining those even more. But you seem to have handled things well and you will no doubt push on with no problems.


Hannah July 30, 2012 at 14:38

Thank you so much for your wonderfully kind and supportive words. I have been very lucky throughout this whole process, because I had so much time in which to do everything. I have been able to slowly whittle down by possessions over nearly two years, and in doing so, things that had at first seemed far too precious to part with, have in time become easier to let go. I am sure you will do just fine when you reach the same stage, and I can’t wait to read all about it. I’m proud of you too 🙂


Cheryl aka Mid-Life Cruising! August 1, 2012 at 20:32

Great post that I was really interested to read, as I’m currently just starting to pack up our belongings and put our house on the market in about a week! Once the house sells … it will be time to get real serious and sell/give away a lot of stuff!
We’ll be sailing and cruising on our 30 ft boat and we won’t have room for much! I’ve been preparing myself for a range of emotions as I minimize. I know that you and I both are doing the right thing … living life to the fullest!


Hannah August 2, 2012 at 22:49

Thank you Cheryl, I hope you found it useful. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to sell your house as well as all your stuff – just getting rid of my basic belongings was hard enough! I think what you are doing it amazing and I am so excited to follow in your journey. I wish you the very best 🙂


Izy Berry August 1, 2012 at 21:01

getting rid of your stuff is SO liberating. Kinda sucks at first, especially when you cringe about how much you wasted on it. But it’s SO liberating!


Hannah August 2, 2012 at 22:52

So true! When I sold my books I literally felt sick at the price difference – I was selling them for less than 10% of what I paid for them. If only I had simply gone to the library instead!!!


Gina August 15, 2012 at 00:45

That must be so liberating to sell the majority of your stuff. Kind of sad, too, I’m sure, but I can definitely see how it would be cathartic. You’re so close to your travels! I can’t wait to read about them. 🙂


Hannah August 16, 2012 at 02:31

Yes, it’s been so liberating – and sad – but more than anything, it has been an awakening. Getting rid of all my stuff gave me room to just… be.


Lize-Mare September 3, 2012 at 16:11

There is hope…
I have just returned from a bit of a trip prior i had alot of stuff, i have gotten rid of all this stuff, i have always struggled with letting go of things and “stuff” now that i am back surprisingly i dont miss these things and i just dont need them anymore i feel so much lighter for it i feel my belongings were holding me back, i also got rid of alot of things along the way, just realised i didnt need stuff also my bag was getting heavier and heavier from acquiring things along the way, i remember atleast 2 times that i just threw things away along the trip, i just found i didnt need them and havent missed any of my items either! ENJOY THE TRIP, i have been following you on facebook! Cant wait to hear how you get on 🙂


t September 8, 2012 at 16:43

Just found your blog and wow … I admire you and look forward on your adventures


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