Wants, Needs, Stuff & Things


I no longer have a home of my own. I gave it up just the other day when I handed the property manager my keys to my apartment. For now I am staying with family until I find the RV I want to buy. I am lucky to have good family.

Moving takes a lot, and even though I have done it countless times, I always forget how much energy it involves. All of my belongings in the whole world are either in my car or sitting in my little storage space I rented. Besides some reorganizing and shuffling, the move out phase has pretty much come to an end.

The anxiety of packing by a deadline has been replaced with continuous questions of “where did I put this” or “where is that?” And each time I realize I know (more or less) exactly where that object is. Sure it’s a result of packing with a strategy, but it also has something to do with the minimization of my essential belongings. I’m three nights into this ‘homeless’ thing, and I already see that I overestimated my daily needs in terms of belongings.

This isn’t much of a surprise, considering I almost always over pack. Probably the reason I hate packing for any trip is the internal struggle of to bring or not to bring. The voice in my head says something like “well you never know… maybe you’ll need this.” That voice is usually always wrong.

Backpacking, whether it is in the woods or through new cities, changes your idea of needs. When your “needs” can only be carried on your back, it doesn’t take long for some other voice to tell that one voice to eff off. In exchange for less backache and less misery, the desire to be fashionable flies out the window faster than the heels you packed for dancing in the foreign disco.

Roadtrips also change your idea of needs. The past few summers I’ve covered quite a few miles in several long distance road trips, from as far north as Fairbanks, as east as Denver, as South as Mexico and all along the coast of the Pacific. Half the clothes I packed on these trips I didn’t use. Digging through your bag in the blazing sunshine, sifting through the unnecessary just to find the necessary, is extremely frustrating. You learn quickly what you need and do not need.

And here I am, overpacked.

Okay, sure. My daily life is not exactly summer roadtrip life, so living in my bikini for five days straight isn’t reality at the moment. Plus we are entering the cold seasons, so I need more garments to cover my body. But more importantly, I have never lived in a mobile vehicle for an indefinite period of time while also maintaining my day job and normal life. How am I supposed to know what I need or don’t need as I enter this new adventure?

I have a rough idea, but I don’t have any clue what I am getting myself into. I do know that the only way to find out is by continuing to move forward. I’m sure I will find out real fast what is essential in my new version of life, and I am excited to see how my definition of “need” changes.

I think my clothing will continue to evolve more into gear, with a focus on efficiency. Functional fashion, if you will. I won’t have as many dishes, which means I won’t have as many dishes to do. For those that know how much I hate doing dishes, you can imagine how much angst will be removed from my life just by reducing the amount of dishes I have. And that’s what I am most excited for. Freeing up space, both physical and mental, by reducing my needs.

It has been the backpacking, camping and road trips of my life that have allowed me to see I really don’t require a lot of stuff to live, or even to live happily. I am confident each and every one of us is capable of living with next to nothing in terms of material possessions, but not everyone wants to. And I guess what it comes down to is our own ideas of happiness.

Do you think those ideas of happiness are more flexible than fixed, or vice versa? How do you define your needs, and where do you draw the line between needs and wants? How do we separate the two? And what comes first?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so don’t be shy! 

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8 comments

  • Needs and wants. That’s a tricky one. Eight and a half years ago we sold a lot of stuff, sold our house and put the rest in storage. We’ve been on the road or in rented accommodation since. The stuff was stuff we couldn’t sell or couldn’t part with. Now I don’t even know what’s in those storage containers. So do I still need it? I know I want it.

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    • You bring up an interesting thought…Is it worth it to save the sentimental belongings when they are just packed up in some box? I’m not willing to part with some of those things just yet, even if I only see them every few years.

      Looking forward to reading about your adventures! I’m not sure “what planet” you are on, but I’m heading there now 🙂

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  • Distinguishing the wants from the needs is an art. Or maybe a science. I know there’s a lot of emotion in making that decision (need vs want) for me. The amazing thing is though, when you live without something, even if for a short time, you realize how little you ‘need’ it. Makes me feel like purging some stuff now.

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  • Heading into our fifth winter living in a fifth wheel. One of which was spent here in Ontario, Canada (the reason I started blogging). My only regret is not getting rid of all our stuff. We visit it occasionally, someday we’ll have to deal with it. Good luck on your new journey.
    Ruth from At Home on the Road

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