I’m talking about our backpacks. Inevitably we arrive at some cute (or not-so-cute) guesthouse, put down our packs, open up the zipper and…BAM…seemingly immediately there is stuff scattered absolutely everywhere. Even when we’re only staying one night, and so are being careful not to disturb it all too much, stuff seems to creep it’s way out across the floor.
Some of it makes sense. There is bathroom stuff that should be in the bathroom, shoes should be near the door, stuff for sleeping should be near the bed etc, but it’s the ‘other’ stuff that makes the room messy. Papers and pamphlets that we have collected, empty water bottles, receipts for stuff and activities, coins, watches, books, and notebooks all spread themselves carelessly all over.
And the laundry…what to do about the laundry?!? If we are staying somewhere for a few days our room starts to resemble the bedroom of my youth…clothes everywhere, some piled on the floor, some draped over furniture, some neatly folded in various stacks. We have a mesh bag that we use for those items that are deemed dirty enough to wash…yes, deemed dirty enough…it did not take long for our general level of cleanliness to deteriorate, although not to any disgusting level…but what to do with those items that still have a wearing or two left in them? We pile them, drape them and stack them according to an elaborate system so that we know what state every item is in. Well, we try to use a system but, typically, we apply the ‘sniff test’ to determine if something is wearable or not. I’m not kidding.
There are, however, some upsides to living out of a backpack.
- We always know where everything is. We employ a system of ‘everything in it’s place and a place for everything’…you have to really, it would be chaos otherwise…so we always know where those nail clippers are, or a plastic bag for putting that do-hickey in, or the bottle opener.
- We are used to wearing the same clothes day in and day out. It is actually freeing to have only 2 or 3 outfits to wear…I don’t fret over ‘what I’m going to wear’, if it’s clean and is appropriate for the activity then I can wear it. At first I treated my wardrobe as if I were at home, wearing something different everyday, but I soon gave that up and now wear an outfit for days at a time until it is dirty. No-one knows me or what I wore yesterday so who cares? And besides, it makes laundry management easier (see above).
- We carefully choose what we will carry and what we won’t. We certainly thought that we had honed our packing list perfectly, but it turns out that there are always little lies we tell ourselves. ‘Of course I’ll wear the cute shoes’, or ‘We’ll run at least once or twice a week’, or ‘This shirt will go with everything’. Those items showed their true colors fairly soon and we either left them behind somewhere or sent them home. New items are added only after vigorous screening…’Do you really need to have it?’, ‘Are you sure you’re going to wear it all the time?’. Lugging every little thing around day after day after day ensures that everything is carefully chosen.
- We can pack it all up in 15 minutes flat. We used to spend time the night before leaving a place packing up and getting ready for the morning. Now we carefully calculate what time we need to get out of bed to pack it all in a flurry of activity before leaving. We can seriously pack up both exploded backpacks in 15 minutes flat…and not break a sweat. And that is the value of everything in it’s place, wearing the same clothes day in and day out, and choosing what we will carry.