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Monday, September 12, 2016

The Closet of a Traveler

Alisha McDarris
messy closet

I recently returned from nine months traveling around Australia and when I descended into my parent's basement to sort through the handful of boxes of things we had left there a few years ago when we began our transient lifestyle, I nearly had a panic attack.

Pictured above: "Yikes! Let's get rid of some of those clothes shall we?"

Let me set the scene: In 2014 we moved out of our place in Florida and sold just about everything we owned (furniture, housewares, Josh's beloved KitchenAid mixer...). We kept only most of our clothes, books, and sentimental items, leaving just a carload of stuff and a handful of boxes we shipped to our childhood homes. We thought we were pretty great pairing down everything we owned to something like 8 boxes. And I suppose that was pretty great. For starters.

Then after a summer in Massachusetts working at what would become a regular job at a summer camp, we moved to Texas where we only brought along a carload of stuff. We were only moving into a room of someone else's house, afterall. We wouldn't need that much. And again we were pretty proud of ourselves for reducing our "stuff" to things that would fit in a (very small) bedroom.

When we returned to camp there was even less. Just a few drawers full of athletic clothing and maybe a nice pair of jeans for days off. We were getting pretty good at this!

Then came Australia. Nine months living out of no more than a backpack. I've never had such a hard time packing a bag in my entire life (but you can read about how I eventually did so in this article about packing for a year in Australia). For nearly a year those very few articles of clothing became my life. Those four tank tops were all I knew. The one pair of sweatpants became worn and threadbare. By the time we returned to the States I never wanted to look at the single cardigan I brought ever again. But you learn to live a certain way after nine months and I rather enjoyed knowing whatever I pulled out of my bag would suit me just fine.

Hence the reason I was on the verge of panic when I returned to our hometown, started opening boxes, and saw the bags and bags of clothing I had left there (and occasionally sifted through and exchanged) years ago. There were dresses I haven't worn in years. Dress shirts I never even liked. Sweaters that were not entirely fashionable when I put them in the basement in the first place. Sewing projects I remember hanging on to for "sentimental" reasons. What the fudge?! I hollered in bewilderment when an hour later I found more clothes in a suitcase in the closet. Why did I still have so much stuff? Why on earth did I feel I needed six (six!) v-neck T-shirts? And in such similar colors? I would obviously never wear some of the dresses I had saved again and I should have known some of the pants were a waste of space when I put them in there. It was a travesty! And here I thought I had been doing so well.

Begin the culling! Throw out this! Toss that! Donate those! And here I thought when I returned it would be like a free shopping spree going through all the articles I had forgotten about. When instead it was a stressful and shocking mess. So before I start chucking boxes of items that are clearly unnecessary in the trunk of our trusty Prius to drop at Goodwill tomorrow, here's a tip for keeping your closet as uncluttered as ours and ready for frequent moves and spur of the moment excursions: Live out of a backpack in a foreign country for about a year. ;-)

Compressing your clothes by tightly rolling them is an easy way to save space in your luggage.

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. [Portfolio]


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