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  • Writer's pictureShan

Living big with a little less

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

I have just been reunited with my wardrobe. For almost two months I have been living out of a carry-on suitcase and I'm just now getting reacquainted with my clothes.

When I packed that little suitcase, I wasn’t sure quite how long it would be for... It turned out to be almost three months. Inside I had all the basics to make up a fairly simple but warm winter capsule wardrobe. There wasn't a great deal of variation. I wore the same pair of boots every day. (God bless you Dr. Marten, you glorious bastard.)

For many people the idea of living with so little for so long is hard to fathom. Had I not experienced it, I probably would have felt the same. But I quickly learned you don’t miss what you don’t have. Now, I find myself questioning whether I really need all these extra ‘things’.

It’s no coincidence that I am living lean on stuff. One of the primary drivers that propelled me to make the decision to leave South Africa was watching the documentary, ‘Minimalism’ in 2017. I was on the fence until I saw that film. The idea of living simply, but meaningfully struck me to my core and I knew right away that that was what I wanted. To be flexible and mobile. To simplify my life so that I had more time and energy to focus on what I truly loved and cared about.

And so, we pretty much sold or donated everything we owned before we left. It was brutal and time consuming. And emotional. And we didn’t even have that much stuff compared to some people. If only Netflix had released Tidying Up with Marie Kondo a few months earlier, it would have saved me a LOT of trauma.

We sold stuff. We donated stuff. We had a ceremonial fire where we toasted as we torched two black bags full of letters from my high school boyfriends.

In the end we left with a backpack each and one communal larger wheelie bag for some of our bigger items (which we ended up cursing).

What we’ve learned in the process is that traveling light really allows you to assess the value of everything in your life. And by extension, to actually LIVE in the moment. (It also makes you infinitely more prepared for the zombie apocalypse).

Once all our ‘stuff’ was gone, we naturally began to question, how much we really valued the things we were left with? After that it became, 'am I happy with the choices I made?' Then, the surprising but inevitable question became, 'am I happy with this person I am?'

As soon as I was no longer consumed with working to acquire more, I found I had more time, energy and desire to focus on developing myself and investing in my creative pursuits.

The challenge then became, remaining conscious about everything we added to our baggage. Whenever we bought something new, we'd ask ourselves whether we really needed it, whether it would bring more joy or value to our lives or whether there was something we could get rid of in its place.

Soon, I stopped feeling guilt about not owning certain things. I no longer felt envy for not owning things other people owned. I enjoyed and treasured every single thing I owned. And my clutter-free existence gave me more peace than I have ever known.

But the real challenge is to keep your life minimal. Sale signs scream at you from every street corner, no longer over designated ‘seasons’, but every day. There’s always a reason to spend. And so, it takes conviction to not fall into the trap and once again become an unwitting, unthinking consumer. It takes discipline and consciousness but the reward is great.

While it’s not always practical to live out of a carry-on suitcase, I recommend everyone try it for a while. Enjoy the simplicity that it gives you and remind yourself of how little you really need to be happy. If I go back to the day I watched that film back in 2017, it’s the final words that stuck with me and continue to keep me focused on a simple lifestyle, “Love people and use things because the opposite never works”.

If you're at all interested in Minimalism, I would recommend checking out the following people / sources:

The Minimalists (You can listen to their weekly podcast / watch their videos on Youtube /read their book / watch their movie)

Joshua Becker - Becoming Minimalist (His FB page and blog are full of awesome tips and articles about living minimally - especially with a family)

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