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Even though I consider myself to be an advanced home minimalist, my achilles heel has always been travel.
Once I start packing, my old Hoarding Gremlin perches on my shoulder whispering an endless list of what I’ll ‘need’ for just in case scenarios.
The Hoarding Gremlin follows me wherever I go, constantly tapping my shoulder and whispering ‘Are you sure you’ve got everything?” Where’s that charger gone? “What a mess!” “Why were you not more prepared?” “What if you feel cold?” “You might get hungry”.
No matter where I’m going or how long for; a day, a weekend, or a week, the Hoarding Gremlin ensures I’ll pack like it’s the coming of the apocalypse.
My packing behaviours have always driven my husband mad. Not only does my excessive prepping to go anywhere slow us down immensely, up until recently I was truly convinced I needed my colouring book, my Kindle, a paperback, my Macbook, and my Nintendo Switch to visit his parents. Not to mention toys and other ‘essentials’ for my toddler daughter.
After a long day, I’d come back from these trips and realise I hadn’t used even half of what I’d packed, then have to put it all back despite wanting to relax.
When I think about it, a lot of my over-packing tendencies likely stem from childhood.
As a child, I regularly went on holidays to Spain and to Great Yarmouth in the UK, but preparing to travel anywhere with my parents was always this huge event. At first, it was exciting, but the closer the holiday got, the more on edge everyone was about having everything packed. And we couldn’t wear certain clothes which were destined for the suitcase which caused a few arguments.
Everything for every possibility got crammed into suitcases and hand-luggage. Even if I was going to Spain and the temperature was going to bake us, I had to pack some warmer clothes just in case (probably a side effect of living in the UK where summer can be cool and wet or hot and dry).
I would also bring all of my handheld game consoles, a selection of games, colouring pencils, books, and all of my toiletries in their original full-size containers. And when I got older, I started packing even more stuff including my journals, my camera, my hair straighteners, and jewellery.
Waiting for the airport’s luggage carousel to bring our luggage to us was a huge pain, all while anxiously wondering if it had been lost or stolen or if my stuff might be broken.
If going via car it was like a game of Tetris, packing seemingly half the house into the boot and behind car seats, yet still worrying we might have forgotten something.
Arriving at our destination was exhausting because everything was so heavy and cumbersome. We constantly stressed that we might accidentally lose our stuff, and then we had to unpack it all before we even started exploring.
Going back home was the same ordeal, only with the added challenge of fitting whatever souvenirs we’d bought into our bags, or trying to get away with a couple more bags on top of what we already had.
I remember one holiday to Spain where we’d bought bags of souvenirs for our family back home, only to forget them on the coach and never see them again. Mum was devastated.
Looking back, it was a lesson in disguise that we never needed all that stuff to begin with. Our family was just as happy to see us without the gifts. But it would be another 25 years before I discovered minimalism and realised that in our quest to escape the stress at home and relax, we were actually carting it with us and cramming it into compartments.
Why did home have to be so stressful anyway?
Only in the past couple of years, have I understood that I was packing so much because I was afraid of boredom. I also had that old military-like packing behaviour drilled into me from every childhood excursion. My belief was that you couldn’t have a holiday without being prepared and having access to all your home comforts.
So engrained were these beliefs that the very thought of leaving 90% of my stuff at home caused my heart to race.
Even now, on a holiday to the seaside my mum packs the wall clock, an iron, a frying pan, and half the kitchen utensils in case they don’t have any where they’re staying.
After experiencing minimalism at home for so long, I decided I don’t want to live like that anymore, my life being orchestrated by my stuff and the anxiety attached to it. I don’t want to be weighed down whenever I want to see the world. Nor do I want to come back and spend hours washing clothes and unpacking.
I want my holidays to be about relaxing, fun experiences, being able to breeze around like a feather in the wind. So for the past few months I’ve been practising by going to my in-laws while only packing one thing for myself, or sometimes nothing but my phone. I’ve also dramatically decreased what I bring in my daughter’s changing bag.
Going out and returning home has been so much lighter and more effortless.
My husband and I haven’t been on a family holiday in years, partly due to the pandemic, and partly because of a lack of motivation to book anything. But over the past year I’ve been aching for a holiday, and when we finally go, my aim is for my own stuff to fit into a backpack, or for all of our stuff combined to fit into one suitcase.
Holidays are about sights and experiences, we can cast off our weight and make room for freedom and joy. Some people find they love the lifestyle so much, they become nomads.
What could you experience without the weight?