by Niall Doherty

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I left New Orleans on Wednesday, fitting everything I own into my carry on luggage or on my person. Hooray and yay and other such words of triumphancy.

By my count, I now own 59 things, though that number is somewhat subjective, as you’ll see. Some things I group together and count as one, such as socks and toiletries.

Why group things like this? The honest answer is that the smaller my number of possessions, the better the initial shock value. I’m hoping people will see 59 and feel inclined to take a closer look. While I don’t believe fitting all your belongings into carry on luggage should be everybody’s aim, I do believe that everyone can benefit from minimalist principles, and I’d like to get as many people familiar with them as possible.

Plus, I’m just really bad at counting. I struggle like a mofo when I hit the 60’s 😉

All 59 things I own

Note that there are some affiliate links in the list below, but only for products I use and highly recommend. I ask that you only buy items I recommend if you have a clear need for them. A percentage of the sale price will go towards supporting my writing.

  1. Macbook pro (with charger and backup discs)
  2. Canon Powershot SD1000 camera (with charger and mini tripod)
  3. iPhone (with charger and headphones)
  4. Motorola mobile phone (with charger – will be ditching this if I can get my iPhone working in Ireland)
  5. Mouse (and mouse mat)
  6. After Eight tin (acts as a container for my small electronic equipment and cables)
  7. Tech Air laptop bag/backpack (I’ve had this for years, still going strong)
  8. Neck pillow (for travel)
  9. Stationary (3 notebooks and a pen)
  10. Universal power adapter
  11. Headphone/microphone set (handy for Skype)
  12. Laptop lock
  13. Money clip and contents (credit card, debit cards)
  14. Wallet (I prefer the wallet to the money clip on occasion)
  15. Check book
  16. Mail/documents for keep (immigration papers, birth cert, etc.)
  17. Passport
  18. Gloves
  19. Flask (I fill this up at water fountains to avoid buying bottled water)
  20. Toiletries bag
  21. Toiletries (disposables like razors, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)
  22. Grooming kit (small scissors, nail clippers, tweezers)
  23. Toothbrush
  24. Towel
  25. Running shorts
  26. Basketball shorts (worn mostly while sleeping/lounging, not playing basketball)
  27. Underwear (7 pairs)
  28. Socks (14 pairs)
  29. Undershirt
  30. Undershirt
  31. T-shirt (navy Sound)
  32. T-shirt (teal Loyola)
  33. T-shirt (black Loyola Saints)
  34. T-shirt (CCC 10k 2010)
  35. T-shirt (brown NOLA)
  36. T-shirt (white Loyola leadStrong)
  37. T-shirt (green NOLA Dirty Coast)
  38. T-shirt (gray Megaphone)
  39. Long sleeve shirt (dark grey/blue)
  40. Polo shirt (blue Cape Cod)
  41. Polo shirt (light blue/brown)
  42. Dress shirt (black striped)
  43. Jacket (black/grey Champion)
  44. Hoody (grey LSU)
  45. Hoody (navy/blue zip)
  46. Jeans (dark)
  47. Jeans (light)
  48. Slacks (grey/red/blue cross-hatch)
  49. Belt (black)
  50. Airwalk runners/sneakers (white/grey)
  51. Vibram KSOs, black/camo (<– not an affiliate link)
  52. Amazon Kindle (a recent purchase, and I’m loving it)
  53. Book: The 4-Hour Work Week (I can’t recommend this book enough)
  54. Book: Affluenza (holding for my cousin in Ireland)
  55. Book: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (holding for my cousin in Ireland)
  56. Heys XCase, black (<– not an affiliate link)
  57. Canvas grocery bag
  58. Plastic laundry bag
  59. CD – My Wiener Touches the Ceiling (<– not an affiliate link)

How to whittle down your belongings to the bare essentials

Like I said, such extreme minimalism is not for everyone. It may not even be for me. This is very much an experiment I’m trying. I own 59 things now. I may have more or less in a few months. It will take me a while to find my sweet spot. The same will be true for you.

I started getting rid of items 7 months ago. I’d only been in the US three years and hadn’t arrived with much more than one big suitcase, but when I did my first count back in April I found that I had around 350 items. I started getting rid of stuff in batches. First to go were the clothes I never wore, and such things as old magazines, unused kitchen appliances and my paper shredder.

Then I moved from my apartment into a sublet for the summer, negating my need for furniture, dishes, cutlery and the like. I also got rid of a bunch of books around this time, and some more clothes.

Beyond that, I was just getting rid of small batches every few weeks, as I figured out which remaining items I really used and which were dead weight. I started scanning important documents and taking pictures of sentimental things like birthday cards, then ditching the originals. I got lasik eye surgery so I could throw away my contacts and glasses.

I was down to about 130 items during my last week of work, then promptly donated all my business casual clothes the day after I quit my job. I’ve been steadily getting rid of some remaining items over the past couple of weeks to ensure that I could fit everything into my carry on luggage. I bought a Kindle so I could still read without acquiring and carrying around physical books. I sold my Jeep and gave away my bicycle since I was leaving town for good. I wanted to keep a pair of dress shoes but had to ditch them in favor of a few extra t-shirts and underwear (not everything would fit in my XCase).

Like I said, I’m not sure how this will work out for me. I might really miss those dress shoes, or maybe I’ll discover that I really don’t need 7 pairs of underwear ;-P

I’ll keep an updated list of my possessions here if you’re interested to see how I progress.

Selling vs. donating

I feel many people hold onto things they don’t want or need because they feel it’s wasteful to just get rid of them. They’re looking for a buyer with deep pockets or else throw their excess crap in storage to be dealt with some other time. Bad ideas.

I donated most of my items rather than sell them. Finding a buyer and negotiating a sale price can take a lot of time. Being rid of unneeded items is more important to me than the money I could get in exchange for them. Plus, I always try to consider the use someone else will get out of an item. Why should I keep a good book sitting on my shelf long after I’m done with it, when I could give it to someone else who would really benefit from reading it? Same with that baking tray I use maybe once every six months. It’s better that I give it to someone who bakes regularly.

Let go of the unneeded things in your life. Others will get more use out of them.

There’s also that whole karma thing. I ask for a lot of favors. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll know what I mean. I ask people to support various causes, for a lift to the airport, and all kinds of other things. But I balance this out by giving as much as I can of myself. This blog is part of that giving. The writing I do here seems to help some people. And when it came to whittling down my possessions, it felt right to give most of them away for free. I got back a lot of gratitude and goodwill in return.

Minimalist freedom

Having everything I own fit into carry on luggage is a nice feeling. I can now pack up everything I own within minutes and go anywhere I want with little planning. It’s also harder to lose or misplace things. There are some downsides to such extreme minimalism, but for me those are far outweighed by the benefits.

I am no longer a slave to my possessions. I don’t have a car payment or a mortgage or a DVD collection holding me hostage. I am the master of all that I own.

How about you?

Niall Doherty's possessions

Me and everything I own. December 1, 2010. New Orleans International Airport.