Last week, I wrote about how little I owned when I was 18 years old and living and working as a teacher in the Fiji Islands. And I spoke about the possible link between the severity of irritable bowel symptoms and the clutter in our lives.
In the last year, I have had two chances to live with very little – one by choice and the other was thrust upon me.
I have travelled to many countries in the world and my husband and I used to take one check-in suitcase between us and small carry-ons. Now we only take two carry-ons with us and this saves us a massive amount of time when counted up over the whole holiday. No check-in queues, no waiting by the carousel for the luggage, no need to wait for a porter. But also no back strain when carrying them up and downstairs, to transport and off it. There is so much less stress all round when virtually everything you have fits into a small suitcase.
Last year, we travelled to Costa Rica, Guatemala and San Francisco. I packed two pairs of trousers, one pair of shorts, three tops, a fleece, two pairs of shoes, a small bag of toiletries, some underwear, my red silky pyjamas, my laptop for work and a camera. And remember that I was always wearing one set of clothes at any one time so there was very little to carry. I can honestly say that I never wished I had more. All my clothes were especially chosen to be quick dry so they could be rinsed out at night and would be dry by morning.
This year I am going to China, Mongolia and Russia and the only extra things I will take are one pair of evening trousers, two evening tops and a pair of evening shoes because I think there will occasions to experience the nightlife on this trip. The last trip was more rugged and finery was not required.
Now to the second occasion when I was forced to live with very little – my son’s horrific motorbike accident. Upon hearing what had happened, I rushed out of the house late at night in what I was wearing – trousers, polo shirt and fleece and drove the two hours through the rain to the hospital where he was lying immobile with a broken neck and multiple other injuries. I stayed by his side in a tiny hospital room for six days until we could take him home after a soul-destroyingly long but successful seven-hour operation.
My husband drove back and forward every day from home so he could continue running his business and was able to bring me a few more things. But it was astounding how little I needed. Clean underwear and a few tops, deodorant, a face cream, toothbrush and paste, some makeup and my laptop. That was it. I actually needed nothing else. I had a chair in the room that leaned back to become a kind of bed and a shelf where I kept the laptop and stood to use it. I took a couple of days off from work (my clients were very understanding) and then I was back running it from my laptop once I had some emotional energy back. Not once did I wish I had more clothes, more toiletries, more knickknacks around the room or even more space and the room was only a few metres by a few metres. When your son’s life is in serious danger, your needs are very few and nothing material really matters. It was almost liberating to have no possessions to worry about, no house to clean, no schedule to keep. If only the circumstances had been different, I might have actually enjoyed my stay there.
If you feel the overwhelm of too many possessions, too much clutter and a schedule that allows you no time to think, then join my FREE 10-day Declutter Your Life challenge, which starts 22nd May. It consists of five projects to de-stress your life. Register HERE and join us for ten days of productive fun.