Lightening Up

I may be on my way to becoming a minimalist. I realize the non-committal nature of this statement which actually makes me laugh because I can instantly hear my friends collectively and incredulously replying, “Say WHAT?” Let me explain. Lightening up has become my new obsession. And to be fair, maybe we’ll just see how long it lasts and how far it goes.

It started with the lightening up of my body and the releasing of some unwanted weight. And, from this has come a weird domino effect in my life. The healthier I become physically and the lighter I feel on my feet, the more I notice the crowded, heavy, and unbalanced areas in other parts of my life. All of a sudden, the clutter, piles, duplicates and triplicates, or too much of anything feels uncomfortable, burdensome, and wholly unnecessary. Like clogged arteries that rob the body of life-giving oxygen, clearing out unworn clothes that were choking my closet, giving away dusty heirlooms from which I thought I could never be parted, and throwing away unused items from the garage and storage bins has opened up breathing space and bestowed a renewed a sense of energy and freedom into my life. Funny how when you lighten up in one area, you naturally lighten up in others.

This phenomenon has also filtered into my travel routine. As much as I do it, many of you might assume that I’ve mastered the art of travel by now. But those who’ve traveled with me or in whose homes I have been a guest will certainly attest to evidence that I have not. Often stupified, most of them wonder why I continue to show up with heavy suitcases full of things I might need but most often never do. After years of aching shoulders and feet, not to mention my lower back, I became determined to lighten the unnecessary weight of having to check baggage for even a night or two due to client training tools, heavy hair styling gadgets, loads of cosmetics, and more clothes than I would wear in the off chance I might need or want them.

To bolster my transformation, I recently gained a new client in Anchorage and with that contract came the opportunity for a personal bucket-list travel experience. I quickly found myself faced with the daunting task of planning a two-week Alaskan vacation this June during which Tom and I will be on the move and staying in a different hotel almost every night. We both agreed that given our newly developed skills, we were more than ready for the challenge of managing two active weeks in Alaska with just a daypack and one carry-on for each of us. I attacked the job with a dogged determination reminiscent of a kid with a Rubik’s cube and began interviewing my fellow road warrior colleagues as well as many of our intrepid, light-stepping, world traveling friends—not to mention the greatest of all information sources, Google—for the best ideas, tips, and tricks.

I discovered amazing travel gear that I never knew existed, like a backpack which not only attaches to a carry-on suitcase creating one unit but also allows you the option of wheeling it on the ground or, in the case of mud, sand, or European cobblestones, carrying it like a backpack with supportive, heavy-duty straps. I found hundreds of travel hacks like quick-drying underwear and reversible clothing that you wash in the sink with thin, mini soap sheets and hang on a lightweight clothesline in your hotel bathroom (that doesn’t even require clothespins) with a wrinkle-releasing travel-size spritzer to help you look fresh everyday using the same clothes. We found carabiners from which we can hang our hiking boots or sneakers on the outside of our packs, rain jackets that folded back into their own small pocket, and Marie Kondo style packing tips that allow you to see everything in your suitcase at a glance, eliminating the need to unpack everything every night—just to name a few.

Tom and I have already experimented packing for our Alaska trip and discovered that it will actually work, albeit without an inch to spare. However, my trial run with my new setup for a quick work trip was this morning, and I must say it was like a Hallelujah miracle! I breezed through security with TSA pre-check and Clear, threw my small bag in the overhead bin and haven’t stopped smiling since. Having donated all my uncomfortable heels, I packed a simple stylish outfit for my speaking event in New York tomorrow with comfortable flats and will wear the same outfit home that I traveled in today which included my tennis shoes for a morning workout. With all the travel hacks for toiletries and other gear, I had plenty of room to spare. Who knew?!

Well, most of you, probably! I know many of you already travel this way and likely figured it out decades before me. So why am I sharing (or admitting) this in my weekly Stretch? Simply to share or remind us of this lesson: Prioritize what’s really important and, when in doubt, less is always more.

Priorities: Is it more important to be dressed in the latest fashion or to be comfortable, energized, and light and agile enough to easily embrace whatever I encounter on a trip? Is my priority to impress or to deliver a transformative experience for my clients or audiences? Is it more important to me to absolutely love a few precious things in my home or to spend a lot of my time taking care of rooms and rooms of stuff that I sort of like? Is it prudent to keep shoes, clothing, and jewelry that I rarely, if ever, wear just in the off chance that I might want it or to move it along to those who could really use it and enjoy it regularly?

Less is more: We need a lot less than we think or have been taught to think we need. Lightening up in life is the key to creating ease in our life—ease with travel, work, health, and relationships as well as blossoming in our own skin. It’s so, so easy to get caught up in the trappings of what our industry, society, TV, social media, and even well-intentioned friends convince us is essential or definitive in terms of who we are. It’s a much lighter, easier space when WE decide who we are, and we live into that fully. When we know we’re already enough, even with (or maybe, especially because of) our simplicity, our life will be simpler, and others will respond to our ease and grace. When we have less to prove, we need fewer things and can feel whole and complete without the baggage.

So, this week, lighten up. Look for the places and circumstances in life where you complicate and layer on all the “extras” in an effort to be seen as smart, competent, prepared, acceptable, loved… (You fill in the blank). Where could you simplify, reduce, or let go of unnecessary items and step into a lighter, easier way of moving through your life? It doesn’t just make sense while traveling on a plane. It also makes great sense when traveling through life in general, unpacking the non-essentials and lightening our load to create more room in our actual (or metaphorical) suitcases for more ease, mobility, and joy.

Let’s send some joyous postcards to each other from the “lighter side” of life.

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”
~ Susan Heller


  1. This could not have come at a better time when Jack and I are on a weeklong AK cruise in Aug and Im traveling on a month long cruise with friends to Hawaii, Fiji and Sydney this fall!

    Cant wait to travel more lightly! Cleaning closet this week! “More stuff, more stress”! Motto! Thanks, smart friend!!!!!

    1. Oh good! Glad it inspired you. I’m finding it definitely a better way to go.

  2. Love this!! Not only for you and your discovery.. but for a reminder to all of us!

    1. So glad, GG. I’m loving it way more than I thought I would. Wish I would have done it years ago!

  3. This article is very timely in my personal and professional life. I so needed a reminder to keep simplifying. Thanks!

    1. So happy you found the reminder helpful, Dilaine!

  4. As I sit in the airport after checking in a large suitcase full of “Just In Cases” for a 2-day work trip!
    HA, the timing!
    When are you holding a zoom webinar on this “how to travel lightly?” I would be sure to attend!

    Safe travels always to you!

    1. Oh, that’s a great idea but I better stick to my lane … and get some miles under my belt with these new skills. 🙂

  5. How fitting! I am in Colorado Springs for work and stayed to play. While my bestie is at work, I was planning to shop this afternoon ?. Perhaps I’ll pass. I love to travel light. Thanks Katherine ????

    1. Well, don’t ever let me get in the way of a good shopping therapy session! Yes, I’m loving the lighter travel. Sending love to you.

  6. I am in that mode too. Lighten up. In every area of life. My house needs it so my kid doesn’t get stuck sorting through all the stuff I’ve kept through the years. Even worse when your husband has a shop plus the garage and attic.
    Thank you for the encouragement. I have to say, my packing has been way better over the years. One small suitcase and my laptop bag. Keep it easy.

    1. Yep, its way, way better! Feels so good in the house too. Love walking into the closet and feeling all the “space.”

  7. Love this. I’ve done no check in for years, but always on the look out for more travel lightly tips. What is the name brand of the backpack? thanks, Janet

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