I Don’t Own Anything

I’m almost 30 years old and I don’t own anything.

Three years ago, this realization might have freaked me out. Today though, it’s a fact that allows me to live a life of greater freedom.

In just one week, I will be embarking on a month-long, solo trip to Europe. The other day, I was thinking about what I will need to pack for my journey. I don’t have much, so my bags will be light. It’s been almost a year since I downsized my living situation and gave up my apartment in DC. Since then, I’ve embraced a minimalist lifestyle that has led me to limit the amount of “stuff” I own.

On my key ring are just three keys. One key is for my car (which I don’t really own since I’m still making payments on it). The other two keys are for the room I’ve been renting for the last two months in Charlottesville, VA. Instead of paying for an expensive studio in the city, I now rent a (furnished) room for $425 a month. I don’t own any furniture and I have nothing in storage (except for two boxes of books sitting at my mom’s house). All of my clothing fit into one 20-gallon plastic bin.

This lifestyle allows me to be flexible and nimble. I don’t have to move much of anything as I travel from place to place. I can live where I want without having to worry about finding someone to take care of my stuff while I’m gone. If someone invited me to come work in Italy for a year (hello, I’m available!), I could quickly say: YES.

For me, this is freedom.

On the flipside, when you own a lot of things, they can become a prison. You certainly have to work hard to keep them. If you have a nice home or a new car, you can’t quit your job lest you lose the means with which to make your monthly payments. If you get too tied to a particular lifestyle of going shopping every weekend, it can be hard to consider starting your own business or transitioning into a new career.

There are a lot of people out there who stay in jobs they hate (even marriages), just because they think they need the “security” to pay for the standard of living they’ve grown accustomed to. But when you have fewer possessions, you can be a lot more flexible in the decisions you make for your life.

For me, success used to mean a big salary, a nice car and a luxury condo. Now, success looks like FREEDOM. And what I’ve learned is that it’s actually worth more to me than anything I could ever own.

So I never thought I would say this, but…

I’m glad I don’t own anything.

It means I have nothing to lose.



Comments & Feedback:

  1. Rosetta,

    I have a lot of stuff, too much stuff and it’s easy to see how over the years to today how I have found my way to minimalism. It’s a new journey for me and I’m excited. How blessed you are not to have to declutter, to be free to focus on what matters most. You are inspiring.

  2. Wow. This was really powerful and timely! I recently quit my job to start working for myself full time. This involves moving in with my boyfriend for three months (rent free) while I start accumulating paying work. I thought that it would be a breeze to get rid of my apartment. I sold all my furniture on Craigslist but even so, I had so much STUFF – boxes of purses and shoes, winter coats, clothes, books, nick knacks, even stuffed animals (I know, I know, but they were gifts and I love them). The point being, I was really shocked by how much stuff I tote around with me. This year one of my goals is to really, really pare down. This post was such great inspiration to keep me accountable to that goal!

  3. elleb

    Definitely coming from the mouth of a person with no children… nice.. i owned nothing at the same age…

    • This sounds somewhat facetious… There are people who have no children who also have a sense of freedom. To truly OWN something means that you have paid it off and it belongs to you so therefore you aren’t in debt to anyone. Just because you have children doesn’t mean you can’t have the same sense of freedom as a younger woman with none. She living her life and enjoying what freedom looks like to her. It may change at a later time in her life, but right now she’s experiencing a sense of peace and self fullfillment that some folks never get a chance to.

  4. I LOVE this! I also loved when you tweeted that the American dream is not the ONLY dream. I moved abroad last year, and in this first year I’ve come to reassess what I believe and why I believed it. I didn’t think I was especially patriotic, but I found out that I did a lot of things because they fell under the category “the American way.” I’m slowly starting to do things the Tatiana way instead. I’ve found that I value experiences over stuff, so I’m working to have more of the former and less of the latter. :) Thank you for this lovely post!

  5. Renae

    omg! this was an affirmation for everything i’ve been feeling just translated into words! thank you! thank you! (no capitalization intended).

  6. Leta

    If i could i’d backflip for you but i can’t. Therefore, i’ll just Kart wheel in jubilation, Ha-ha. That is fantastic news and i’m extremely excited to follow your journey! I admire the freedom that you have. There’s nothing worse than being tied to things and people that can’t go with you. To me the ultimate freedom is happiness. Most peoples’ definition of happines is bond by societies blueprint: the great job, spouse, house, 2.5 kids and so on. I’m working on the minimalist lifestyle as well as saving & investing. I think those go hand in hand. With such financial freedom i know i can live the life i want. You give me so much hope!!! Thanks for reaffirming what I already knew i wanted: freedom.

    • Thanks for reading, Leta! And for the cartwheel :) I agree that most people measure happiness by the “American Dream” standard. That’s why it’s great to see so many ladies here claiming their own paths. Good luck on your journey!

  7. Well put! I have moved house/country a number of times over the past few years. Initially I had far too much stuff and now I have whittled it down to make my life easier. A sense of freedom really does come with it.

  8. Love this! Not being weighed down by stuff can be so freeing… and it means you have more money to spend on experiences like travel and less attachment to things at home that prevent you from roaming freely. And once you’re traveling, learning to live simply helps you adapt to doing the same on the road and recognizing the need between “need” and “want”… something I think a lot of people have trouble grasping these days! I’m also almost 30 with few possessions weighing me down (I do need to work on my closet :P) and have to say that with so many amazing experiences under my belt (solo travel, especially!), my life feels incredibly full whether I’m at home or on a great adventure.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Ekua! That’s exactly what I have learned along this journey to living with less. My money goes to experiences and travel these days vs. buying clothes that I didn’t need in the first place. I love that you used the word ‘full’ – without so much “stuff,” I am also more conscious of the things in my life that really matter to me.

  9. Sandy

    Congratulations on your trip and I hope you have a fabulous time!!!! I just recently gave up my apartment and sold/gave away furniture and clothes. I’m relocating to another state next Tuesday. Sometimes fear kicks in and I ask myself “What are you doing? Are you crazy?” But, the excitement about my new journey always kicks in. I never thought that I could be a minimalist, but the more I let go of things, the more peace and happiness I experience;-)

  10. Wonderful post! Back in 2010, I sold all of my things and started freelancing so I could spend half of each year abroad. What amazed me was, when I really stepped into doing what I wanted to do, I realized how little I actually valued the things I’d once spent so much money or time on. I think minimalism is something people can apply to their lives even if they don’t want to travel. Not cluttering your life with stuff allows you to make more room for the people and things that matter to you.

    Can’t wait to read about your trip. I love solo travel.

    • Yessss on the value piece. I remember going to the mall for hours looking for a dress that I would wear once, if that, to a party in DC. I try not to think of all the trips I could have taken with all that money now…but you live and you learn. I agree on minimalism being useful even if you don’t want to travel. When I do settle into an apartment somewhere long-term, I plan to continue living with as little as possible.

  11. Oh my goodness I didn’t know you were going to do this. I see this and completely “get it” all. I first moved to where I am now to start in my new career as a cardiac sonographer. Now it’s time to make the big bucks, get me a new FJ Cruiser and travel and shop lots. Or so I thought. Well 2 years ago I realize I’m not happy here anymore and want a change!

    My change? Moving to Mexico 10 months from now. So I have made a decision to not buy any furniture or any other big items. If anything I’m finding ways to even get rid of the bare minimum I have. Saving my money is now the goal. While my friend that has furnished her rented home and continues to buy large items complains about having no money and not being able to pay down her credit cards she finds herself also having to pay for her daughter to get through school. Though I do not have a child as a responsibility I love leading my debt free life. Car’s paid for and renting makes it easy to flee. Only thing I’m indebted to is my Discover card with only $350. And that will come off as soon as I’m ready to get rid of it.

    I wish you luck and keep us all posted on your journey. I gain learning from all those that choose to an expat. Have you done this before?

  12. I commend you on enjoying your freedom and having no fear. I have a 12 year old and an 83 grandmother so I can’t up and leave to travel. But oh if I could I would. Enjoy your journey and please continue share.

  13. I get SO MUCH GRIEF from my family about not making the choice to own a home when I was in my 30s – but it was never anything I was really interested in. I didn’t even know – and still don’t – where I even wanted to settle down! I always felt this world was such a big place, and I wanted to see as much of it as I could…live in different cities and states. I love that I have lived in different places – and in a few short years when my child goes off to college – I’ll be looking to make a major move AGAIN. All that I have isn’t much material wise… and I have always had the “gypsy gene” in me. I agree, people place far too much on material things..I just want to live my life to the fullest – wherever that may take me….and I can’t do that plunking down hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home.

  14. Tracy

    Wow you have truly spoken to my heart with this blog post. I have been battling with the thought of being “free.” I mean truly free. I even told myself just the other day that I am going to have to work on my “exit strategy.” My heart longs to travel, see the world, and experience newness and to not be attached to things. The only thing I need to bring along with me is my pooch! LOL! I know its sounds crazy but I can’t leave her behind. She’s truly a girl’s best friend and small enough to travel with me.

    Please keep us posted on your travels through Europe. I know you are going to do great things. You truly are an inspiration and I thank you for sharing your life/thoughts with us. It helps me realize how doable, the seemingly undoable can be. :-)

    • All of us here share so many of the same dreams – thank you for being a part of the HBW community! And keep us posted on your exit strategy :)

  15. I’m getting to where you are, shedding the possessions that are acting as a shackle. I am about to embark on selling the contents of my apartment, mostly the furniture. I love to cook so I’m not selling the pots and pans and dishes because my ideal life has dinner parties so I need those.

    I keep counting the cost of of the items and seeing how much I will lose upon selling them, but then I can be free as a bird and not worry about them languishing in storage as I hope the pond to study or teach or travel.

    • I feel you on the dinner parties. They were in my ideal life narrative :) I haven’t bought any “nice” kitchen/dining stuff in the last year though as I’ve been moving from place to place, but it will be nice when I settle down for a bit and can entertain!