My husband Chris and I spent six months hiking the Appalachian Trail, then in 2006 we sold most of our possessions (including our house and car) to spend a year traveling in Central and South America. Since then, we think twice (or maybe five times) before acquiring something new. To this day I think, “Do I really need it?” It’s a question that continues to linger even after assimilating back into society after all these years.
I overheard a blurb of a conversation on the street the other day. A woman said, “The desire or wanting of something is often greater than the actual acquisition of that same item.” To a point I agree. We obviously need certain things: food, clothing, and shelter, but our culture is a rich one and overindulgence is a tendency for many of us including myself. My intention here is not a political one at all, but rather a catalyst for awareness. Here are some tricks I use to keep myself in check:
Need vs. Want
I first ask myself, “Do I really need this?” If the answer is no – move on, quit thinking about it. We all know material possessions are not the key to our happiness, but what if you really, really love it… you know that thing that just radiates YOU, like it was made for you and you can’t get it out of your head? Well of course that happens, but check out the next step.
Out with the Old, in with the New
I do like getting new clothes, especially being an outdoor adventure enthusiast, which means I have a lot of specialized gear and clothes for all these exciting activities. However, when I get something new, I try to find something old to replace. For example, I just got a new winter hat for Christmas. Instead of adding it to the mix, I’ll get rid of an old itchy one that I kept holding on to thinking it will “do.” I no longer want it to “do,” I need it to keep me warm and to do so without driving me crazy itching my forehead! Get something new? Get rid of something old. It’s a simple formula to keeping the closet clutter free or full of things you don’t really like, want or need. (Of course if you shop at Athleta that’s not really a problem to begin with!)
When it comes to packing, Athleta has some great versatile, multifunctional pieces for traveling, but if you’re anything like me, it never fails… you try to be so careful when packing and you still end up with too much stuff! Sometimes I make it with only a carry on (hello Spring Tote). For other trips, I do have to check a backpack (the same old dirty backpack that’s been with me since the Appalachian Trail). The reality is you almost always wear the same things over and over again on a trip. C’mon… you know it’s true! Here’s a trick I use, after stacking the piles, just when you think you’re done, as you’re about to put it all in the bag… take one of everything out! That’s right, the same pile minus one tank, one skirt, one pair of pants, etc. Believe me, it will make a huge difference, lighten the load, plus make room for anything you may purchase (go back to step #1). Give it a try, chances are you won’t even miss it!
Another thing I do (which may be odd), is to take some clothing items you no longer want along with you (from step #2). If you’re traveling in a developing country, donate them. You may not want them any more, but they are probably still in good condition and would be appreciated by the locals. Not worth passing on? Take a few old pieces that you were going to throw away anyway, use them on your trip then throw them away at the end, freeing up a space for new treasures.
By the way, I mentioned backpack… yes, I use a backpack instead of duffel bags or wheelie bags. You never know when you’re going to have to walk a long distance (or even run). Ever arrived late somewhere or couldn’t get a cab? Personally, I just think it’s easier to throw it on your back, use human power and get some exercise! Plus you look cool – like a traveler instead of a tourist.
Stop, Think and Walk
While we’re on the subject of walking… it took us a couple of years to finally get rid of our other car (remember I said we gave one away in 2006). Finally a couple of years ago we sold the other car (that I adored, but that’s OK, I do not define myself by a car… I am not my car… I am not my car…).
Upon returning to the States we have lived in great cities like Chicago, Toronto, Philadelphia and now Montreal. It has been easy for us to not drive. In fact it’s more challenging to own a car in the city – looking for parking, paying to park, moving the car. Once I got rid of my beloved Saab, I felt so free… no more insurance, inspection, registration or parking. It was a weight that had been lifted. I felt lighter, like I could breathe! I know it sounds a little dramatic, but if you’ve ever gotten rid of something that was bogging you down, whether it’s bags of clothes, a car, or even a relationship, you probably know the feeling.
I know not everyone can just get rid of their cars, but what I will suggest is maybe periodically walking to run some of your errands. Need something from the store? Need to drop off the dry cleaning (greener cleaners of course)? Do you have to drive there or can you maybe walk? I’m not saying to do every single errand on your feet. Trust me, I know how difficult it is to walk even half a mile carrying too many heavy bags of groceries. I’m merely suggesting take a moment before jumping in the car every time you need to go somewhere. You’ll save on gas, get some fresh air and simply move your body!
What are your tricks to keeping it simple?