Decluttering with Astrid (4)

Traveling is a good test for the “declutterer”. Astrid, together with Irene the founder of Flow Magazine, went on a trip. Each Tuesday she writes about decluttering.

Recently, Irene and I travelled to New York together for Flow. Even though it was a business trip, it was lots of fun, because we had never thought we would end up giving a talk at Barnes and Noble on 86th Street to the American readers of our magazine. We had booked ourselves an apartment via Airbnb that belonged to a lovely lady, practiced our presentation in English with a tutor called Andy, and made some business appointments with publishers.

Irene and I travel together frequently, and we both have our own funny little quirks. Mine is that I’m always afraid I’ll lose my suitcase, which isn’t that crazy when you come to think of it, judging by the experience my colleague Jolanda had when she visited Italy this summer. So: hand luggage it is, and that means less stuff – a good test for the “declutterer.” The nice thing about going on a trip is that I come to realize that I don’t actually need so much stuff to get on in life. In fact, it’s enough just to have my e-reader, phone, sketchbook and earphones. Plus some clothes, a toothbrush and a hammam cloth, of course. The latter can be used in so many ways: from a bathrobe to a towel and from a sheet to a curtain. And all of these things can be easily crammed into a small case.

This summer, Aquico, the editor who made the Japanese book about Flow and who we met last year in Tokyo, came by to visit us at Flow headquarters. She was traveling from Australia to Malaysia, via stopovers in Berlin, Vienna and Paris. She walked into our office with a small shoulder bag and pulling a compact little black case with just two fingers. That was it; that was all she had with her for a three-month tour around the world. We were deeply impressed.

In her book, You Can Buy Happiness, Tammy Strobel also says that traveling light is a sure-fire way to find out the true meaning possessions have in your life. She praises the sense of freedom you have in your mind when you travel and attributes it partly to the fact that you literally have no luggage with you, as well as the fact that you are not weighed down by the amount of stuff you have collected and surrounded yourself with at home. Could you really feel that same sense of freedom in your head if lived in a “lighter” house?

Anyway, the moral of the story is this: when you’re traveling, it’s a good time to have a long hard think about your possessions, because you obviously don’t need them all – all those thousands of bits and pieces that have taken over your home. You can easily make do without them for three days, three weeks or even – like Aquico – three months, and still feel okay about it. Oh, and one more good thing about the small case is that you don’t have any space left for souvenirs, which means, no more new stuff to clutter the place up. And should you come across something truly worthwhile having, then do as Aquico did when we gave her a stack of paper goodies: post it back home.

“Week 4: a trip with nothing”