I have been reading Home Sweet Anywhere by Lynne Martin, which is the story of how she and her husband sold everything and travelled the world in their retirement. They were literally home free, with no home base. And I admit the idea has some appeal. I'm not sure how I'd feel about not having a home base to come back to. I suppose wherever your kids are, that becomes "home." But could I give up everything I owned and reduce my belongings down to a suitcase?
If you think about it, we're going to have to give everything up eventually anyway, when we die. Why not get a head start on it? Not even looking that far ahead, if we end up in nursing homes, we reduce our belongings down to a room-worth too. If I have things I'm hanging onto so that my kids can inherit them one day, wouldn't it make sense to go ahead and give them those things now? That way I could ensure who gets what, and I could enjoy watching them use the stuff. And realistically, things that I treasure probably won't have much meaning for anyone else, because they don't have the memories built up around them that I do. Most of what I own will likely end up in a garage sale someday, after I'm gone. I don't know that I'm ready for that size of a scale-down yet (after all, I still have a child at home, and I'm storing my other kids' stuff in my basement). But it's worth thinking about, and scaling down somewhat now while I have the energy and mind to do it.
So here's the question: if you had to reduce your belongings down to a suitcase, what would you put in it?
I look at my "stuff" and the first thing I gasp over is my books, followed close behind by photos and journals and the little knicknacks and bits of tatting I inherited from great-grandparents. What about the great old horse collar that was my grandfather's? The quilt Mom made for me when I married? Christmas tree ornaments, each with its own special story? A really good set of kitchen knives, and a recipe collection the size of the Library of Congress? Rare heritage-variety seeds? And---here's a thought---would I be able to find gardening opportunities if I were travelling home free?
So here's what I think I would do: I would scan all of my recipes and photos onto memory sticks and pack a good laptop. I would locate all of my favourite books and download e-books of them, or---don't read this, copyright lawyers---scan the hardcopies into my computer. I dislike e-books and prefer holding real, comfortable paper books, but desperation would force me to have to trust electronics. I would go through all my years of journals and pick out the more edifying bits to load onto a website for my kids, and I'd likely burn the rest of the drivelly bits. My entire wardrobe would fit into a small carry-on bag (and has done so), so that's not an issue. Cherished heirlooms would go to family who would want them. But I don't know if I could walk away from that set of kitchen knives. My kitchen and I get along well together; it would be difficult to leave it. What if I don't find those particular knives again?!
So there. My life on a laptop. Kristen in a carry-on. It's an interesting exercise to think through, to discover what you value and just how wrapped up you are in material things. For me it's the memories associated with those things, more than the things themselves, that I cherish. Though odds are, I'm going to lose the memories one day too!