We all have stuff in our lives that we say that we "need". But when it all comes down to it, what do we really NEED? Of course the basics; food, water and a roof over our heads. I recently went on a trip to another country and realized that although I packed very little, I still packed too much.
I've traveled a lot in my 36 years. I have traveled and visited almost every province in Canada, either for work or pleasure or both. I've been to many US states as well as Cuba, Mexico and Thailand. I've even moved and lived on either side of this huge country and traveled with little then.
This past week-end I packed up my children and went to spend our long week-end at a the cottage of a family friend. Now this cottage is not your typical run down shack in the middle of no where. It is a work in progress, almost a house. The structure itself is beautiful. Big windows along the front with a sofa facing the lake. The property is a blend of unkempt greenery and bush mixed with small gardens that Margot loves to tend to. The fire pit is often roaring at night and the dock and the water are heaven. All of this beauty and tranquility got me back to thinking what do I really need?
When I am at the cottage I prefer a full nature experience so I always sleep in a tent. I love my bedroll and sleeping bag and waking up to the cry of the loons. I did not enjoy being woken up at 6am to the loud squawking of the crows - but something must have been going on. I like my tent, it is the roof over my head. It protects me from weather, bugs and other animals I am sure. So this leads me to believe that some sort of roof over my head is necessary. I've even enjoyed camping in the winter time and am just as content and warm in my tent then as I am in the summer. So roof, check!
Clothing is also necessary in both our climate and our culture. This is an area that I often struggle with. I have way too many clothes. I've flip flopped in my travels between bringing too much, not enough and just right. I once spent an entire month traveling with just a carry-on and my lap top for work. I switched between the two suits I had and various blouses or t-shirts for my meetings and did just fine. Of course I have also traveled to Vancouver to visit friends and they all laughed at me as I looked like I was moving in and I was only there for 5 days, I just wasn't sure what kind of trip it was going to be. Traveling to Mexico, Cuba and Thailand I brought just enough. One extra swim suit, a couple of extra t-shirts or tanks and a sweater and pair of jeans for night time. Nothing crazy!
Then there is what I pack for the cottage. I always pack too much for the cottage. Of course I need my bathing suit - but do I need 2 or 3 No! I think I bring extra because I am in my car and there is room for extra. I don't need to worry about weight and space. I still end up wearing the same ratty t-shirt, the same pair of shorts or skirt and the same swim suit the whole time. I barely even brush my teeth! I often forget to pack a hair brush and am lucky if I even take my swim suit off to sleep. I still return home with most of my packed items still at the bottom of my bag, untouched. Why do I do this, why do I even own half of this stuff. Why do I think I need to bring it, why do I even think I need it.
So I am cleaning house! I have very recently gone through my drawers of clothing and have one bag ready for donation. I dropped a box of children's clothes off to a local family who just had their fourth child and I plan to go through my stuff again this week-end. I know there's more I can get rid of. I am having a garage sale this week-end and have been sorting through my things for weeks. It all just really is too much. I need winter clothing as it is -35 here in the winter and I need summer clothing as it is +35 here in the summer. Of course the middle ground. I just need to chuck the old clothes that I never wear, the stuff my mom gives me because she never wore it and the things that I no longer fit because they are too big or too small. Don't wear it, don't love it, don't need or want it... off it goes!!
I love that when I travel be it a short distance to camp or cottage or a long distance for work or vacation I am almost always given perspective on what I have in my life and what I need. I often return home and want to light my house on fire and get rid of more than half of the things in my house. I know that I can't do that, I have children and a full life. We do need some things to survive in our culture. I still think we have too much. I know that the work in progress is just that and always will be. I work towards having and acquiring less and slowly riding myself of useless things. This is part of my practice. I hope to one day look into my bag, where ever I find myself and say - I brought just what I needed and nothing more!
Jennifer is an RMT, long time yoga practitioner and teacher. Follow her musings as an RMT, yoga teacher, prenatal educator and mother of three.