My family and long-time friends will probably get a chuckle out of this, but I’m going to say it, anyway: Being so organized has helped me immensely on this journey. Me? Organized? Yep…by necessity (stop laughing, Karen). One of the things that I came to despise about living in a fairly roomy house was all the stuff that accumulated, multiplied, and spread. I think one of the most appealing ideas I had about my nomading was the fact that I’d have so little with me—though at times I feel like I’m carting way too much around. Being organized with the items I do have is key, and is a main focus for me nearly every day.
HOW DO I STAY ORGANIZED?
Everything I have with me is in some kind of container. In the car I have several plastic bins of varying sizes. There are three low, wide stacking bins containing my roughly 2 weeks’ worth of clothes. One is for my pants, one for long-sleeved shirts, and one for short-sleeved t-shirts and nicer, casual shirts.
In addition, I have a small bin that has socks, underwear, and my thermals (which I’ve used WAY more than I thought I would). These serve as my dresser, of sorts, when I get settled in to each place. The biggest bonus is that the clothes stay nice and folded and I don’t have to live out of a suitcase. I also have a small number of dress clothes on hangers. I employ my trick I’ve always used when moving, which is to slip a trash bag over the clothes and tie around the base of the hangers: everything in a neat little package, ready to hang up!
My toiletries are all in a little bin with a snap-on lid and a handle. Sounds like a little concern, but being able to get into a bathroom, have my products mostly in regularly-sized containers, and keep everything neat and tidy really makes life easier. Being mobile and as unintrusive as possible on the other inhabitants in the house keeps me from feeling too in the way. And in places where there were four of us sharing a bathroom, this was a necessity! I also have an additional small bin of toiletries that sits in the car…this is where I keep the big containers that I use to fill the little travel ones I’m using. For instance, I stocked up on Q-tips and my favorite hair gel before leaving.
I have a couple of canvas shopping bags that I call my “catch-all” containers. They contain odds and end, including some DVDs I thought would be fun to have with me, my resistance bands, some small zip-loc bags, and a scarf I thought I couldn’t live without. I haven’t warn the scarf, yet, by the way. I have a folder with important papers—things like my passport, important mail, bank receipts, etc.—that I keep near and dear while driving. In my front seat, I also have the tools of my trade: my laptop, phone, tablet, etc. in my backpack that goes everywhere with me. On the floor is a cooler with drinks, snacks, and other food items I’ve picked up along the way.
I have two suitcases that I use when I go on business trips, so I need to have those at the ready, if I should need to fly out somewhere. Conveniently, the small one fits precisely inside the bigger one, so they don’t take up much room. I put all of my biking and workout clothes inside the little one to save even more space. I also threw in a small duffel bag at the last second and it’s come in quite handy. If I’m staying for just a night somewhere—either in a hotel or at a friend’s briefly—I use it as my overnight bag. That way I don’t have to lug in a bunch of bins. As it is, I keep letting people know, “I know it looks like a lot, but I’m really NOT moving in!” On my longer stays, the duffel bag holds my biking/workout clothes.
Before leaving Colorado, I also visited IKEA with a friend. As a side note, when you don’t have a home, a shopping trip to IKEA doesn’t hold as much wonder. That being said, I got out of there for under $25. I bought a collapsible laundry hamper, which has been so convenient: pops up when I need the hamper, but I can tuck it away in the car while traveling. I also bought a small clip-on gooseneck light to light up whatever makeshift desk space I create in my room.
Other bins and containers contain:
- odds and ends electronics, like chargers and adapters
- backpack with my hiking clothes and hiking poles
- bike pannier, helmet, bike accessories
- sleeping bag and Therm-A-Rest pad
- blankets and sheets
- inflatable mattress
- a box of dominoes…I’m hoping to find someone to play with along the way
And, of course, my bicycle is on the back of the car. Along with the bike, I have an intricate—and probably overly-complicated—system—of lashing straps and locks to keep it secure, not only from would-be thieves, but freeway speed winds. I also purchased a chain cover to keep the road grime out of the chain and derailleur.
UNPACK, ORGANIZE, CULL, ORGANIZE, PACK, REPEAT
So, that’s what I have, but how do I keep it all organized? Well, I know where everything is in my car and where it all needs to go back when I am ready to move on. I thought about making a packing “map,” or taking in-depth pictures, or making a detailed list but decided that was too much work. The key is to be organized when I’m at someone’s house (or in a hotel room).
I keep all the stacking bins stacked in the same order, with the toiletries bin and my hair dryer on top. My important papers go on the desk if there is one, or onto whatever piece of furniture has enough room to act as a desk or table. Using a few Eagle Creek quarter cubes makes sure I don’t leave any little thing behind. The dress clothes get hung up in a closet, the hamper goes somewhere I can see it so I don’t accidentally lose a sock behind it, and my catch-all bags go wherever they make the most sense.
The biggest boon to keeping it all organized is the activity I’ve named “Cull and Org.” I do this every couple of days. I make sure I don’t have any stray clothes laying around; everything goes in the hamper, gets hung up, or goes back in a bin. This is what I would do at home, but putting it on my to-do list every couple of days keeps me from getting lazy or forgetful. While it wouldn’t be a huge deal if I left something behind, I don’t want to have people needing to mail forgotten items to me all the time. During the “Cull and Org,” I go through every little piece of paper I’ve accumulated. If it’s a receipt I need for tax purposes, it goes in the folder of important papers. If it’s a ticket of somewhere interesting I visited, I take a photo on my phone to remember it, but the original goes in the recycle bin.
Just yesterday, I also culled out some clothes. I realized there were several items I thought I would want to have with me. A few of them I wore once, but most I hadn’t worn the entire trip. That says they’re probably never going to make the cut, so I decided to stop dragging them around. A couple were too big for me now, anyway, so they were donated to a thrift store. Many are being shipped back to Colorado, and one (the “Ridiculous Pants of Hiking”) was returned to REI for a healthy refund!
WHY DOES IT MATTER TO ME?
Being organized has helped me in a couple of ways. For one, it keeps me from feeling like I’m dragging all sorts of useless things around the country. I’m sure the people I’m staying with appreciate that a lot! More importantly, it’s helped me see what’s really necessary on a day-to-day basis. I’ve been wanting for years to live with less, in less space. Seeing what I use on a daily basis, and what I can totally live without, I am looking forward to doing just that in the future.
Until then, I’ll be traveling around in my little red Volvo, with my stuff in bins and bags, and enjoying spending time with friends and family while experiencing new places and some familiar ones as well!