Leave Everything Behind

by Anne Dorko

You’re the poor apprentice to a blacksmith, toiling hard every day only to be under appreciated and underpaid.

There is no light at the end of this tunnel.

You will one day become a blacksmith yourself, toiling hard every day only to be under appreciated and underpaid.

Only, one day, pirates attack your humble town. Houses burn. Soldiers are slain. You survive. You are taken aboard the ship, and they look at you and say – hey, this kid has talent. I think we should have him on board.

The captain turns to you and says “Pack what you need. We leave as soon as the sun rises.”

You are turned loose to go home for one more night. One more night before you leave everything behind.

You Are Going On A Journey

pirate ninja journey

Your life is beginning tomorrow. You’re getting on board and leaving for the journey – which happens to be the rest of your life. There is no turning back. There’s no regrets. There’s no wondering what would happen if you weren’t getting on board.

There are only the possibilities of the open waters.

You don’t have a choice.

Life as it stands right now is stagnant, and unrewarding. You are unappreciated. You are underpaid. When you look around you, there’s a simple feeling of being alone and forgotten.

How can you stay here?

You can’t.

Whether you want to or not, things must change. You have to get on board and sail away from this. The more you hold on to your life in this town, the more weight you’re attaching to your anchor before you finally jump into the sea.

I won’t stand for that. I will just stand by while you try to drown yourself.

In order to move on, set sail, and discover a new world, you have to let go. Let it go.

Look Around You

pirate ninja look around

What are you holding on to?

What are your shackles?

What do you actually need?

It’s one thing to make this list. It’s another to get rid of everything that’s not on it.

Side note: This principle can apply to everything in your life – from your friends, to the way you spend time, to your physical belongings. It is most concrete to discuss physical items, so that’s the topic of today’s story.

For practice, let me review my own needs. I live in a small apartment, I sleep, eat and exercise there. I generally work for myself, but I also teach at a small college.

My overarching goal is to be able to pick up and travel at a moment’s notice (as in, one day I’m here, the next day I’m not – all on a whim). While I am living near the beach, I enjoy having the option of biking and boogie boarding.

But everything else? I should be able to pack it up and leave without requiring a moving truck.


  • Pot & pan, spatula, bowl, plate, cups, utensils
  • Cleaning supplies for kitchen

* Note: Would not travel with these eating supplies.


  • 2 pillows, blankets
  • 1 pajama pants, 2 pajama shirts


  • Bike, boogie board, running shoes
  • Jump rope
  • Lacrosse ball
  • 2 exercise pants, 2 exercise shirts, 2 sports bras

* Note: Would not travel with bike or boogie board.


  • 5 colored shirts
  • 1 overshirt
  • 2 professional black pants
  • 1 pair dress shoes
  • 1 professional jacket


  • 2-4 casual t-shirts
  • 2 long pants
  • 1 pair of comfy shorts
  • Flip flops
  • Casual shoes
  • 1 lighter jacket
  • 1 warmer jacket
  • 2-3 accessories (hats, scarves)


  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Body wash
  • Razors
  • Towel, washrag
  • Laundry bag & soap


  • Laptop
  • Hard drive
  • High quality sleeping bag
  • Camera

Now, this list looks long but I could probably realistically fit this into 2 suitcases and maybe a backpack.

What’s Left In Your House?

pirate ninja what is left

Well, I know I have a lot of random stuff crammed into a closet (books, DVDs, CDs, old papers, folding chairs, boxes, photo albums, games, backup jackets, backup towels, photo frames, art supplies).

That’s already a huge list that is taking up a lot of space. And this is after I got rid of about half my belongings when I moved in!

How often do I really look at those photo albums? Tactile is nice, but I don’t have the space or the time for it. It might make more sense to scan them all, get the digital copies and throw the originals out. When I’m older and have the stability and wall space to hang them, I’ll print them again.

How often do I really play those games? Honestly? Like twice a year. I usually entertain my friends with my charm, with and humor (and of course, food).

How often do I watch DVDs anymore? Probably even less than I play my games.

Do I really need a bunch of frames for photos I have nowhere to place? Not really.

Do I really need physical copies of MOST of those papers? No. I could scan them and back them up in 2-3 secure locations, and throw out all but extremely important documents that I need originals for.

I lived for 7 months without any of those things. They were packed away in boxes and I completely forgot that most of it even existed.

If I kept digital copies of my sentimental photos, make a backup of DVD movies and securely store my important documents… I could probably get rid of half of what is still cluttering up my apartment. Cleaning up would be a lot simpler, and I wouldn’t constantly be tripping over my belongings.

But This Is My Super Sentimental Stuff

pirate ninja sentimental

For travel, function is the only thing you really need any item to have.

If you’re not planning on picking up and traveling, then that means you could be a little more lenient in how strict your list gets.

But first, try to make a functional list of items you think you need to carry about your weekly life.

I’ve probably forgotten something in my list above, and it’s already freaking long. With a few minor exceptions, it’s all bare minimum stuff I would take with me on a trip or move to know I won’t need to replenish my stash in less than a month.

You will be shocked at how much stuff you use on a regular basis… and then simultaneously be shocked at how much OTHER stuff you have sitting around your house serving absolutely no purpose.

Some of it you should keep, because you’re not a robot.

But most of it could probably go.

One tactic I’ve used is to take a picture of the items I know I really don’t need to keep around any more, but I always want to remember it. Add that photo to a folder of sentimental items, where you can always flip through and think fondly of your past.

Seriously, Get Rid Of Your Stuff

pirate ninja leave it

If your identity is defined by what you own, you’re doing it wrong.

Tomorrow a disaster could strike and all of your belongings could be gone. Tonight, a robber could come and take what you hold most dear.

Your stuff isn’t guaranteed.

Your lifestyle isn’t guaranteed.

Who are you without your things? You won’t know until you live without them.

When you wake up tomorrow, start keeping a list of the things you touch and use throughout the day. Alarm clock. Pajamas. Work clothes. Pan. Spatula. Dish soap. Phone charger. Bluetooth. Laptop. Pen. Notepad. Microwave. Plate. Fork. Dish soap. Casual shirt and pants. Slippers. TV. Couch.

Write it all down. It adds up really fast. Why did you use those things? Did you need to, or were you just using it because you were bored? Okay, now cross reference all of those items with the things you did NOT use. How much stuff are you just ignoring throughout your day? Should you pay more attention to them, or throw them away?

Then, try to spend a day living with only the functional.

Are you more productive? Do realize how wasteful most of your items really are? Does that feeling of where-is-my-life-going fade just a little bit?

Who Are You?

pirate ninja contemplative

Seriously, pretend that right now all of your stuff went away.

You have to walk into a stripped home filled only with basic life needs (roof over your head, a kitchen with food and cooking supplies, and a bathroom).

You can pick 10 items to live with for the next week.

What do you choose?

The answer to that question is your starter packing list. Those are the things you grab and take on board for your life going forward. Most things beyond that list will just be supplemental, if it fits.

…I know the only thing stopping me right now is the time it takes to go through my stuff, scan those photos and get rid of everything not on the list, finally. What encourages me to keep trying? Knowing that when I finally reach my goal, I could pack everything into my duffel bag and walk out the door in under an hour.

We want to be able to start our next adventure as soon as it calls us. Could you leave (almost) everything behind, or is your stuff tying you down?

It’s a lot to think about, but it’s worth thinking about.

First published December 06, 2012

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