The burden and reward of stuff


The right stuff makes the adventure. Be it sailing, cycling, hiking, or touring on a motorbike — stuff is important. Stuff gets us to where we are going. It feeds us. It houses us. It keeps us dry, safe, on course, entertained, connected, and so much more. Be careful, though, loading yourself with too much stuff — or with the wrong stuff — is dangerously tempting! Infatuating over gear catalogs for months ahead of an adventure is a sure sign of trouble. Be advised, you will always fill the space you have to occupy. But if you choose your space conservatively and your stuff wisely, you stand to live a very liberated and unencumbered life for the effort! Moreover, you will achieve your infatuations with a leaner budget.

The only sure way to keep less stuff is to have a smaller boat, bicycle, backpack, or motorbike. This also goes for trucks, RVs, camper trailers, houses, garages, and so on. Unless you’ve mastered the art of folding space, limiting the physical dimensions of your box is key to having less stuff.

Don’t believe me? Keep this in mind: thru-hikers finish the Appalachian Trail with less stuff — not more! They learn very quickly to embrace the occasional inconvenience of not having some widget over being forever reminded of its burden with every… single… step… for… two… thousand… miles!

I didn’t need thirty months to figure out I was guilty of amassing stuff. The lesson came early. I should not have bought every kind of bag, box, and pannier for the motorbike. These wonderful stuff holders magically collect stuff before my very eyes! If there is room to spare, I suddenly find reason to need such and such stuff. My motorbike weighs a thousand pounds for it.

I try to cull gear! I give away clothes, replace heavy and oversized equipment with lighter, smaller versions. Goodness, I’ve learned to live without spares of spares! Still, stuff holders are never half empty! They are always full with new, awesome stuff that constantly replaces the old, dingy stuff. Buying smaller stuff just makes room for more stuff.

Think about your bigger purse, your ginormous refrigerator, or your computer’s colossal external hard drive. Maybe you even have a storage shed because the stuff container you call a house is full. I do that, too. Bags get tied to a pannier. Another pair of shoes slips into the space between restraint and the need to fill something to its fullest.

Climbing back onto a loaded bike after months out of the saddle is always the most overwhelming feeling of the first day. The burn in my atrophied muscles doesn’t even compare to the emotional weight of having stuff. Stuff to do this, stuff to do that. Stuff that barely fits. Discarded stuff that doesn’t fit. My biggest urge at the end of the day is to chuck it all! Buy a motel room. Eat out. Be done with the burden.

And then, never a moment too soon, I always land the perfect place to camp. The rage fest subsides, I regain control and realize the truth. I’m years into this mess. Every piece of gear on the bike serves a purpose that has survived a dozen different scrutinies along the way. I’m not attached. Gear gets gone when it only serves a fanciful purpose.

Today’s uneasiness is unwarranted. The feeling is the result of having lived in houses and on a sailboat for a year. Realistically, this stuff enables me to live well for less money. It also means I spend a night stargazing alongside the Gulf of Mexico instead of staring up at the drooping popcorn ceiling of a motel.

Of course, you can check in on a rainy day, and I’ll have a lot of good to say about ceilings and the like!



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