I once loved trinkets: tiny buddhas, smooth stones, small figurines that required dusting when we were settled, and careful packaging when we were on the move.
In my suitcase, I pack too many shoes. Along with three or four too-many pairs of shoes (slippers, flats, sandals, running shoes, ankle boots, casual sneakers), I fill half the luggage with a too-big camera bag, and belts, and shirts I never end up wearing.
My purses are never small. They are shoulder bags large enough to smuggle two bottles of water and giant-size candies bought at the gas station into the movie theater. They carry lip balm, hankies, glasses case and cleaner, pens, checkbook, Moleskine notebooks (medium and small), wallet, phone, band aids, Ibuprofen, hairbands, lip gloss, Trident (sweet mint), hand lotion, and fingernail clippers.
A thing my husband and I have daydreamed about for years is retiring on a sailboat, living aboard and cruising the Caribbean. When we vacationed in the Outer Banks, we talked about how we always talk about that dream, but if we want to make it a reality, we need to take actual steps. And we can start taking those steps now, like I dunno, learning how to sail?
Thinking about living in a small boat cabin both excites and terrifies me. We would strip our lives down to the bare essentials, and those essentials we would choose with care. No more cheap junk, no more skimping on quality so that we can buy more for less.
At the same time, what about my shoes?
It’s a long way away that we’d truly move onto a sailboat. Like, decades. But it’s in my mind now, what it would mean. The lifestyle changes it would require.
I didn’t realize how much these thoughts of stripping down were in my mind, embedded in my subconscious, until I started shopping for a purse. My original thought was “I sure do like the little purse I travel with — fits in my laptop bag in airports, and can carry all my essentials.” The problem was that it’s cheap and pleather. The zipper’s broken and it feels all plastic-y like the fake plastic leather that it is. Also, it was too small for my wallet.
So that was my intent when I first started shopping: find something like that little purse. Something that my wallet will fit in, that will fit in my laptop bag when I travel, and that will also last.
The smallest purse I could carry and still carry my essentials.
I took inventory of my essentials.
Lip balm? Essential.
Moleskine? Oof, that’s a hard one. Non-essential. I can take notes on my phone.
Checkbook? Non-essential. I’ll pull out one check and put it in my wallet for emergencies.
Wallet? Essential. I measured my wallet, which was one of those checkbook size wallets, and thought, wow, that’s big. I can get that smaller.
Phone? Essential. Do I really need a big clunky case though? I’ll get a slim one.
Keys? House and car essential. I don’t need all these stupid key chain cards for two grocery stores, the health food store, pharmacy, library. I can give my phone number and they can pull up my account.
As I did this — taking inventory, stripping down to essentials, and then minimizing those too — I realized this was a tiny exercise in what we’d need to do with our whole lives to move onto a boat.
I felt silly for putting so much effort into the simple act of buying a new purse, and then comparing such a small decision with what it would mean to liveaboard.
When I joked with my husband about practicing for moving onto a boat by moving to a small purse, he said simply, “It’s a lifestyle change.” He didn’t think it was a silly comparison at all. Minimizing requires a mindset shift. It’s not instant, and to go from living where we are now — a fully furnished three bedroom house — to living in a boat cabin is going to take thousands of small decisions.
Like getting rid of trinkets, packing only two pairs of shoes instead of six, and moving to a small purse.
I found exactly what I wanted, by the way. A small, undyed, cross-body purse from leather-crafters Love41. I’ve been using it for about a month now, and I’m in love. It’s everything I wanted — smooth, supple, small, real — and I don’t miss carrying all that extra junk around.
What I’m super excited about is that now that my travel purse and everyday purse are one and the same, when I travel to our company’s annual Grand Meetup this week, I won’t have to switch purses.
5 thoughts on “Minimizing”
I loved he sound of your handbag. Not because it matched my own, but because it reminded me of my Mum’s when I was a kid. My own handbag’s are very minimal and it’s the kitchen table which gets covered in stuff and I have an intray with no out component.
I could really relate to your quest for finding the perfect purse. I stumbled across the perfect bag in a charity shop a few years ago and wrote this: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/the-bag-lady/
I don’t use this as my everyday bag because I don’t want it to wear out but when I have appointments where I need to be organised, I take it.
The one requirement I have for handbags is that they have an outside zipper compartment for my phone. I am not much of a phone user but I hate having to scrounge through my handbag with the phone ringing and you can be sure this happens right when you haven’t cleaned your bag out for awhile.
As much as some might see a handbag as a fashion statement, I actually see it as an important part of trying to be organised and efficient. xx Rowena
I read this with fascination. A couple of years ago I also decided to ‘let go’ of much of the beautiful yet unnecessary bits & pieces that I’d accumulated ( see my blog rosieways.com – beautiful yet adding to clutter). I thought it was simply about down sizing, having gone from a 4 bed detached house to a one bed retirement flat, two+ years on I’m still working at it. For me it turned out to be more about emotional baggage which I now understand.
Your purse scenario rang so many bells. I have too many handbags, crystals, clothes, accessories & books, as well as kitchen clutter – anything I rarely use, or can manage without goes to a charity shop. Even my furniture, cushions & throws have been stripped right back. I can now see bare areas of walls, I thought that I’d hate it but love it. The energy has changed, mellowed. Even my diet has minimised, along with my weight. Anything bought from greed goes, as does anything with bad/ difficult memories. I realise that simplicity was important for my life. Now I feel wonderful. Less is definitely more.
I could go on but won’t, this was supposed to be a comment, not a rival blog!
I still have a long way to go, as you have. Our motives may be very different but the journey is similar. Good luck with it – it gets easier, even exciting. I hope that your adventure works out but even if it doesn’t, your life will have changed in many ways, simply starting with your purse.
BTW thanks for the idea of only carrying one emergency cheque instead of the book, I’d never have thought of that.
Thanks for a thought provoking post – I’m off to do a little more decluttering😀
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I declutter my home every six months to get rid of unnecessary stuff like superfluous dishes or drinking glasses, and even though every time I think “this is it, that’s all”, in six months’ time I’ll find stuff that I could have gotten rid of before. It seems like a neverending story, so I admire your thinking ahead for when you move onto a boat.
Sadly, my downsizing stops with my handbag(s) – I cant’ let go of all the stuff in there, but reading your post made me think that maybe I should take a leaf out of your book and start with the handbags, then move on to the bigger stuff.
Nice post. My husband and I downsized from a 4 bedroom 4 level house to a 340sqft tiny home this year. I gave away all my purses, I am down to iPhone in case that carries three cards – drivers license, credit card and debit card. All notes are made on phone and I have discovered keyring app. It allows you to scan all your points cards, etc, takes pictures of front and back and you can pass phone to clerk who can scan the bar code. I love it.
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Jane said, “Tarzan can you put my three suitcases in the canoe please?”
Tarzan, “Yes but why you need three suitcases?”
Jane, “I’m not sure what I’m going to need! What are you taking?”
It is what you make it!
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