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Packing "Light" as a lifestyle!

Ever since I first read "Europe through the Backdoor" ten years ago I have traveled out of either a backpack or a carry-on for all my trips to Europe and in America. I carried this over to my personal life and got rid of much of the excess baggage in my home. I have found this very liberating. My parents are 90 y/o and have had to move into a assisted leaving apartment this month and my parents grew up in the depression so they never threw anything away. It has been a nightmare trying to get my parents to sort through the things they want to keep and those to sell along with the house. My parents think I'm some kind of minimalist because I have pared my life down to those things that I need on a daily basis (I sold a 3-story estate home and 30 years of stuff I rarely used), but I can see now that for me it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I am lucky to be married to a wonderful person who loves to travel and she is even better than I am at "packing light". The funny thing is that a year ago my parents flew to Miami to visit my nephew and I convinced them to let me help them pack just a carry-on each for a ten day visit and when they came back they loved it.

"Packing Light" is a more than a way to travel, it is in many ways a life style. I think that is why I feel like many of the folks on this forum are kindred spirits!

Posted by
684 posts

Donald, I really agree. The more unused/unneeded stuff I get rid of, the better I feel; and it turns out that I don't need a whole lot. Besides the weight-off-the-shoulders thing, it feels like a way of resisting the sheer complexity of modern life, which for me is a big plus. Reading Rick on traveling light was a big shot in the arm for me, in that it helped me focus on what had been semi-conscious inclinations in that direction.

Posted by
8630 posts

Donald, absolutely right. Possessions are a burden and an anchor. We often go to estate sales and marvel at the stuff that people accumulate during their lives, to be pawed over and sold to strangers for pennies.

Posted by
7447 posts

Donald, I commend you for helping your parents. My parents also experienced the Depression, and when they passed away there was a full house & basement to sort through. Luckily, we knew several charities that could benefit, so several of their items are now helping others.

I teach Lean at work which aligns so well with Packing Light for travel and also for home - have only what you need in a specific location that's easy to access, etc. This mindset is also helpful when you have jetlag to know "the passport is always located here, my reservation is always located in this folder in this location" and certainly speeds up the process when it's time to pack up and move to the next location.

Enjoy your travels!

Posted by
630 posts

I remember my grandmother saying that we spend the first half of our lives accumulating "stuff" and the second half of our lives getting rid of the "stuff." LOL.

I am happier with less stuff in my life. I am constantly donating and/or selling things from my home. And I never miss the stuff once it's gone.

I have never travelled with only a carryon, but I am looking forward to it on our next flight.

Posted by
2531 posts

When in doubt, throw out (well, donate to a charity if still good).

Posted by
138 posts

In our little travel club, several of our members have found that there is a connection between packing light, down-sizing their lifestyle in general and travel. Two of our members have moved into smaller places and consequently ended up culling some of their possessions. This generated extra money from Craigslist, extra time because their places were smaller, and more $ for travel!

Posted by
503 posts

Donald, I totally agree that down-sizing is so very liberating. I'm not there yet, but working very hard to eliminate all excess clutter in my home. The older I get, the more I realize that possessions beyond the essentials are just things that need to be taken care of and tie you down. I have friends who recently sold their large 5 bedroom home where they raised their family, sold a ton of stuff, moved to a small cape cod house, bought a small condo in Florida and just travel back and forth between the two places at will. In both places all they have to do to leave is shut the front door as they head to the airport. That's my goal, to have so few possessions that I can just walk away.

Posted by
19167 posts

Packing light as a lifestyle? Fortunately I don't have to move my home every few days. So "packing light" at home is not my lifestyle. Every time I throw something out, I find I need it soon and regret it. How many times have I thought, "oh, I used to have one of those, what happened to it."

But traveling is a different story. I'm only spending a few days away from home and moving it all every few days. I find that a lot of things I can do without for a few days, and if I can't, I can buy them over there.

Posted by
3941 posts

Donald - I know where you are coming from. In 2013 my in-laws (mid - 80's) moved to seniors apartments. It was left to their son (an only child) and me to go thru years and years of stuff. There were broken toasters, coffee pots and other kitchen appliances, so many books, even a laundry hamper full of plastic bags and pieces of plastic sheeting. Old shoes and clothes, ornaments that they didn't care for, bed linens they never used - it was overwhelming. We filled a dumpster full of stuff. Some ended up in storage for 6 months. I sold some stuff on ebay and some at yard sales, donated to the Salvation Army and local workshop for disabled adults. And some is still in OUR basement. Some of the things in my f-i-ls workshop tool boxes haven't even been gone thru yet - it's too daunting.

I fear my husband has the same mindset - I cannot tell you how many books (that he hasn't read for years), sci-fi and woodworking magazines (that he hasn't read for years) and many other things that I keep trying to get him to pare down. He did finally discard some of the sci-fi mags and every year I get him to pick out a dozen books to donate for the local book fair.

My other worry as well, is only a few months after my in-laws moved into the apts, my father-in-law passed away...and so much of his stuff is STILL there - the furniture, records, books - I shudder to think what will happen when my mom-in-law passes - what are we ever going to do with everything. I try to get my husband to pare it out a little at a time, but it's hard. I don't want us to have to pay $100 or more a month to put all this stuff in storage until we can figure it out. (God willing, it'll be years before this happens).

On the other hand, my mom seems to have embraced minimalism - almost to the other extreme of barely hanging onto anything. I don't even give her ornaments anymore for holidays as I know in a few years I'll find them in her yard sale box. I could probably move her into our basement and she would barely take up any room with what she has!

Posted by
14244 posts

Donald and Nicole, I completely understand. Clearing out a home is so difficult. My brother and I did this 2 years ago and it was exhausting. You really have to go thru everything. Sometimes it was like those little Russian nesting dolls....a metal Band-aid box carefully set on a shelf in a cabinet, inside an old tobacco tin or sucrets tin, another something in that and then finally....a paperclip. or a screw. Dad! What were you thinking. I do have to say I got completely overwhemed at the end and now I've got a bunch of stuff in my basement that I need to go thru. The things that stump me are the things that are not really appropriate for a charity shop but no local resources for selling them such as silver vegetable dishes or cut glass celery dishes (from 1948...their wedding presents!)....neither my SIL nor I are in to that kind of entertaining.

Having to go thru that process definitely changes your outlook and yes, can help lighten your own load. There are a couple of website with similar ideas, one for clothing is Project 333 (33 items of clothes for a 3 month time frame) and The FlyLady who encourages people to declutter for 15 minutes a day among other things. She is a hoot!

Posted by
21 posts

Pam, that fancy silver and crystal is just the sort of thing to either sell through eBay or take to a consignment shop in an upscale neighborhood. If you have to deal with a complete set of china or crystal glasses or sterling knives and forks, check out Replacements LTD. They will often buy these things from you.

The question to ask yourself is, "Do I really want to saddle my kids with sorting through all this when I die or have to move to assisted living?" My parents were Depression-era, but my dad was in the Army. All that constant relocating forced them to get rid of tons of stuff every few years. So when we cleaned out their apartment, there really wasn't a lot of useless junk. And what a relief that was!

But paring down is essential, both for traveling and for living. My husband brags that I travel the lightest of anyone he knows. My small rolling backpack always contains my full-size favorite bed pillow in addition to the usual clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc. I truly cannot see the value in owning 40 pairs of shoes, or jewelry I don't wear, or designer purses.

And people who own tons of stuff probably have no idea how to pack light. They don't "live light."

Posted by
3941 posts

Oh goodness...don't get me started on the cut glass bowls and plates. I have been trying to yard sale and flea market them with almost no success. I've seen some people 'up cycle' them and take varying sizes and glue them together, making little fountains and bird feeders. And I've seen some nice bird feeders made with tea cups if you are crafty.

China can be another matter. The set my m-i-l had was one that was popular but hard to find on eBay. I sold the teapot alone for about $350. Probably sold it for about $1500 one or two pieces at a time. But there is a lot of china that goes for almost nothing. Sterling silver can sell well, but silver plate...ugh...forget it. And the sad thing is, some of these things were items they got for their wedding and have sentimental value, but no room at the apartment. And I don't just want to give it away, but I also don't want to be overwhelmed and keep it as it has no meaning. As for other family, most of my husbands cousins live very far away, and the one who lives close by...her mom passed away in 2012 and she faced the same task we did (an only child and a mother with a household full of stuff). I think she still has a storage unit full.

And hubby and I don't have children, so we don't even have anyone to pass all this sentimental stuff on to. I don't envy whoever will have the job of cleaning out when we are gone (but trust me, if hubby goes before I do, a LOT of stuff is going bye bye). But even with all our stuff, we still manage to only travel with a carry on and personal bag each when we travel overseas!

Posted by
2349 posts

Nicole and Pam- I know you don't think you need anything else in your house, but you could both use this book:

Roz Chast

Posted by
14244 posts

Carol, living where I live in upscale neighborhoods unfortunately! I had looked at the Replacements place to sell her sterling flatware and may go thru with that soon!

Nicole, I'm dumping the full set of china on the daughter of a cousin. Of course I will have to drive it from Idaho to TN to drop it off, lol!! Yikes! I'll make it in to a genealogy trip! I could use her pressed glass for craft projects, but I am sure I could not use the cut glass dishes, the depression glass or the collectible glassware from my grandmom for that kind of stuff. I probably need to get over that.

Thanks for commiserating. It makes me feel better!

editing to add: Karen that looks terrific! And it's on Kindle, lol. Somehow it is easier to get rid of electronic junk than other stuff!

Posted by
3259 posts

I think one needs to use the same concise skills decluttering, particularly parents' homes, as when packing light. My brother and I emptied my mother's house in 2 days. 1. pick and move the items you are claiming. 2. Have obvious friends/cousins pick up anything they want immediately. 3. Have a charity truck take away what they want. 4. The rest goes in the trash. Done. Don't get bogged down with minutia. So, yes, I guess traveling light is a life style or a mental attitude. And as my parents passed when I was in my thirties, I learned that at a younger age than others. Don't bother collecting, because your kids will just junk it! But, even so, no matter how light we get, it seems continuing culling is necessary as junk accumulates.

Posted by
544 posts

My 9th grade history teacher had a book called "Material World" that shows families in the early 90s out in front of their houses with a lot of their belongings displayed along with them. It's shocking how much stuff the US family had compared to all of the other families around the world.

Posted by
67 posts

I'm not sure which came first - packing light or simple living - but they are definitely connected in the way I live. My closet has been purged and pared down and this has helped tremendously when it comes time to pack for a trip. Most of my clothes are mix and match and easy care. Not "travel" clothes, but things I wear regularly and feel comfortable in. I thought I'd be bored with fewer choices but found that I am much less stressed in both my daily life and in my travels. I can grab anything out of my closet and put it on or into a suitcase and head off on a new adventure knowing I will be presentable and comfortable. Who cares if I wore the same black sheath dress out to dinner on last year's trip? It is well made, fits me perfectly and I have a new scarf to jazz it up.