Minimalism seems quite easy, right? Chuck all that crap out that you don’t use and be happy in the presence of the things you need. That feeling which you get every time you ‘Spring clean’ your house. You walk around with a bin bag, at first throwing away old receipts and sweet wrappers that you know have been there weeks but, for some reason, you have made a subconscious decision that they look alright there, or they have been there that long you have just gotten used to them.
Now that they are in the bag, you start off with the little things, then you pick up your confidence and start filling the bag with the dog's old chew toy, an unused glasses box, old razors, medicine boxes, old picture frames that broke a while back, and then it gets to leveling up!
Now, the game has changed to whatever is in your path! If it is unidentified by a family member within 2 minutes, it is gone! Socks, trousers, pens, boxes (use unknown), papers with potentially important details on, magazines and newspapers.
Then you spot the junk drawer! You think to yourself, as your grip tightens on the bag “get the bloody thing open! Today is the day!” Now, we all know that Junk drawers can never be eradicated, they are, after all, immortal. So, we can't aim to kill them, only tame them!
You head straight over and, at first, with all confidence and passion for your new found inspiration for minimalism, you start with no regrets! Out come those old chargers, name tags from three jobs ago, broken pencils and old lipstick.
Then, as your heart rate starts to lower because you start to see the light, more oxygen is being digested by the guilt part of your brain, you start asking yourself questions! Now, this is when the minimalism path is at risk because the second you start to doubt, and open thoughts like ‘even though you haven't used that dog’s collar in over 5 years, you might take her for a walk tomorrow and her current one may snap!’ or ‘that one shoelace may come in handy, if not for a shoe, for some unforeseen circumstance that when you arrive at it you will be saying, “god, I wish I had that shoelace”
If you get to this stage, close that draw immediately, and move away! This is the power of that drawer speaking to you. It will do it every time.
Now, you are going to get to a stage where you think “ok, the bits and bobs have been thrown away, I think I might have a go at my clothes” Now, in theory, it sounds pretty easy, you can just pop open the wardrobe and stick on the song Should I Stay or Should I go by The Clash, dancing around, going from left to right, throwing all those unused and unwanted garms behind you!
Oh if it was that easy, ey? The reality is that you have dragged your semi-filled bin bag upstairs and through guilt and pure fatigue, you pull everything out and decide to make piles. YES, NO and MAYBE piles and then a MAYBE MAYBE, then that gives birth to a NEXT SUMMER pile and COULD GO IN THE ATTIC FOR NOW, BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW pile, and before you know it, you have piles backing up piles. Nothing like how easy the films make it look.
When Giuseppe and I left Amsterdam, we realised just how much crap we were hoarding and how much we never used. Well, you would know if you had read my previous post (eye roll) We recycled the same three or four outfits and kept the rest for ‘just in case’.
We got rid of many things, recycled, sent off to charity or simply gave them away in boxes outside the house. It wasn’t easy by any means! But we narrowed 2 years of living in an apartment collecting lots of stuff, down into 2 suitcases and 2 bags. Not bad in my opinion.
But, the next step was much harder! When you want to get up and go travel, be a nomad or simply live as minimally as possible, then that is quite a challenge! These fancy travellers on Instagram show their travels, full of smiles and ease, their bag holds all they need and their 100K+ followers liking away at such inspiration, but won’t do it themselves because they have no idea how!
This is us, setting off to a brighter future, absolutely knackered (now, living in Amsterdam with many internationals, even those with native English. They brought it to my attention that knackered is a very British thing to say, so if you aren’t aware of this word it means super tired) We left the country and almost collapsed on to the plane with exhaustion.
With all our stuff down to the bare minimums, with what we thought was only necessities. On to the next step!
TAX TAX TAX.
Right, so the saying is that there are two things that are certain and that is death and taxes. So, seeing as we are not planning on the first one any time soon, I suppose we will have to work out this tax stuff.
The good news is that the UK (although we complain about it all the time) is one of the best for lower and understandable tax brackets that I have found! Good for me because I am from the good old United(ish) Kingdom. So, I can come over here and get all set up online. It is really quite simple too! All online, you will just need to pop on to www.gov.uk, to get informed and register.
The slight issue was for my lovely Italian, Giuseppe. We couldn’t have him register back home because, well, let me just give you a small example here.
THE UK - If you earn under £11,850 per year in the UK you will not pay tax on that because they allow it as Personal Allowance(PA)
ITALY - You will start paying 20% on the first Euro you earn! Anything between €0 to €15000 per year, you will pay 20%
Then, let me just show you the jump up to the next tax bracket, which plays a vital role because we are both earning over €15000 a year.
THE UK - If you are earning between £11,850 (which is the PA remember) per year to PA+£34,500 per year, you will be at a rate of 20% tax!
ITALY - Between €15,001 to €28,000 you have to pay 27%! Earn one cent more than €28,000 then you are on a 38% tax rate! Wowzer.
To make more sense of it yourself, take a look at the two country’s tax brackets and this will make it very clear why I brought Giuseppe over to the UK for 3 months, to make him a tax resident in the UK!
Now, you can’t just bob on over to the UK and become a tax resident there are some rules that are in place, so you can’t benefit from the UK’s lower tax that easy! I am not exactly sure what your circumstances are, but you can check here for some information: https://bit.ly/2nbLgA7
So, after some great advice from our wonderful, great looking and cool friend Sam (he suggested this intro), trips to the Jobcentre and lots of reading up, we got Giuseppe set up with his tax code and his National Insurance Number and we are good to go with Mr Tax Man.
(Little night out to celebrate)
Ok, so with Giuseppe and myself set up with our tax (more or less because let’s face it, it is a while until we will be paying it so we are still yet to find out how easy that bit will be.) We were on to the next to the bit of decision making. BAGS!
BAGS BAGS BAGS
Now, every time you watch a travel video on Youtube, read an article or scroll through an Instagram feed of a person carting a massive bag around. It makes it seem like a pretty simple choice. Well, it isn’t really and it turns out there is more to this bag choosing than what meets the eye! I will go into this in more depths at a later date because it can be a little complicated when you have no idea what you are looking for.
First thing to note is bag size, which we didn’t take into consideration at first because we wanted ‘one of those bags that they all wear’ The type of bag that you usually see and stereotypically put with a nomad is around 65 to 80-litre bags!
Now, this confused me too at first, why are bags measured in Litres? Well, that is the measurement set out for when they are testing how much can fit in a bag. They usually stick loads of small balls into a bag, then they tip it out into some sort of measuring device, which then states the amount of room (in litres) the bag has for content.
Now, don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with a 65 to 80 litre bag and it can be super useful. But, if you are intending on travelling via plane sometimes, then it is good to note that you won’t be able to take this on board as hand luggage, it will have to be checked! That is going to add a lovely £20 to £40 on to your journey cost each time. Are those extra litres for your shoes you couldn’t get rid of really worth that?
So, I did a bit of research and the biggest bag you are allowed to take on a plane is 45 Litres (at a push 50). So, if you are wanting to get away with not paying extra, you may have to sacrifice a lot more stuff, to make sure you can fit your life into a bag or don’t take planes!
But anyway, I’ll get into bags more at a later date, I just want to say that you don’t wanna go cheap with your bag! I thought it would be a good idea at first and I bought a bag from Amazon for £32.99, thinking that I had just got my self a right bargain because on the photo it looks pretty cute, look:
I was so very wrong! All the zips broke straight away when I tried them out and the bag was so thin that any weight would have ripped right through it! Not to mention a suspect looking brown stain on the front. You buy cheap, you buy twice!
So, when we had decided on our 45 Litre bags and a smaller rucksack for our laptops from Osprey, we had to fit everything inside. Now, I have watched so may ‘how to pack’ videos and they make it look so easy! They never tell you the pain it is to really narrow down to only what is necessary and how to have those necessities, that could potentially look nice too. (I don’t wanna travel looking like a stereotypical hiker)
They don’t show you the behind the scenes either before they had gotten rid of most things and how stressful it can be to do so. They also don't tell you about the trial and error or the near nervous breakdowns because NOTHING WILL FIT!!!
Most of the videos babbled on about these amazing packing cubes! Saying that they were life savers (dropping a name of a certain brand every now and then or hitting you up with a link to a certain type in an article they are getting paid for) and I fell for their trickery!
Now, if you are going on holiday and you would like your suitcase to be nicely organised, so when you arrive you can just pop it open and see that your socks are in this bag and your T-shirts are in that one etc, then it is great! A really good idea!
But, these videos were trying to tell me that they are a good idea for backpacks. So, there I was raving about them to poor Giuseppe saying how amazing they are. I told him tails of how convenient they are for compressing our clothes and providing us with additional space. He was sceptical from the off (rightly so), but he suggested that if I bought them and if they are good he would get some too.
Off I popped on to Amazon, reading reviews, taking measurements of my bag and the packing cubes and I decided on these, take a look:
Now, don’t they look nice? Not too fancy and some thin ones that seem like they can just slide into the bag, no problemo!
Day of delivery, I was prepared with all that I owned set out on the floor and my bag at the side of me. Giuseppe, with a hint of 'this is never going to work' written on his face, looked on in anticipation. My clothes were going in the bag one by one and I was zipping them up once they were full. With all my stuff inside the moment of truth came.
I pushed the first cube into my bag, now it did fit in quite well, but it pulled the bag pretty tight at the sides. I paused for dramatic effect and looked at Giuseppe. Seeing him rolling his eyes, I continued on my quest. The next cube was going in, but wait a minute that was a bit of a squeeze and I have two more to go yet and come to think of it, I haven’t even thought about my shoes!
With a few more attempts at playing packing Tetris, hearing the sigh from Giuseppe and seeing him pick up his book to continue reading, I knew that it was over. The packing cubes had failed me, those Youtubers, Vloggers and other sorts had failed me and I had had enough!
So, for us, it was back to the drawing board because I was determined to get all that I had into the bag and there must be some way! There had to be! Even if I had to learn origami and fold each item into separate animal shapes, my stuff was going in!
ROLL ROLL ROLL
After a good few hours of looking through some backup options, I came across something that was so wonderful, it was about to change my life for good!
ROLLING! No more folding your clothes and placing them neatly into a pile, you can roll them up, secure those that seem that they may unravel with an elastic band and off you go! Each item can be rolled, even down to individual socks!
(A bit of a before an after there to bedazzle you!)
Once I rolled everything up, I put my rolled up socks inside my trainers, my rolled underwear in a small zip pocket and the rest of my clothes went in the main compartment and filled up spaces that would normally not be used. I EVEN HAD ROOM TO SPARE!
There are hundreds of ‘How To’ videos on Youtube, follow them and you will be rolling in seconds. Trust me, you won’t look back!
So we left home. Clothes have been minimised, taxes set up, bags chosen, packed it up and now we can try our first little travel experience away, working and experiencing the life we have dreamed about living together for years!
See you next time!