Enough Stuff-How Much Do You Actually Need on Hawaii Island?

No Stuff

No StuffA friend of mine from California who is coming for the holidays called me and she asked what could she bring for gifts for my kids and I. How odd to finally feel, after five years of living on the island and away from Silicon Valley, that we don’t need anything. No more balls or toys or clothes or stuff. The holidays for us are more about giving each other the gift of time.  Planning a hike, a beach adventure or a camping trip. The Joneses don’t live near us so there’s no keeping up.

Updated 2021:

When I was living in a one bedroom/one bathroom condo with two kids, I found that living in Hawaii meant being very discerning of what was brought in, because it meant something else had to leave. Now that we live in a larger home, we kept that mantra as we have had to move four times in five years and it kept us honest about what was important to keep-how much did it mean to us, how useful was it, could it be replaced, how much would it cost to move it, etc..

I know many of you who read this are either living here and thinking about all the things you did or did not bring to the island and some folks considering a move are doing a head count of the things they think they can not live without and may be willing to spend thousands of dollars to move here with them.

The prevailing thought process from years of watching people discuss this issue in the Kona Newbies group is this: you don’t need as much stuff as you think you do, when you get here you find that what was important on the mainland no longer serves your new life here, that by leaving many of the things behind from your “old life” provides an energetic experience of finding new things that enhance your experience of shaking off the old and preparing and accepting the new. Think of Marie Kondo in your head as you touch what really needs to come and what needs to stay. Not just does it bring you joy, but does it also tie you to a life you are moving away from.

Words of Advice That Will Help “Save Hawaii”

I just read a post on the group about someone moving here from Seattle. He said he wanted to bring the things that made him feel comfortable in his old life. Let me tell you, friends. You will find that if you truly want to fit in here, and I mean dig  your feet deep into the lava fit in and feel good here, you can’t take the best of your old life and create a new one here while hanging onto the white bear skin rug or black upholstery couches or dark grey accent tables and loving the cold minimalism of city living. How you surround yourself in your home is alot like how you will surround yourself living here. Seeking out the familiar. Finding people from your city so you feel comfortable and they “get you”.  If enough people who move here think that way and act that way, it will do the one thing that most people who love Hawaii are afraid of. It cancels culture.

Things ARE different here. Celebrate that. Dig in. Let go and leave as much of your stuff behind as possible. You will step into the door of a new life here much easier than simply moving your old life here and then start looking here for your old life. If I can offer 15 years of advice here..don’t do that.

There is a saying here, “If you loved your life so much on the mainland, and want to change what is here in Hawaii to reflect what you left, stay home.” This is being said louder and with more force now than ever by the local residents as the island is seeing such an influx of new residents who want to get away from COVID and can now work at home. Our island is pretty rural. That kept people away for a long time, now it has become the draw. Rural is not “modern minimalism” and Hawaii is not grey, white, black and silver.

This went from being about stuff, to design, to attitude. It’s all about the same thing. BEING HERE IS DIFFERENT AND AMAZING!

EMBRACE what is here, CELEBRATE the culture, LISTEN and WATCH to learn about the people and community and LET GO of the stuff you may bring here to change Hawaii. Let Hawaii change you. That is how you will be in concert with the island.

From 2015:

I posted this on my 365 Things to Do in Kona Facebook page and the responses were great. Here are a few:

“It’s so freeing to have “time…. not so much “stuff”!!! It’s only stuff!!! We live simple, with only what we love…and since moving to Hawaii Island, it’s getting to be less & less”

“Love this! One of my favorite things about living on this island is that I no longer feel the need to “keep up with the Joneses!” It’s so liberating!”

“We watch “Hawaii Life” here on the mainland. Fun show, but sadly many couples are still into stuff mode. Comments like “all our furniture won’t fit” or “when we entertain we need a big space”, and my favorite “there’s no storage space”. Always wonder if these folks make it there if they can’t leave that mentality behind.”

“I can’t wait to get rid of all our stuff when we are finally able to make the move! For me the best stuff I will leave behind are all my winter coats, boots, gloves!”

“As every life should be lived. American Indians believed that your possessions owned you, you didn’t own your possessions. You only keep as much as you can carry.”

Your comments are welcome!

(And if you want to learn more about being a good steward of the land, understanding the culture, living pono, showing Aloha, and being happy in Hawaii, join in on the Kona Newbies group and ask questions, come to community building events, get out of your comfort zone, give back to the community with your time and energy, read about the history and culture of Hawaii in books, at monuments, in brochures and pamphlets, and be a student of the island.)

Spread the word if you love what you heard! #365kona so we can say Thanks!

Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at 365Kona.com and MoveToHawaii365.com and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • Colin says:

    “Only as much as you can carry”. That is a liberating and minimalist place to start a new life.
    We have moved away from thinking about things and more appreciate experiences and time together.
    Great update Julie !

  • Jean Mabry says:

    Aloha Julie,
    Many years ago I began the process of only keeping that which I loved. I learned to take a photo of something that I really liked but no longer needed to keep, put it in my scrapbook with a note, and gave it away. Leaving the Island recently I was once again reminded of how expensive it is to transport “stuff”. We left most of it behind. I am not sorry. My family has the really special things, the rest are enjoyed by others. The Hawaiian lifestyle is the most wonderful one that I have ever experienced. I miss that but intend to continue to try to do my best to keep that in my life on the mainland. #threwawaymymascara

    • Jean-there is a freedom from being able to nimbly move along without the energy of your stuff being dragged behind you. I am writing my essay for my “Called to the Big Island” book and part of it deals with letting go of my stuff. There was nothing more painful, but more freeing than letting go. (and keeping honest about what I now take in!) Thanks for sharing!