Helen Hatzis
Helen Hatzis
April 25, 2017 ·  3 min read

3 Things Traveling Taught Me About How Owning Less Can Lead to A Happier Life

I was planning for the adventure of a lifetime, traveling to live in another country. My ticket was booked, my accommodations set, and all I had left to do was pack. The catch was everything I didn’t pack I would donate or give away except for a meager box I stored at a family member’s house. Looking around at the room filled with memories, I began the daunting task of reducing everything I owned to fit in a suitcase. 


Do We Really Need This Much Stuff?

The first things to go were old shirts I never wore and items stuffed in the back of a packed closet I wasn’t aware I still had. They were easiest to discard. However, choosing which of my favorite outfits to keep and which to discard was more difficult. The hardest part was deciding between precious items filled with memories and sentimental value. I wrapped small gifts and handwritten notes storing them in a small box of valuables. Everything else was recycled. The only thing I regret selling was a beautiful acoustic guitar. Finally, I had narrowed it down to a stack of clothes, a few precious items, and the necessities. After various arranging attempts and the help of a close friend, everything fit in a suitcase!

According to the LA Times, the average American home has 300, 000 items. Much of these things we do not use. Well most of us have heard the term pack light, but when you’re packing your entire life, you re-evaluate the importance of each item.

The Joys of Having Less

A limited selection means choosing an outfit every morning is easy. Well, I took time establishing a place and job, it was simpler to own less. Moving was a breeze and no different than a routine trip to the airport. My room was less crowded than before, and I never had to spend time looking for the things I needed. According to the Daily Mail, we spend 153 days in our lifetime looking for things we’ve lost. I spent less time cleaning and tidying meaning I had more time to explore.  

I thought I would miss everything, but I found the opposite. The only things I missed were the things that brought me joy such as my guitar. But, I was able to find an affordable replacement. Day to day I was happier with less. I found myself able to relax more at home. It was amazing discovering how little I truly needed.


The Suitcase Mentality 

After I returned home, I still had a limited number of belongings. Over the years, new items crept slowly into my life. Rather than go back to a closet stuffed with shoeboxes, frayed sweaters and battered shoes I never wore, I maintained the mentality of when I packed my suitcase. I began regularly decluttering my belongings by donating, selling or recycling items I no longer need or use, only keeping what I use or brings me happiness. Well, everything I own now no longer fits in a suitcase, but maintaining the suitcase mentality has improved my life. 

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus have made a name for themselves as The Minimalists. Their philosophy that owning less can be a road to a happier life is gaining popularity. This philosophy of only owning what brings us joy can be universally applied. Well, minimalism is not for everyone, experts agree that owning less clutter can lead to a happier life. 


All photos courtesy of Shutter Stock Photos.

Traveling is a great way to explore and discover new things. Backpackers are the ultimate example of how little we need in our everyday lives. Even if we are just spending a weekend away, the contents of our suitcase bring into perspective how little we actually need. Traveling has allowed me to live a freer, happier and healthier life, all while owning less.