Just before I left Egypt, I sat at the edge of the Red Sea and cried.
Not because I knew I was leaving. I cried because I was going to jettison some more of my already sparse belongings, and I felt as if I were losing a piece of myself. I knew I was being ridiculous. After all, no one was forcing me into giving away half my belongings.
A few small boxes of my kitchen items remained in Cairo -- I was giving these to friends. But my personal belongings fit inside of a backpack, a 29' suitcase, and a 25' suitcase. In these three bags, I had piled all my clothes, my electronics, important papers, and personal mementos that I felt I could not part with.
When I first started downsizing by selling my house in 2013, I realized that my thoughts about myself were wrapped up in my belongings. My belongings had defined me. Oh, they had started out as a reflection of me, but somehow had morphed into defining me. I needed to figure out who I was out of context of the things that surrounded me. When stripped of house and home and furniture and STUFF--who was I?
As I cried, I realized that what I was mourning was a way of life that was safe and predictable. I was leaping again, into a new-ish life. One where I trusted that I would have what I needed, when I needed it, without worrying about carrying it. There is no way to carry everything you might need in one suitcase and one backpack, even when what you need is minimal.
But, like the proverbial eye of the needle, my bags were holding me back. How could I listen to spirit whispering ‘GO!’ in my heart, when my belongings were weighing me down? When my belongings in too-heavy bags determine where and how I travel, then I have too many things.
So I filled two black garbage bags with clothes that I hadn’t worn in a while. Anything I didn’t absolutely adore including some things I really did like went into the black bags. As I placed nice clothes and shoes in those bags, I got a bit of a giggle imagining Bedouin women finding them and wearing them beneath their black robes. I placed the bags near the garbage bin at the end of the lane, where goats typically forage for food scraps. I had seen several different people digging in these bins. The next day, the bags were gone. If you asked me now what I had given up, I would have a very hard time telling you.
With one large bag and one backpack, I headed to the USA for the summer.
I saw my son graduate from college. I did a bit of housesitting in Austin. Then, I traveled to Chicago to housesit for a friend who was in Australia. And along the way I began reducing again. This time, there were no tears. Only determination.
At my housesit in Austin, I left a heavy Yeti microphone and several sets of nice work clothes that I had been unable to part with on the last go-round.
In Chicago, I left a hat, a thick scarf, my beloved cowboy boots and a fabulous red raincoat that I had bought in Scotland.
The more you do something, the easier it gets.
There was a moment in Egypt -- I was traveling within the country just before leaving -- I had to leave my bags in the hallway of an apartment building because my hosts were not home yet, and there were several hours before they would return. I stood a long while considering if there were anything in the bags that I would regret losing if someone stole my large bag or my backpack when I left to eat lunch. I ended up walking away with my purse only—carrying my Macbook Air and two mementos of my youngest son. Those were the only items that would devastate me, if I lost them. WHen I returned everything was there. But that exercise has proven deeply reassuring
It feels good to value my life rather than my stuff.
Now, I have a wheeled 22’ suitcase that is small enough to fit into the overhead compartment of a jet. And my Osprey backpack.
I have no idea where I’m going next. But it feels good knowing that I can easily get there.