How does packing for a weekend trip, long vacation, or even a move make you feel? Are you an organized planner? Do you do a little bit each day for a few weeks or do you save it to the last minute?
Every traveler has to deal with the task of packing up their suitcase or backpack for their journey ahead. I am notorious for being a last minute over packer. I analyze every situation that might happen and why I just have to have that extra maxi dress. Not only has packing up this time called into question my packing habits but it also makes me question my relationship with material things in general.
After watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix I felt very inspired to try to cut down the amount of stuff in my life. I have lived abroad for almost three of the past four years post graduate school. I learned to live off of one suitcase or even a couple backpacks for year-long stints living abroad but I also have a walk in closet and a whole bedroom full of “stuff” waiting for me at my parent’s home in New York. When I came home from Australia for a visit after a year of living there I felt truly shocked and saddened by the amount of clothes I had just sitting there. In some ways it was really exciting because it was like going shopping in my own closet. There were so many things I forgot I even had but I still had a full suitcase full of stuff I had brought with me. What’s the constant need for new stuff?
I will never be a true minimalist. I like clothes. I like fashion. I think the way we present ourselves to the outside world is important. When I dress well, I feel good. I live a diverse lifestyle and have different wardrobes based on those roles I play. I have my “teacher” or professional clothes, my growing activewear collection and then my casual wardrobe. I struggle with this because I truly do believe in experiences over things. I would way rather buy a plane ticket than a designer hand bag. But when I am packing I realize that I am still part of this material world., I can’t decide how I feel about that. I have donated a lot of things but my ADHD and anxiety lead me to worry easily about freeing myself of too many things. What if I “need it”? I am sure many of you reading this can relate. How often do you ask yourself these types of questions? How often do you go shopping for new things that you “need”? How many things just sit in your closet untouched?
As my current chapter here in Australia is coming to an end, there is so much unknown in my future. Packing one suitcase for a trip to Bali, a move to New Zealand, and 10 weeks traveling with my boyfriend in America, Europe and a wedding in Greece is not an easy feat. I need clothes for different climates, roles and I can’t lie I enjoy looking fashionable and liking the outfits I put on. Packing up your life is very symbolic and I consciously notice how things I have bought or brought from home bring me certain sense of comfort or joy. I don’t claim to have the answers in this blog post, but I have a lot of questions. Questions worth asking. I don’t think we all need to get rid of all of our possessions and live a minimalist lifestyle but I think we need to constantly question our relationship with our worldly possessions and check in for what is bought out of necessity and what comes from a different place.
Looking back on my life, my travels, my favorite memories- they have very little to do with what outfit I was wearing and much more to do with who I was with, what we were doing, how I felt and how much we were laughing. I know that whatever you focus on grows, so when you focus on the parts of life that matter you get more intense, meaningful and joyful experiences and memories. If you allow your mind to be clouded by the distractions, you become a part of the rat-race and a slave to the materialistic constructed world that doesn’t serve our souls or make us feel satisfied.
But is it possible to have both? Can you enjoy your possessions, the finer things in life, and have a stylish diverse wardrobe that meets your needs while focusing on the experiences that matter and not being controlled or held back by your “stuff”?
I truly believe the answer is yes. But I am living my life as one big experiment. I don’t feel embarrassed by the fact that I don’t have the answers. I am positive I am one step ahead of the millions of women (and men) who don’t even call into question that they have 100’s of pairs of shoes and purses that they never wear and they literally buy new things every other day. I am proud I am consciously seeking the answers and continuing to explore the experience of being a soulful hippie at heart but a 21st century millennial in being.
As I leave Australia, with one big full suitcase, I realize that what I am truly “bringing” with me is so much more than something I can fit in my suitcase- the experiences of traveling, living abroad, ,making new friends, finding new hobbies, teaching people from all over the world, hiking and exploring nature, falling in love, deepening my passions, finding my voice and making hundreds of mistakes along the way can’t be rolled and sorted into ziploc bags or organized by category.
I told you this blog isn’t one that will give you tips, or tricks, or answers but I will leave you with some questions.
What is your favorite memory of the last month?
What is your favorite physical thing that you bought this month?
What is your favorite memory of the last five years?
What is your favorite physical thing you bought in the last five years?
Could you pack for a year in one suitcase? Why or why not?
How often do you donate your clothing and goods to charity?
Does shopping make you happy? Why does shopping make you happy?
What is the best thing (or experience) you ever spent money on?
If you had one week left to live and unlimited amount of money, what would you spend it on?
What are the most important things you believe a person can spend money on?
What are the top 3 things you actually spent money on last month? Do those two answers align?
How would it feel to have less stuff?
I was surprised by my answers. I will probably never be a minimalist but I surely know I can maximize my use of fewer material things in order to also maximize my chance for new experiences. I hope your answers will inspire you to at least become conscious of your relationship with your stuff and together, we can learn about and improve ourselves. One suitcase at a time.