"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."
~ Hans Hoffman
A couple months ago, a friend asked me to write an article or post about my “stuff”. Specifically, she wanted to know how I managed to pack my whole world into one bag and how I keep my things secure as I travel.
I wish I was traveling with only one bag, but I'm currently carrying two. One is a 38-liter backpack that was a too large for walking the Camino, but too small to carry my laptop and yoga mat and a few other day-to-day essentials. The other is a small suitcase that I pack the overflow in and use as a carry-on when I fly. I plan to pick up my larger backpack when I visit California this Spring, and trade in the suitcase for a daypack to carry my computer, phone and passport/wallet.
I also have four tubs of stuff in my sister's garage and a duffle bag with extra clothes in a closet at my mom's house.
The Stuff I Let Go Of
The transition from living in a three-bedroom house (and then apartment) to living "on the road" took a lot of planning and required that I either get rid of a lot of stuff or pay to store it. I'd spent years accumulating. I had bookshelves filled with books, kitchen cabinets stacked with dishes and cookware, a closet full of clothes, and a few rooms worth of furniture.
It took me almost an entire year to get my stuff down to a few tubs, a couple duffle bags, and a backpack. I sold some items on social media and hosted "bazaar" parties where I invited friends to purchase or "steal" my things. After one final garage sale, almost everything else was donated - except for my car (which I sold) and the documents and photos that I scanned and then backed up on Dropbox.
The Stuff I Kept
It's funny, but I'm no longer sure what I kept.
There are four tubs sitting in my sister's garage, but it's hard to remember what I put in them before I wrapped them in plastic and stacked them there.
What I believe is in there...a few treasured photos and scrapbooks, sacred items from my altar, my teaching basket and the brightly-colored dress I wore the weekend I taught my first Tantra class, camping and hiking gear that I might need for future trips, my good dancing shoes, books authored by or including stories by talented friends of mine, treasured jewelry pieces from family, and the lace gown I wore to dinner the night my daughters and I dressed up for dinner at the Eiffel Tower.
The Stuff I Carry
Clothes. Probably 75% of my luggage is filled with clothes, and I have to admit I went through a massive wardrobe change in January. I shipped home my sleeping bag and cold weather gear (sweatshirts, jackets, snow cap) to make room for shorts, tank tops, swimsuits, and yoga-wear. In the future, I intend to plan my trips in phases that require similar clothing and gear to avoid having to carry more than I need to accommodate changes in temperature and day-to-day activities.
Shoes. I have hiking boots, flip flops, slip-on tennis shoes, and a good pair of sandals that provide more arch support than the flip flops do.
What else? My laptop, phone and a few electronic accessories. Toiletries. A ziploc bag full of medicine - was glad to have ibuprofen and antibiotics when needed, but still haven't used the malaria pills or altitude sickness meds. A small pouch of jewelry. Journals and pens. Sleeping bag liner. And two yards of pretty blue and white cloth that comes in incredibly handy in unexpected ways (thanks Mom!)
How do I keep it safe?
Mostly by keeping it all with me. I use locks when I'm in a shared dorm and put my passport and credit cards in a safe when one is available. Otherwise, I just try to pick decent places to stay in decent areas and stay aware of my surroundings. So far, it really hasn't been an issue.
7 Things I've Learned by Letting Go of Stuff
Letting go of a lot of unnecessary stuff has given me perspective on what I actually need. Which isn't much.
Space constraints make it necessary for me to assess purchases differently, which also helps me spend less.
The stuff I carry with me reflects a lot about me. I still have my hiking boots and trekking poles, but most of my bag is filled with clothes for practicing and teaching yoga. I believe this is because my focus has shifted to a living a life more aligned with my values and more devoted to my spiritual practice. But don't worry...there are still mountains I want to climb and I'll post photos when I do.
I still have a tendency to accumulate "stuff" when I land somewhere for more than a week, which means I continue to give away whatever I don't need when I re-pack.
I still enjoy treating myself to a soft sundress or a pretty necklace. And why not? I deserve to treat myself to little things that bring me pleasure.
Having less stuff makes it easy for me to be flexible about my future plans.
Traveling light makes my entire being feel lighter.