Have you ever noticed this? or maybe it’s just me…
People with no bags look free and light, like they belong, like they’re just taking a quick walk. They seem relaxed and confident, with their heads up and shoulders relaxed. They can move around and use their hands freely and they don’t tend to knock things over. They often get mistaken for staff if they’re in a store (especially if they are female, since the female of the species rarely ventures out without at least one bag)
People with one bag look normal, so long as the bag isn’t huge or unwieldy… and so often it is – stuff expands to fit the space provided for it, especially if you are a woman. The one (normal sized) bag is fairly easy to keep track of and handle, and it often holds things that make the day more pleasant – food, entertainment, warm clothing.
People with two bags start to look like they have a bit much going on. They have the stuff they need and then all the extra stuff they don’t really want to bring but can’t bear to leave behind. The second bag is often hard to keep track of, so that it bangs into things or migrates into other people’s space.
Once they hit three bags people seem to struggle. They juggle things, and seem unbalanced and burdened. They don’t have a free hand. People going to the airport seem to suffer from this problem a lot – they have their suitcase and their over-stuffed carry on, and their “purse”, which is often a second carry on. Or there’s the extra bag of snacks or duty free or stuff that wouldn’t fit, something they just had to grab. The third bag is the problem.
Four bags is just crazy, especially if one bag (or worse, two!) is a rolling suitcase. It’s barely manageable. Everything becomes a chore, even walking through a door. The four bag person is overwhelmed by their stuff. I have never seen anyone smile while carrying four bags (unless they’re brand name shopping bags, where the number of bags apparently represents the amount of “fun” you have had). Going anywhere with this much stuff becomes an exercise in logistics. I don’t imagine they see anything but their bags.
Sadly I tend to find myself carrying too many bags and paying a price in physical and psychic discomfort. I try to be free and light but real life gets in the way. There’s often a lunch to carry, which fits in with my values (frugality and sustainability, not to mention healthy eating). I often have a bag of things to give away at work or take to a specialty recycling venue (like old shoes to Niketown). I go out to buy food or supplies, or borrow books from the library, and have to carry them home. A side effect of living a car-free life is that there’s often lots of downtime, and I can’t keep a stash of things I might need in my vehicle. So I have to carry them with me, or go without.
I work on refining what I really need. I like to spend my free time reading or writing, so a journal or book often accompanies me to work, on the bus, on the ferry – wherever there’s going to be downtime. I use pockets – I even have dresses with pockets – some days I have 6 or more pockets in which to stash small things in my skirt, dress and coat! One coat will even accommodate a small book or kindle in the inside pocket. I have a small wallet and only one key, and my phone is small (but not small enough!) I carry lip balm but no makeup, and my iPod touch only comes with me when I anticipate really using it (and it often replaces the book/journal).
(I sometimes think an iPhone would be a good all purpose device, replacing phone, iPod and camera, but my frugality wins out.)
My camera is very dear to me, and though it is almost ready to be replaced, it is one of the things I most value. But I don’t carry it all the time.
I often find these conflicts between living a simple minimal-ish life and living frugal and sustainable. I rarely carry my own eating implements or travel cup because they’re difficult to carry (and remember) without a bag, but I feel bad about using disposable items when I eat out. So I have to find a compromise – choosing food that is served on a real plate, or carrying a sandwich that I can eat while I’m out, or waiting until I get home to eat.
I try to be mindful of why I want to bring things with me (just in case, it might rain, I might get hungry) and remind myself that being caught without something will not result in anything I can’t handle. I often find myself a bit cold or wet or hungry, but I don’t necessarily define those things as problems. Sometimes I just let them be.
I feel more free the less I carry with me,
even though I tend to gather too many things to take with me, for security.
Is it just me?