Each day that passes,
the sage discards another useless weight.
Finally all the accumulated burden
of a life spent seeking something
In its place is a lightness of being
and a clarity of seeing
that makes a heaven
of each moment.
Make it your daily discipline
to lay aside one little thing;
a tiny fear, a simple preconception,
a useless book,
a piece of household clutter,
a habit of avoidance, a bit of shame or guilt,
a desire that distracts,
even a good intention.
What will be left is Life Itself.
Usually busy with some off-grid adventure, farm chores, or work catch up on Saturdays, I don’t often find myself idle. I’d heard boredom can lead to creativity but it wasn’t something I’d practised. Still, one fine Saturday, the baby down for an uncharacteristically long nap, I found myself staring at the clothes in my closet.
Now, I’ve always had an odd fascination with the Go Bag (or the Bug Out Bag or the Good Bag = Get Out of Dodge Bag). Why, I don’t know. Either it’s a past life thing or something inculcated while growing up. Combine that with an admittedly unhealthy obsession with minimalism, the perfect condition of idle time and boredom, and you get someone aberrant enough to do the following.
Over the next 4 hours or so, I proceeded to organise the clothing, accessories, toiletries, gear, electronics, supplements, and vitamins – essentially the contents that I used for of of my life into 5 Bags.
- 1 weekend duffle bag containing clothes, supplements and workout gear for short weekends and work trips away.
- 1 60-litre hiking bag that included all my outdoor apparel and gear, including dried food and hunting supplies.
- 1 35-litre hybrid duffle backpack carry-on that included clothing for extended world travel to a myriad of destinations, climate conditions and activities (business included). Including supplements and workout gear.
- 1 20-litre canvas rucksack for motorcycle trips including warm layers protective gear, dry food and maintenance supplies for 1-2 night just about anywhere.
- And finally, 1 20-litre gym bag with clothing and essentials for indoor and outdoor workouts anywhere (including a change of clothes, just-in-case nutrition, and toiletries).
(If you want to read about my first blog in minimalism you can do so here )
All of this was organised into packing cubes, compression sacks and shoe bags. Inclusive of toiletries, supplements, ultra light weight rain jackets + compactable cold-weather jackets, underwear, socks, footwear, essential accessories like chargers, and some cash in two currencies.
With all my clothes and shoes so neatly organised in 5 bags that suited the normal flow of my life from home office to work trips, time in the woods and abroad, all that was left in my closet was a handful of clothes to wear at home. Those item I didn’t love or hadn’t worn in a year or more were given away.
While all this was happening, I was in a trance of sorts. Working almost from some instinctual subconscious wisdom of what I’d need where and when. It felt spiritual, almost ritualistic. It felt so good that the next day I organised my “Notes” on my iPhone, folders in my Google Drive (GDrive), unsubscribed from 50 email newsletters, archived unread emails, cleared the home office shelves, then the storage in the garage and my bookshelf in the bedroom and living room.
Piles and piles of things went to charity, and if my wife would have let me continue this rapturous cleansing, I would have stormed through each and every room in the house.
When Sunday night rolled around, scotch in hand, I felt a deep sense of clarity for the space I’d created and gratitude for what I had.
Feeling a tad philosophical, even savoir-faire, with the once overcrowded crevices of my brain now emptied, I contemplated what had just happened.
Here’s what came to mind
- I was reminded of a young man’s first shave in ancient Rome. An important event in a Roman’s life, young men would keep growing their peach fuzz until they reached the age of maturity. On their age of maturity birthday, they would shave while family and friends watched. The whiskers would then be placed in a special box and consecrated to a Roman deity. Preparing my 5 bags almost felt like an offering of sorts, maybe to the travel gods?
- On that same note, I couldn’t help but think fondly of the modern minimalist guru herself, Marie Kondo who said, “The act of folding is far more than making clothes compact for storage. It is an act of caring, an expression of love and appreciation for the way these clothes support your lifestyle. Therefore, when we fold, we should put our heart into it, thanking our clothes for protecting our bodies.” There was no question that during this process my heart was full of loving gratitude for what I was packing and how and where it would be used.
- We tend to overcomplicate things. Doing things as simply as possible is a natural destressor. Fewer clothes to choose from every day and no panic packing for a trip certainly equate to simplification. I was reminded to always ask what’s the simplest way you can approach the things you have in front of you? How can you make decisions with ease, instead of overthinking? How can I be more straightforward in communication — saying exactly what I want and stop adding extra meaning to things?
- Ever heard of Swedish Death Cleaning? It is the intentional and loving act of letting go and cleaning out items before you die so the ones you love aren’t left with the burden. It feels good to give and get rid of that which you don’t absolutely need and love. So, I remember to ask myself, if I didn’t already own this, would I buy it again? Make a practice of Swedish Death Cleaning.
- What if we didn’t celebrate things as a measurement of importance and dropped our obsession with being busy. Including overburdening and encumbering our brains with too many opinions from others and constant tech stimulation, things we don’t need or even really like What if, instead, we gave ourselves space to be, to move, to listen, to ponder, to observe and enjoy.
- How do I be deliberate about what I do and what I have. How can I do what is essential to me. Keep what is essential to me. Take a systematic approach that removes the unnecessary and creates more effortless ease and purpose in my life.
It’s entirely possible I expended too much meaning into one weekend bender of trying to organise the “things” in my life. That said, I can’t help but feel there is something to this essentialism practice that stretches beyond the practical. In the days, weeks and even month that followed, I noticed myself more relaxed, spending more time writing and cruising through work projects. Effortlessly, I caught up on a few documentaries and films I’d wanted to watch for eons, and spent much more present and focused time with my family. The things I’d organised hadn’t really stopped me from writing or family time; yet, as if by magic, the exercise opened space in my life to more — more precious and important things!