Half A Suitcase

My mother, due to join us when we return to Switzerland, said in a recent email that she and my father are planning to travel light. She warned that we might get sick of their rotating clothes.

Doesn’t worry me. I just hope she can take what she dishes out.

Clothes languished at the bottom of my list of priorities when I packed. Apart from the clunky space-consuming sports gear, some books and a manuscript, I needed room to bring back presents. (Marvellous to get the Christmas shopping done so early but, it turns out, hard to find things not available in Australia already. Curse globalization.)

Because of airline restrictions, we jettisoned a lot of things before coming to Spain and England. Never mind living out of a suitcase, I’m currently living out of half a suitcase which I’m sharing with my beloved BB and our rock-climbing gear. So really only a quarter of a case…at most.

It is, however, surprising how few clothes one can manage with. I went the whole of my first pregnancy with three pieces of maternity wear – a skirt and two dresses. It takes me a while to become fed up with wearing the same thing; it’s just keeping up with the washing that’s tricky when travelling.

In fact – and I shouldn’t be writing this where the BB will see it or I’ll find myself travelling with a backpack the size of a child’s school bag – I haven’t used many of the clothes I brought to Spain and England. I over-estimated the ‘summer’ component of their summer and under-estimated the ‘winter’ element. My outer garment when indoors in Warwick was frequently a blanket – de rigueur for wimpy Australians. Sandals? Sleeveless tops? No, I can’t imagine a need for them in the immediate future.

There is plenty to be said in favour of traveling light, certainly when it comes to geographical travelling. And there’s no shortage of self-help advice detailing the benefits of ridding ourselves of stuff for the metaphorical travel of our general lives in order to make space both for space and for new stuff. But I consider carefully before discarding clothes. My criteria are: quality (of fabric and workmanship), usefulness (I wear things of less street-appeal in the garden, reveling in my dagginess) and available storage space.

What if my grandmothers and mother had thrown out all their clothes and jewellery as they became unfashionable or too small? Sure, the second-hand industry would have benefited and I wouldn’t have those seed necklaces and blouses shot with gold thread patiently awaiting their return to fashion from the bottom of a cardboard box in a dark cupboard. But I wouldn’t be wearing my forbears’ beautiful vintage coats and dresses either. Where would my children and I have turned when we needed a shiny brown wig to complete an outfit if my mother had discarded that staple accessory of haute couture of the early 1970s? And when jodhpurs made a glorious and appropriately brief return to favour, where did I turn? To the depths of my own cupboards; to my would-have-been-tossed-if-I’d-been-travelling-light department.

There is often pleasure and release in both discarding hoardable things and creating fewer options. Lightening the physical load can unburden mentally – being clear about priorities creates a sense of freedom and personal fulfillment. So long as the space can be enjoyed for what it is and does not become a vacuum to be filled.

2 responses to “Half A Suitcase

  1. Oh I long for the vintage coats! I never throw out coats! c

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