Since the beginning of June, I’ve spent only eleven days at home. I spent two weeks in New York and Boston, a week in Chicago, and now, although I’m “home” in Atlanta, I’m house and dog-sitting for some friends. (And I’m preparing to head to Haiti in 10 days.) While this is a most unusual schedule for me, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Over this time away from home I’ve learned quite a few things, but one sticks out more than the others.
I have a tendency to bring entirely too many clothes with me. This isn’t the first trip I’ve over-packed for; I almost always do it.
For example, for my three week trip to New York, Boston, and Chicago, I brought seven pairs of jeans. (In the realm of pants, I also brought a suit and another pair of dress pants, the latter of which I didn’t even wear.) While I wore all seven pairs at some point, I have since made a rule that I will pack no more than 4 pairs on jeans simply because they’re not necessary and they take up entirely too much space.
As I was lugging my ridiculously heavy bag (which I somehow still manage to fit into the overhead bin) through the airport, I began to wonder: have I been over-packing my life like I do my luggage?
Have I jammed my life with a bunch of stuff that, like my seven pairs of jeans, I believe I might need one day, yet more realistically could do without? I thought about my friends, my relationships, my school, my blogging, my interaction on social media like Twitter and Facebook, and just about every other obligation I have (or think I have).
Yes, I have.
Packing light isn’t about leaving behind things you need (although it may cause you to reevaluate what’s truly important) but rather leaving room for growth, for new things. I found out when I packed my bags in Boston, heading to Chicago, that I had very little spare room for anything I may have wanted to buy.
In life, growth is a sign of health. We’re not healthy if we’re not growing. Often, growing means adding new things, people, or responsibilities. Sometimes new growth replaces the old, but sometimes it requires that we have the necessary room available to expand. That’s awfully hard if we’re already too weighed down with stuff, some of which we don’t really need.
That’s why it’s imperative that we must, from time to time, reevaluate what’s truly important in our lives. Which relationships need to go? What responsibilities would someone else be better suited for? What things are more draining than rewarding?
Over-packing is not only hurtful to you, but also to the things you over-pack. Why? Because those things which are “extra” or — more appropriately — non-essential aren’t being fully utilized. In other words, you may have responsibility over a certain area, but because you have over-packed, you’re not giving it the attention it deserves. Perhaps there is even someone who would be more effective in that area, but because you’re there, neither the area or that other individual is functioning to their maximum potential.
The same could be said with relationships. I don’t consider myself to have a lot of friends. Granted, I have a lot of followers on Twitter, and over 1,000 friends on Facebook, but the list of people (at least in my city) who I would want to sit down and have dinner with is very small. The point is, sometimes we have friendships (and even romantic relationships) just for the sake of having them. Maybe it’s because we don’t know how not to have them, or maybe it just happened without any thought, rhyme or reason (relationships should always be intentional), but either way, we should take time to clean out our “relationship bag” as well.
(And realize that most relationships don’t last forever, but for a season, the length of which varies with each one. We’re not meant to keep in touch with every person we’ve ever met for the next twenty-five years.)
Over the next week I’d challenge you to do something that I have been doing for the past few weeks, and will continue to do until it’s finished. Take some quiet time for yourself — turn the TV, laptop, cell phone, and iPod off — and examine everything in your life. How beneficial are all the people, things, and responsibilities? Do they add to you or take away from you?
Figure it out, make the change, and see how much better it feels to travel a little lighter.