I never met my grandfather Solomon, but he liked to say "a man is rich in proportion to the things he can live without."
The older I get, the more I embrace that sentiment.
I've always had a pretty on-and-off relationship with stuff. When I moved into my first adult, roommate-free apartment, I had a lot more space to spread out, so I immediately set out to fill it. Multiple trips to flea markets produced beautiful old books that function as props on coffee tables, vintage skis and a canoe paddle in one bathroom (the boys' room), still-wrapped Dollywood soap, candy cigarettes, dried roses and a conch shell in the other (the girls' room). There's a piece of driftwood and old netting that washed up on a beach on my console, a buoy found under similar circumstances sitting in a corner, (I kid you not) rocks from momentous hikes that I can't seem to now remember, and ashtrays purchased simply because I liked their color.
In January I drove from New York to LA, where I spent two months as part of an apartment swap, and then drove back from LA to New York. Of all the lessons I learned on my cross-country adventures (like, I turn into a tired, cranky, and usually hungry toddler without fail at the ninth hour of driving, Terry Gross is the greatest interviewer of all time, and make sure you do whatever you can to eat at Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis), my favorite was figuring out what was essential to living comfortably and what wasn't.
And that's what made it into the suitcase I grabbed each night as I checked into a hotel in that ninth witching hour, when I could no longer think straight or speak using grown-up words.
What's interesting to me is how that suitcase became my home for the 10 days it took me to cross the country both times. Here's what was in it:
1. Toiletries, obviously.
2. My iPad and laptop. Entertainment center and mobile office, respectively.
3. My pillow. I'm a light sleeper, and my perfect squishy pillow with its vintage-washed Belgian linen pillowcase, is able to magically transport me to la-la land. This is priceless.
4. Workout clothes. When you're in a car for hours each day, it's nice to sweat for 30 minutes in the hotel gym before starting it all over again.
5. Two outfits--the one I wore into the hotel and the one I wore out. I wore each every other day, and we did laundry every few days.
The day we returned home, I unpacked my sore limbs from the car, opened the door to my apartment and expected to hear angels sing the sweet song of space. And they did. But here's the thing: now I don't really want it--and I certainly don't need all the stuff that's in it. I was incredibly content when my life involved minimal choice. What should I wear today? Whatever I didn't wear yesterday. It freed my mind up to think about a lot of other things, like which Terry Gross interview should I listen to next, what I want out of life, and "How are mom and dad doing? I think I'll call them again!"
During my first weekend at home, I went on the most brutal closet cleanse yet. No longer did I keep something around for sentimental value (goodbye Express dress that I lived in all of freshman year of college and have been meaning to tailor into something more modern). I made $200 selling three duffle bags worth. I finally threw out the shoes that were too dirty for me to sell, let alone wear. Those boy shorts I'm so fond of wearing around the house that I've dug them out of the garbage in the past despite the shot elastic waistband went in the garbage again--and this time the garbage went out. I already have one pair of comfortable home shorts. Did I really need more?
I'm certainly no "No Impact Man"-type ascetic, but I'm slowly peeling away the layers of excess in my mission to live a more focused--and less stressful--life. That still involves boozing, dining well and shopping. I just choose to concentrate on the things that give me pleasure or serve a purpose; I try not to have or do anything mindless.
So as I look around at my clutter-free home, I realize that what my anti-hoarding really boils down to is freedom. It brings me intense satisfaction to know that one day I'll have as few possessions as a clothes-loving, non-monk can possibly have. Nevermind that I have no desire to hit the road again anytime soon--I simply want to know that I could.
People act like "living out of a suitcase" is a bad thing. Pssh, I say! All I want to do is go back to it.
If you are planning a trip, click through our slideshow to see photos of the best airport lounges.
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