The Things We Carry

On Saturday, June 28, I stood in the foyer of the K & K Picasso hotel in Barcelona. I watched as my boyfriend’s brother Stewart stapled paper luggage tags to the suitcases he, his wife, his three children, and his mother brought with them for the twelve-night cruise upon which we were about to embark. I was stunned by the size and number of their bags–some taller than small children. And much wider. I tried to count them all but got distracted after I reached sixteen. Sixteen bags (or more). For six people. Three of whom were between the ages of 10 and 15 (which means they have smaller clothes than us adults). And it’s summer. (Summer clothes fold up much smaller than winter clothes.)

I was very curious as to what was in these bags. It was a twelve night cruise. Even if they wore a different outfit every day, and every night, I still couldn’t figure out what took up all that space. I wanted to ask, but I’d only met them the night before and didn’t think it appropriate to quiz them after just a few hours together. 

“Where are your bags?” my boyfriend’s mother asked me. 

Me and My Luggage

“Well, one is right there,” I said, pointing to my red carry-on bag which now stood in the midst of all the other bags like a dwarf in a forest. “And my backpack is over there,” I said, pointing out my 30 liter pack. 

“That’s it?” she asked. “For twelve nights?” 

“That’s it for three months.” I said, reminding her Michael and I arrived in Europe more than a month earlier and were staying for another five weeks after the cruise. She looked at me: her lips tight, her brow furrowed, not quite sure what to make of this woman she’d met less than twenty-four hours ago. I got the feeling this was not the time for a discussion about my minimalist efforts of the last ten years.

A few days earlier, while waiting for Michael to finish packing, I read with great fascination Ryan Nicodemus’s 21-day plan to minimize his life. Actually, it wasn’t the whole plan that drew my attention, but one thing in particular: the packing party. On Day 3 of his plan, he invited all his friends over to help him pack up everything he owned, as if he was moving out. Except he wasn’t. 

Over the next few days, if Ryan needed something, he found the box it was in (as all boxes were neatly labeled with their contents) and took it out. The idea was that anything he hadn’t pulled out by a certain time probably wasn’t something he needed anymore. He pulled items out each day until Day 10, when he found everything he needed was already out. 

I don’t propose everyone do this. Well, actually, I do. But I think the idea would overwhelm most of you. However, it is a great way to declutter a room. Or just a closet for that matter. Pack up all your clothes. When you wake up, decide what you want to wear and pull it out. Do this for a few weeks and you’ll start to eye things in those boxes that you know you’ll never wear again. Things you haven’t worn in years. Let them go. And that’s just your summer clothes. Do the same thing each season, pulling out what you need and donating or selling everything else. 

But me? I like minimalism challenges. And after reading Ryan’s post, I realized that, at that very moment, everything I owned was packed. It wasn’t all in the same country. Or the same state. But it was all packed. Two bags with me in Europe. Boxes of everything I’d used (or not) over the last two years were in storage in Asheville. Things I hadn’t touched in more than three years were packed in boxes in my parent’s barn in Poughkeepsie, New York.

And that’s when the idea struck. 

 Guess what I’m going to do upon my return to Asheville in August? And during my visit to New York in September? Hopefully, by the time Michael and I head off for another three-month adventure, I’ll have lighter bags (maybe even fewer?) and less stuff packed away around the world.  

5 Comments Add yours

  1. patb2014 says:

    awesome!…I hope that you enjoyed your time with Michael and his family on the cruise…Did you find out WHAT was in those bags? Keeping it simple…peace and good…pat

  2. Terrific post, Rebecca. I love this idea, though you are right, packing up all of my stuff would overwhelm me. A lot. Still… a closet or two to start with would be a great project. And I also want to know what was in the bags. Did you find out? 🙂

    1. No, ladies. I never found out the contents of all those bags. But I see the family again in October so perhaps I’ll have the nerve to ask then!

  3. Dawn says:

    Love this post! Although I have not made plans to have a packing party, I think that the idea is brilliant! I’m living the minimalist life by spending a year in a studio apartment. Also a great way to learn what you truly need. Your posts are inspiring!

  4. Peggy says:

    I have a lot of work to do, Rebecca, on what will be a minimalist way for me. But I am trying. Thanks for being so steadfast in your determination.

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