Living Life Suitcase Size
One particular New Year’s Eve, a few years back, I was running around the house with an empty suitcase right before 12AM. Because? A social media marketing post by a certain airlines was propagating the “tradition” that doing so guarantees you a year full of travel. While I did recognise the absurdity of the claim, like some superstitions, this sounded fun and harmless. So I went ahead and did it anyway, much to the amusement of my family. Carrying around a suitcase always meant going to a new place, and that feeling was a good one – definitely one that I didn’t mind starting my year with.
Out of the last 6 months this year, I’ve spent about 2.5 months living out of a suitcase. Before every round of packing, I note down my “essentials” and carry only those with me. Regardless of the airline’s baggage allowance, I want to travel light because, well, I’m the one who will be lugging along everything that I pack. So the list starts with the basics, like the proof of identity, clothes, laptop and so on, and it ends somewhere at umbrella and lock-and-key. All of this generally fits pretty neatly within 23 kilograms. And this list mostly remains the same because packing for 10 days is, for me, just the same as packing for 10 months.
This morning, I began to pack (yes, again!) for the next 15 days, carefully choosing the shirts, skirts and jackets that I really needed. Over the years, I’ve gotten used to living with limited belongings like this – for 5 years, while crashing in hostel rooms during college, and now, during my extended stays while travelling. I haven’t felt the dearth of anything, except for perhaps a variety of clothes to choose from. Most of the things that I use – including those occasionally used feel-good skin care items & my own little tea cup (Manipuri pottery… another story…) always move with me from one place to another. And that has often got me wondering – what is all this extra stuff, which is outside the suitcase, doing around my house anyway? I cannot say that everything else is unnecessary. Many of those things are just to make my house feel like home. Little wooden figures, most stationery than I’ll ever use, shelves full of books… these are all the markers of home to me. But there is still so much that simply doesn’t need to be there.
Earlier this year, I was finally able to cut down my wardrobe to half. Those who live in a place like Delhi, with extreme seasonal fluctuation, understand both the joy and pain of maintaining appropriate wardrobes for all seasons. Somewhere close to October or November, we pack away all the summery affair and bring out the woollens. These again get promptly packed up as Holi draws near, the festival which marks the onset of summer in the Northern Plains of India. This rotation of clothes has pretty much been the norm in my household, and probably in yours too if you’re from this area. But as I started travelling a bit more often, I found my summer clothes getting unpacked in December for trips to the South of India and vice versa. In the year 2018, I ended up living in my winter clothes throughout the year. This hassle of a disturbed wardrobe cycle became too much to handle, and seemed to be never ending – until the day I realised that the only solution was to cut down the size of my wardrobe into half, so that everything fits into the one cupboard that I use.
Easier said than done.
There were clothes which I’d had with me since school days. Some clothes were full of the nostalgia of the past, and some full of aspirations for the future. But regardless of the sentimental value, a highly-valued factor in the hoarding process, the ultimate truth was that I had not been wearing them at all. They were a part of either my past or some imagined future, but definitely not my present, and thus, had no space in my tiny cupboard. Every inch of space was precious now. This was a real KonMari moment for me. I have never had the chance to read a single article by Marie Kondo or watch her videos, but thanks to friends who adore her and the social media buzz in general, I understood that this entire de-cluttering process was actually inspired by joy. In hindsight, I had KonMari-ed my entire wardrobe. Every time I picked up a piece of clothing from the unruly pile, I immediately knew, I JUST KNEW, whether it inspires joy or not. I sifted through the clothes one by one. If I didn’t remember the last time I wore it, and also couldn’t think of any possible future occasion to wear it, it went out of the cupboard onto a piling mountain which kept growing in size throughout the day. I ended up 7 bags of clothes which had no relevance in my life. Some of them went to H&M, while the others eventually became part of the inspiration for Shamita and me to host the Barter Bazaar.
My entire life does not really fit into a suitcase. The suitcase, a symbol of movement, holds no space for a lifetime of memories. That’s what home is for. But the mere process of mindfully considering the value, functional or emotional, for each of my possessions has been eye-opening.
Is this important enough to EVER being in my suitcase?
It has given me perspective on the things that really matter to me. I still hold on to objects which, perhaps, I will let go off in another few years. For now, they feel like home, so they stay.
So the chances of meeting Marie Kondo in my lifetime are few, but with all this packing going on, her work here is pretty much done.