There's minimalist living — and then there's fitting everything you own into one bag, an idea that's catching on worldwide.
Just ask Laura Cody, who set out in 2013 to travel the world with her husband, Tanbay Theune. The British couple got rid of all of their belongings, either selling them or donating them to charity, and decided to housesit their way around the globe.
"We can now focus on what's really important," Cody says. "It's changed the way we buy things too, we really stop and think 'Do we need this?' and it's almost always 'No.'"
If the couple does purchase something new, they really weigh the decision.
"For example, if we buy clothes, we only buy things we really love and wear them until they are threads," Cody says. "We only carry one book at a time and read it until we've learned it properly."
Minimal living removes the "weight"of stuff, agrees Ben Nettleton, a social media editor in Houston.
"Stuff translates to options and usually too many options," he says. "When you have a closet full of clothes that are either too small or need hemming, but you keep them anyway, you're giving yourself too many invalid options every time you open that closet."
For a time, everything he owned — six T-shirts, two pairs of pants, two sweaters, two hoodies, a coat, socks and underwear, toiletries and electronics — all fit in one backpack. (However, in early 2014, Widrich writes that he moved into an apartment and added some basic home goods, like a bed, couch and kitchen utensils to his list of "temporary" possessions since he's planning to do another purge soon).
If this sounds too extreme, take heart: Simplifying and decluttering our lives doesn't have to take the form of fitting all that we own into one bag, suggests Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
"Even if you regularly take stock of what you have and get rid of the things you don't want, use or need, it'll help your overall health," Greenberg says. "Less clutter leads to more relaxed minds which leads to better physical health."
That connection between physical and mental health is key.
"Perhaps if we all attempted to simplify our lives we would have more mindful and in-the-moment energy to attend to one another and to the simple and delightful moments in life," Greenberg adds.
For Cody, the one-bag life is way less stressful and a lot simpler.
"Now when we get off a plane we don't have to hang around worrying that our bags have gone missing since everything we own is in our carry-on luggage," she says. "Before, when we went on holiday, there was always a slight worry that our apartment would be burglarized, set on fire or get flooded. It never happened, of course, but, if it had, it would have been the end of the world. We're not defined by our belongings anymore and we feel a lot happier."
For this couple, life is now about daily adventures, instead.
"We travel, take lots of photos and eat really good food instead of thinking about our stuff," she says. "We have really come to believe that experiences are way more important than things."