Travel Minimalism

minimalist-pinMinimalism, it seems, is very hot these days. It’s paring down your possessions into only what’s really needed and purging your home, office and life of items that are not deemed necessary.

I’ve been reading many websites devoted to this subject and the advice they give ranges from sensible to the ridiculous. Some show how to donate, sell or trash items that have not been used for a long time. Others, try to make it a competition as in: “I only own 50 items.” (The latter is pretty ridiculous to me.)

As I was reading, it became apparent than most of these blogs were redundant. They said the same thing and very little I didn’t know or couldn’t figure out with common sense.

Was I that knowledgeable or was it something else?

And then it  hit me–I was already practicing minimalism. Travel Minimalism. I, along with many of you, have figured out how to travel, sometimes weeks at a time, with only one small carry-on bag.

Think about it. How many strange looks do you get from friends or colleagues when you tell them you’re traveling with just that small bag? They look confused, surprised and in many cases want to know the secret.

It’s no secret; we just take what we need and nothing more.

Hmm….isn’t that the concept of minimalism in general? Only own what you really need.

During the Christmas holidays, I marked ten years living in my current home. In ten years, I accumulated a lot of stuff. And even though I’ve had clear outs in the past, there is still a lot of stuff. Stuff that has to be gotten rid of.

I tried a little experiment. I went around the house with a pack of colored post it stickers and put them on the items I wanted to keep when I move out in three months. Items that would go into a small storage unit. Items that would fit in the wheeled storage trunks and lockers I had.

With each item I asked myself…..have I used it in the last six months? If yes, do I use it enough to keep it or can it be easily replaced? Does it have any sentimental value? Will getting rid of it have any negative effect on my life?

When I was done with the first room, I looked at my pack of post it stickers and was shocked. I had used only a few. Then I did another room and the same thing happened.

I never thought of myself as a big consumer, a lover of “stuff.” But apparently, I got caught up like almost everyone else with buying things I didn’t really need.

Don’t get me wrong, if you love owning things and believe shopping is a pleasant experience, then continue to live your life that way. There is no right or wrong.

But, if deep down, you’re like me, and would much rather spend your money on life’s experiences rather than stuff, why not do a clear out of your own. Not only will you get rid of “stuff,” but you’ll find life somewhat easier as well. As I clear things away, my life seems to be clearing up as well. I feel lighter and have more energy since I have less to maintain.

There is, however, one area that is very difficult for me to purge. My travel closet. It’s full of travel related items such as bags, accessories, gadgets, and the like. It’s my favorite group of stuff. But that’s a discussion for another post.

During the next few months, I’ll talk more about purging your stuff for a full time trip and go into detail on how I got rid of things and decided what to do with them. I’ll also discuss replacing older items with newer ones that might make life, and travel, easier. (Think e-reader rather than a load of books as an example.)

In the meantime, enjoy the late, great George Carlin and his riff on “stuff:”


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7 Responses to Travel Minimalism

  1. Paula Bag Lass says:

    I love that Carlin routine.
    When we bought our brand new house nine years ago, I laid down the law that we were to get rid of junk BEFORE we moved and to only keep items that we use frequently or periodically. Seasonal holiday items used once a year being the exception. It started out so well……………
    It has been a valiant battle but I’m married to a collector and pile maker…….I keep losing.
    I can turn a blind eye to the huge model train layout and thousands of accessories in the basement. The piles of ‘things’ that suddenly appear upstairs are my bugaboo. Quite honestly, if the house caught fire, I would probably be caught jumping up and down with delight.
    Oh and my Kindle is the best thing I’ve ever owned and it is fast becoming my portable library. I’ve managed to give away loads of books in the two years I’ve had it. My book shelves are looking wonderfully empty.
    Stuff collects dust, causes chaos, looks unruly and clutters the mind, it makes me want to run screaming in the direction of……away!
    I am in awe of your plan Frank and your pending liberation.

  2. Steven Shytle says:

    That travel closet is not the failure of minimalism but why it should be pursued. Reduce what you own to that which is needed and important to you. The important can be memories, hobbies, and passions.

  3. JL says:

    I am a minimal traveller but not a minimalist at home! There’s almost a cleansing element to travelling lightly in those circumstances. And Paula, I agree that the tablet/e-reader is the best thing to happen for light travellers in years! Not only do I not know how I ever functioned before I had an iPad, now that I have a 128Gb iPad mini, I don’t know how I managed with only 64Gb of capacity before! 🙂

  4. Christine says:

    I love the idea of post its! I was just thinking yesterday how much more I could pare down my possessions (probably because I’ve been planning a trip where I truly have to consider each and every thing!). I’ve lived in my place 8 years, and while I have to continually clear out a bit because of how small my place is, there is always room to improve. I’m still looking for that sweet spot of having just enough. Sometimes having too little can make me go into a mode of where I think I need to buy more–so I try to avoid getting there! But I surely have a ton of things I never even so much as look at. I am going to do your post it trick this weekend!

  5. hazygirl says:

    I too aspire to being minimalist…owning only those things I need. We have down-sized from 3400 square feet, to 1900 square feet, to 850 square feet in the course of 8 years. We have purged a lot, but still have a long way to go.

    I don’t consider sites that enumerate a person’s possessions as ridiculous. I think there is value in doing a complete inventory of your possessions, if for not other reason than to know where you are starting from when you begin your purging project.

    But I have yet to find one that counts items in the same way that I would. Most don’t include household goods. Rather they only count their personal possessions. They count all socks and underwear as one. Some don’t count accessories such as cables and charging units. It strikes me that most of what they aren’t including in the count are the very things that often cause the most clutter. For these reasons I consider most of these possession-counting sites as bogus.

  6. Graham says:

    I’ve always approached decluttering with the question “what can I get rid of?”, but I love your opposite approach of asking what you want to keep. Sounds so logical when you read it quickly, but is a radical change in mindset.

    When looking for things to get rid of its too easy to be indecisive or not be drastic enough. It can take mental effort to justify getting rid of something. The opposite approach – deciding that everything must go and identifying what you need to keep – puts the onus on items to justify their existence.

    I’ve got heaps of post-it notes (hoarded) and now feel motivated to label those things I can convince myself I really need to keep. I suspect there will be a lot left unlabelled!

  7. Maggie says:

    Just finished reading Stuffocation (James Wallman) and have been inspired to step off the consumerism rat race and venture more into the experiential one (one foot firmly there already). Alleviating the burden of ‘stuff’ daily.