Carless, Jobless, and Homeless

A car, a job, and a home – those are the three things that have been a big part of our lives until recently.

Was it hard to leave these behind? Some were surprisingly easier than expected, and others are harder than they should.

Easier than expected – our jobs

Quitting our jobs turned out to be a lot easier than we both had expected. Of course we were nervous about quitting our jobs, the idea of not having a steady stream of income was something that took (and still does) getting used to.

But the timing was right: we both worked for the government and with the congress and the senate still squabling over budgets (NASA had been under continuing resolutions for 2 months then), all of the projects were feeling the squeeze. We also felt like we’ve contributed as much as we could to the place, staying any longer would’ve meant being stagnant.

And then, there’s something else…

There’s a line from Naomi Duguid during her interview with Legal Nomads that resonated with me and I think described our feelings pretty spot on:

It wasn’t a pushed out feeling, it was a pulled-in-by-the rest-of-the-world feeling.

I don’t think I can put it more eloquently than that. It was exactly how we felt.

In the end, it was the accumulation of all of these feelings and it just felt right. It made it easy.

Harder than it should – our stuff

We would never be minimalists. We like our stuff. Even though we don’t buy things we don’t need (most of the time), those that we do own we feel a very strong attachment to. I don’t think we are attached so much to the idea of ‘owning’ as much as to the memories that these items represent.

I’m afraid that without these items as anchors, the memories associated with them with float away and disperse into nothingness.

I treasure these memories — and I’m afraid that by getting rid of our stuff, the associated memories will get pushed back, forgotten, and replaced with the new ones and I’ll never get them back. Everyone knows I’m forgetful enough as it is.

Do you know what I mean?

Some of the stuff I was particularly attached to I had to get rid of:

Our Subaru Outback

Oh, so many memories we have as a couple feature the Sube in them. It’s the first car we bought as a couple. It has provided as with shelter when caught under an unexpected snowstorm in Death Valley. It has taken us down nasty potholed roads and it has braved the sleet and ice on our winter jaunts to Yosemite.

The Sube on the way to Telescope Peak, Death Valley NP
The Sube on the way to Telescope Peak, Death Valley NP
Camping in from the storm
Hiding in from the snowstorm in the Subaru. A snow-freaking-storm in Death Valley? Whouldathough?

We’re so glad the car went to our co-worker. In a way it feels like it has not left us.

My ‘Sound by the Sea’ orange T-shirt

Dubbed ‘The most comfortable t-shirt ever’, I wore this t-shirt every single day during our 6 week backpacking trip to Europe. I think for 2 years, 70% of my pics have me wearing this t-shirt. Bought on sale for $2 from Eagle Outfitter, it is now worn to the threads and you can’t even see the writing on it anymore.

An ode to 'The Most Comfortable T-shirt'. Ever.'

It crossed my mind to take it with us, but it has been stretched out by too many washing cycles that it’s started to look more like a dress.

It was sad to say goodbye, but again, it felt like it was the right time.

Then there are my art books, my ice skates that I’ve had since the 8th grade, our beautiful living room rug… they were all really hard to get rid of.

Stuff We’re Keeping

There are of course items that we simply couldn’t make ourselves to give away. Like our lapel pin collection and photo albums.

Jack also insisted on keeping most of the stuff he feels quite attached to so. In fact, we had a huge argument over the amount of stuff he likes to keep. Things like his old soccer cleats, his ‘batik’ clothing collection, and…

Bowl and Spoon

Bowl and a spoon (not 'the' Spoon). As of a matter of fact, Spoon is missing right now and Jack is worried sick.

A man of habit, Jack eats his oatmeal breakfast with using Bowl and Spoon without fail every single morning. It won’t do with just any bowl or any spoon. Oh no, they won’t do.

It has to be steel cut oatmeal, prepared in just the right way in Bowl, eaten with Spoon (yes, that’s how we refer to them as in ‘Jill, where’s Spoon?’. Except for weekends. Weekends are for bagels and eggs.

Ed note: Spoon to be missing in the move much to Jack’s distress.

I’m surprised he hasn’t insisted on packing these items along to take around the world with us, or maybe he just hasn’t thought of it.


It’s funny the things we’ve grown attached to and emptying up our apartment has triggered so many memories that hadn’t surfaced before. We’d be lying if we didn’t get a little emotional saying goodbye to our then-empty apartment.

But life goes on and this chapter of our life has closed behind us and a new one is open and waiting to be written. We’re creating rooms for more memories – and since I’m taking my other favorite t-shirt (dubbed ‘The Second Most Comfortable T-shirt. Ever.’) with me on this trip, I have hopes that soon, the pain of losing my ‘Sound by the Sea’ t-shirt will fade away.

So, what now?

Our stuff that have not been either ‘loaned’ to friends, sold, or donated (including Bowl and Spoon) are going to stay with Jack’s mom until we can get them back.

We actually won’t be leaving for Colombia (the first stop in our RTW journey) until April 18th. Until then, we’re spending time with relatives and if the weather holds, we are heading off to Yosemite for some climbing.

Tell us:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to get rid of? What are some things you just can’t seem to get rid of?

43 Replies to “Carless, Jobless, and Homeless”

  1. We didn't really get rid of everything, but certainly most of it. Ours was a response to empty nest and wanderlust (hence Gypsynesters). So we sold our house and kept just what would fit into the beat up old 1982 model 23 ft motorhome we bought on ebay. We have since put 50,000 more miles on it. Maybe we'll see you out there on the road sometime.
    -David

    1. Hi David, what you guys did sound amazing! We would love to travel on a motorhome someday since it will allow us to bring our (future) pets along.

  2. The hardest things for me to give up are shoes. I love wearing heels but won't be taking those backpacking with me in September. Heartbreaking to give them away though 🙁

  3. My husband and I have decided to take a trip RTUSA…and we are quitting our jobs next week, are getting rid of superfluous items. We already gave up the home. After a decade of wedded bliss, we just decided, why not?

    It's not hard for me to give these things up. In the grand scheme of things, what good was it doing us anyway?

    We are really excited to see others doing what we are about to do, and we will be following your journey with much interest! Hope you'll follow ours as well!

  4. Every time I read a post by you guys I just think you are both so cute. 🙂 I too have a really hard time getting reading of things that I have an emotional connection too. There are some things I just can't bear to part with. Although I don't have a special spoon I can totally relate to that type of item! I tend to put emotional feelings into inanimate objects so I get it. I agree it's the toughest thing to do and congrats on getting rid of the orange shirt – seriously I would've hung on to it for years but why – look at all the pictures you have to make your memories with. 🙂

  5. I went through the same process about 6 months ago.

    Quitting my job was only difficult because I was leaving behind good friends, and I knew some of their workload would increase at least in the short term. The moment I put in my notice, a wave of liberation swept through my body. I walked around with a perma-grin. Resigning made it real. I was going to go travel in Latin America for a year!

    For me, the only stressful part of getting rid of my "things" was the fact that it seemed to take FOREVER to go through everything. There were numerous trips to Goodwill, numerous trips to illegally dump trash, numerous failed attempts to actually sell some of the nicer things on Craigslist for a little extra travel money. [Note: Craigslist sucks for selling things. The majority of people don't show up when they agree to meet.] When the process was done, I had a 5×5 storage unit only half way. I felt so proud of myself, and I vowed to never accumulate so much that I have to go through that hell again.

  6. I used to find it difficult to cull my possessions, but after 14 years of a backpacker I find it very easy to get rid of stuff. I have virtually no attachment to anything except Craig and Kalyra and my passport. I really don't need anything else

  7. Great post! I quit my last office job in 2004 and remember it being the biggest deal of all the steps I was taking in order to leave on my RTW trip – maybe even bigger than buying the plane tickets! I never questioned it was the right move, but I think I probably freaked out just a little bit on the day after my last day of work!

    I put a lot of stuff in storage when I left, but the longer you're gone the less attached you are to things, and it gets easier to get rid of things when you go back. I still have things boxed up at my parents' house, and this is the year of reckoning – I need to figure out what to do with it all before they move to a smaller house. I keep reminding myself that if I haven't needed it (or even thought about it!) in nearly four years of living/traveling abroad, I can get rid of it. I may keep a box or two of sentimental stuff for now, but the rest I'll likely be taking pictures of (if it's something I want to remember) and selling/donating.

  8. I wish I had been better about getting rid of stuff before I left on my expat journey. There was enough hesitation that maybe it wouldn't work out and maybe I would be back to let my mom convince me to store most of it. So when I go back this June I will make a big pile of sell, a pile of toss and a hopefully small pile of mostly books that I will try to bring back with me. Like was mentioned, it is amazing how hard stuff is to giev up and how little you actually miss most of it after a while.

  9. Fantastic post guys! I remember when we were selling off most of what we owned around this time last year, and for the most part it was an exhilarating feeling. With every object sold, I felt lighter and freer. Items that I was unable to part with at that point included all our books and my guitars. Today 99% of our books and all but 1 guitar are back at my folks place. While I am not big on purchases, an e-reader is the next item I have to buy ASAP as not having access to books is driving me mad.

    Funny how often the parents come to the rescue for storage purposes when all of us mad-hatters take off with a backpack:)

  10. We had such trouble going through things. Mostly because Danny is a packrat and I'm a "toss it!" kind of gal. Now that we're opening our boxes again I'm surprised at what I've found inside. I'm having many "why did we keep that?" moments and I'm looking forward to unpacking our souvenirs and saying "I'm so glad we bought that!"

    1. That's how we are like too! Jack is not above diving into the trash to rescue his 'treasures'. Curious to know what we'd think of all these stuff we're keeping when we get back.

  11. Very interesting and funny! I am happy I get to start reading your blog as your journey starts! Good luck and I look forward to seeing where you guys go! 🙂

  12. I come from a long line of pack rats. We save EVERYTHING (not in a horder sort of way, but seriously…) and it always takes moving for any of us to start downsizing. I'm better at this process than my mother as I am far more keen to throw stuff out (heck she stopped me from throwing out my high school yearbook!).

    I know it's tough, but realistically, what do you actually need most of your stuff for?

    1. That's funny. My mom is a big pack rat too – she rescued half of the stuff I threw away when I was moving out of their house.

  13. I know it's tough when we anchor memories to certain possessions. But the more I travel the more I try to avoid doing that, simply because I wear stuff out or lose things!! But nothing can take the memory away (except amnesia).

  14. Last Thursday was my last day of work, and I thought it would be super easy, but it was actually a bit harder saying goodbye to everyone than I thought. But, then the weird thing was I kept waiting for the climactic moment of the stress being lifted off my shoulders as I walked out the door. That didn't happened at all like I imagined. But like you guys – I am as well officially carless, homeless, and jobless. 🙂 It's liberating!

    1. Yes, in a way it is. Jack and I were just talking that we have no keys left on our keychain. No car key, no mailbox key, no house key. It's so weird.

  15. I'm going through this process right now, although a little behind you. So far it's been great to get rid of things but I'm sure it'll get harder. Right now I keep freaking out about leaving my friends more than anything. I still have a few months, so we'll see how I'm coping when my leave date gets closer. Good luck to you, so exciting!

  16. It's a great feeling and one you don't even think about on the road! I don't think I've missed anything I've given away, ever =)

  17. SUBIE POWER! We have a Subaru WRX that Shaun refuses to get rid of so we're letting some friends borrow it while we're out so it doesn't sit for a year (Shaun was a mechanic and the thought horrifies him to think of it). And what do I want for our next car? An OUTBACK! 😛

    We're very not minimalists too, we completely understand!

    1. Yup. If we need to get another car we'd so get another Subaru. I only wish they'd come up with the hybrid version. It being an all wheel drive breaks my heart (and the wallet) everytime we fill up.

  18. I've found it easier to get rid of stuff when you break your life into phases in your head. As you said with the orange tshirt, it was the right time to get rid of it. If you tell yourself, 'That was the last phase of my life, those things served their purpose, and now I can dispose of those them and go make some new memories with my new things,' it helps. Or maybe I just overthink things like that…

  19. Ahh love it. I am so glad yall are so damn close to leaving it all behind and hitting the road.

    I would have to agree quitting my job was the easiest thing I did. I remember being just as worried about not having an income and blah blah blah but now am so glad. As for your car… well I know I miss my Tyler so much but oh well life goes on & sadly wehn & if we ever go back we can get another one.

    Cheers to hitting the road soon!

  20. I hope you find the spoon! I've always found humans and their attachment to certain things fascinating…Being a hoarder I know how liberating it is to finally get rid of most of your things, but sometimes we still need our 'staples'…I still have a bunch of crap that I know I'll have to throw out before my trip, but I just can't do it yet!

    1. I do too… sometimes it's the weirdest things that we get attached to as well (like my orange tshirt). The funny thing is, I was so sure that I'd miss it — then much sooner than I'd liked – I just simply stopped thinking about it.

  21. For me, it was the kitties. The job (meh), the house (blah), the stuff – well, we do have a few things left in storage but so much of it I felt glad to get rid of. The day we handed over the keys to our house and left I felt complete freedom. No angst or sadness at all. That told me something important!

    But the kitties, OH…the kitties!! If I thought about it long enough, I would go home, settle down, and steal them back. So I don't let myself think about it… 🙁

    1. Oh, the kitties 🙁 Yes, it was incredibly hard. We still get emotional thinking about all the foster cats and ratties that we used to keep as company. Just like you, we try not to think about them too much.

  22. Oh, getting rid of stuff is HARD. I'm not a minimalist at heart — I love me some stuff, but I've been gradually paring down my stuff for the past 4 years that I've been living abroad. I totally get the thing about the memories. I have the worst memory ever, so sometimes I don't even remember where the stuff is from — but if I get rid of the stuff and I have no memories, what will I have?
    While I did get rid of most of my stuff, I kept all my old journals (which I'm mortified to read… and even more mortified thinking that I might die on the road and my family will come across them and read them.) I figure if I have no memories in my head, I might as well have the memories on paper (even if I refuse to read them!)

  23. Huh! Jack is not the only one with very stong idead about his cereal. Alan has a bowl, a spoon, a set number of wheatabix allowed in the bowl(2) and an exact number of spoonfulls they are finished in. Actually, that is really weird.

    I've found loads of my stuff surprisingly easy to get rid of. I thought the clothes would bother me, but seeing someone else buy my things that they don't need, don't really want and will probably never fit reminds me of why I'm doing this. Our bed is the thing I'm having a tough time with though. It's the piece of furniture we own together than has seen us through six years.

    The thing I find helpful is that even only a couple of days after we sold a whole bunch of our stuff I can't tell you what it was. So it couldn't have been that important!

  24. This is a really cute post!

    I haven't had that hard of a time getting rid of things when I move around, in fact, when I went to study in Australia I started throwing clothes away left and right and my brother asked me if I was ever planning on coming back! Now that it's time to start packing again I'm getting a bit more worried what we'll do with some things. We try not to buy anything that is going to hold us down since we know that we are going to be serial-movers for at least a couple more years!

    I definitely miss my car, it was a Sube too! I'll be sad not to have it when we go back and travel this summer since it is a part of my life in the States and I want to show ALL of that to the BF!

  25. We actually just cleaned out 80% of our basement yesterday….Shawna found a 2 foot chimp statue, that I had from my bachelor days…this awesome chip was dressed in old school golf attire, and was holding a tray which you could set your own drinks on…she suggested we sell it online….okay, she just put the poor monkey online without even asking…apparently someone is already interested….this is going to be a sore point…. 🙂

  26. As I too, edge ever nearer that "cliff edge" (moving to Vietnam in 6 months), the thought of truly culling all but the bare minimum of my present/past life is truly daunting. But today I find comfort in your words:

    "[one] chapter of our life has closed behind us and a new one is open and waiting to be written."

    That's really what it is, isn't it? I've had many chapters in my life, and this is just another chapter closing – and a whole bright, shiny new one waiting to be written!

  27. Don't worry– you'll soon get used to having no stuff! The car will seem like a distant memory. And you'll have a new favorite shirt that you'll wear every day for a week. Trust me 🙂

  28. Quitting my job has been tougher than I thought it would be. It started with a promotion. It's a great opportunity, but doesn't play well with my RTW plans. Apparently, it came a quite a shock when I resigned instead of accepting the position. Only three more months to go, we'll see how awkward it gets.

    Our cat, pi, is going to be very hard to give away. One of Ashley's co-workers has graciously agreed to look after her, but it's going to be hard to say goodbye.

    Most of the stuff we are storing, we've decided to keep just because it would cost significantly more to replace than we could get for selling it. AKA our TV, and some kitchen appliances.

    The rest has sentimental value, like jewellery Ashley bought while we were in New Zealand, or a blanket my mom crouched for me.

    April 18th is coming so fast.

  29. Great post you guys. I laught out loud on the "Jill, where's spoon?" part. I hope for Jack's sake spoon turns up soon.

    I don't know but am anticipating having the same emotional reaction to getting rid of our stuff. But I bet that once you are out on the road you'll look at each other and ask "what was it we thought we'd miss so much?"

    Can't wait for your adventures… so soon!!

  30. Scott and I also have different outlooks on keeping material items. I used to have no problem getting rid of everything but the kitchen sink to the point that I would have to ask myself later, "Why don't I have any nail polish?" I'm still this way with a lot of things, but Scott has made me think twice about chucking everything I think I don't need. I wonder how it's going to go over when we get closer to leaving at the end of this year. Our parents don't have a lot of room (if any) to store our things, so we will either have to get a storage or let it all go. I definitely have a few irreplaceable items that I'll want to keep.

  31. It's going to be really easy for me to let go of my job after they annouced today that they are moving my desk to the basement. I'm sensing an Office Space moment here. I think letting go of the bulk of our possessions will be the hardest. We like the comfort our stuff brings us but it also limits us so it's a mixed bag here. I won't have any problems letting go of our car but my truck is a different story. So many good memories with it like floating through a flash flood in Death Valley or driving around Organ Pipe Cactus NP. Love that truck! Through all our planning for our sabbatical we've come to terms with letting most of it go except for the kids. We decided to keep them. I think your most important statement here is that life goes on. Where one door closes another opens. It's a new chapter filled with adventure and excitement.

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