Buenos Aires, Argentina

April 7, 2019

The Life-Changing Magic of Packing

I'm sitting in my apartment in Buenos Aires surrounded by piles of everything I own, and a suitcase.

And I have reached an impasse.

I know, intellectually, that everything that's in these piles was once in that suitcase, and under the 23kg check-in weight.

But I can't for the life of me figure out how.

Then - a moment ago, winding up some cables - everything stopped. I stared at the ball of wires in my hands, and asked, "Do I really need this?"

I've been re-reading Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing magic of Tidying Up here. I really enjoy it, but if I'm being honest, in the back of my mind, I've thought, "eh, that doesn't really apply to me. I'm a minimalist. I live out of a suitcase!"

But here, caught in this cracked-open moment, I realize I've been wrong.

"Does this spark joy?" applies even when everything I own fits in a suitcase. Maybe even double.

Looking around the room, I see that I've been traveling with a bunch of what-ifs. Microphones and USB hubs for that youtube channel I'm maybe going to start. A small pile of identical t-shirts from when I started these travels five years ago - which haven't left the shelf they were unpacked onto. Dress shirts for the zero formal events I have planned in the future.

Here, spread around me, I finally see them for what they really are - not preparations or an efficient way to have the things I need - but a shield.

If I have this stuff, I tell myself, I'll be ready for the world.

Piles of paper and sheep hair and rare earth minerals that help me pretend that the world isn't so much bigger than me, isn't totally out of my control. That it's tameable and predictable and fits nicely into a container where I choose what happens.

But that's lie. And a bad one.

Yes, the world is huge and vast and I have zero chance of actually controlling what comes at me. But the lie is worse than that.

All these things aren't protecting me from the craziness of the world. They're shielding me from myself.

From being out there, naked, flapping in the wind of life, and realizing that I'm ok - not because I was prepared for this with my bunches of stuff, but because I'm really ok.

So today, I'm actually going to follow Ms. Kondo's fine advice. I'm picking up every single thing in this room. I'm asking "Do I need this? Does this spark joy?" I'll take what's true. Then I'll say a deep thanks - and leave all those shields and what-if's behind.

See you in Colombia. :)

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw this week is also the cutest. See, there was this guy biking around the world. And then he came across a stray kitten. :)

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