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Traveling is beautifully tied to minimalism: you pack a fraction of your belongings and leave the rest of your stuff behind.
Packing for me used to be a nightmare. I was just commiserating with my parents the other night about how I used to take half of my toys, books, and stuffed animals along for every car ride when I was little. The privileges of being an only child squashed my ability to make efficient packing decisions. I used to want to have everything I love surrounding me, filling every nook and cranny of the back seat. I was never sure whether I’d want to color with crayons or markers, so I’d bring a big set of both. My troop of traveling stuffed animals finally got so out of control that my parents had to limit it to three, simply so they would be able to help me keep track of my fuzzy friends.
The attachment to my “keep busy” stuff carried all the way through college. I remember stuffing my backpack to come home for Thanksgiving weekends with so many non school-related books, magazines, whatever. My suitcase would be full of must-have clothes and then a few “just in case” outfits. Which I never ended up wearing.
I just got back from a week-long work trip to San Francisco. Though my love for travel is admittedly dwindling, there is something so satisfying about packing the minimal amount of stuff needed. It proves a lot about my own success with minimalism.
I fit all the clothes and toiletries I needed in one carry-on suitcase: two pairs of black pants, one pair of black shorts, two cardigans, a week’s worth of shirts, underwear, workout gear, sandals, makeup. Packing my suitcase was easy because I chose my clothes from the small collection I wear all the time. I didn’t have to spend a lot of time guessing whether something fit or not, or whether my outfits would look good together (my closet is a shocking mix of white, black and grey).
In my tote I packed the other stuff: laptop, chargers, Kindle, phone, Nalgene water bottle, vitamins, wallet, Moleskine notebook, pens, sunglasses. Again, easy. These are things that I carry around every day. Confession: I also packed my stuffed dog. Some things you never grow out of.
I’m not 100% sure when I started being able to pack less. Heck, I even remember a trip only a few years ago when I packed so much makeup that I could’ve been mistaken for a makeup artist.
If I had to guess, my ability to travel with less came after I moved back across the country from California to Pennsylvania. I purged a lot of belongings before I moved back.
Thinking about it more, I really started to pack less and have less in general when I became happier. No longer am I looking for my belongings to keep me busy. No longer do I need to have the perfect outfit to feel comfortable in a social situation. I’m able to accurately predict what I’ll need – or what I won’t need – in any given situation. And that feeling brings a sense of powerfulness in the form of control and composure.
Your turn. Think about packing for a trip. Think about how freeing it would be to bring the bare minimum with you. No overstuffed bags. No second guessing your wardrobe choices. No “just in case” items.
Let your mental image of your carry-on suitcase and personal item be the core of your reality. These are the things you need. The only things. (Except your people – your people are very important. Adams, I’m looking at you!)
Think about your imaginary suitcase and backpack again. People aside, you’re a whole person even without these things, but you do need to clothe yourself and be able to have the tools to make a living. Everything else is fluff.
Minimalism is about looking inward for approval and satisfaction. It’s being content with yourself. When you’re happy with yourself, you don’t need stuff to help you feel whole. Minimalism is a beautiful side effect of that.
Cover photo by STIL