It’s sad but true: we’re often emotionally attached to the clutter that fills our homes. That’s why we’ve held onto those things for years–they hold some meaning and memories we’re afraid we’ll lose otherwise.
Travel is a huge culprit when it comes to accumulating stuff. Nothing captures this reality better than the term, souvenir shopping.
And why should we be surprised? Whenever we travel, we carry a tiny percentage of our belongings with us– giving us the illusion that we don’t already have too many things at home.
Plus, part of the travel experience for many of us is to shop at our destination. For better or for worse, shopping is often equated with touring, and it’s hard to resist.
Compounding this dilemma is the fact that local industries often rely on foreign tourists to bring money into their small economies. Artisans, restauranteurs, guides and hotel owners “need” us for business.
So how do we travel in a manner that cherishes those experiences without lugging home a suitcase full of things we don’t need?
5 Tips For Clutter-Free Travel
1) Give yourself a purchase limit: by item, not dollar.
Sometimes it’s tempting to buy everything at the markets because they are “so cheap!”. But think realistically about what you will actually use, and give yourself a numerical limit on the total number of items you will purchase. Challenge: keep it under 10 items.
2) Spend on special experiences instead of things.
Tea ceremonies, cooking classes, canoeing trips and hot air balloon rides are all excellent alternatives to spending money on souvenirs. You’ll come back with great photos and memories, and you will have helped the economy too.
3) Consider your home context every time you want to buy something.
A poncho from Peru? A fan from Japan? Believe me, it’s hard not to want these treasures. But think about your life at home: when will you wear or use these items? Would you buy them if you saw them in a shop in your hometown?
4) Bargain with clutter-free in mind.
If you’re in a country where bargaining is habit, be careful about going home with things you didn’t originally want. Sometimes we think we’ve snagged a “good deal” when really, the vendor has convinced us to purchase an item we don’t love.
5) Know the difference between shopping and generosity.
Sure, supporting local businesses is generally a good thing. However, just because you’ve purchased something does not mean you’ve given money to charity. If there’s a cause you feel strongly about, allow yourself to simply be generous. You don’t have to receive a scarf or bag every time you give.