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What goes with you

Traveling around the country while writing may sound glamorous, but let's talk about how the transition from owning a home to living with what fits in your car is anything but. After all, that's the thing about mobilizing your life - you have to get rid of stuff. A lot of stuff. And if you owned a home that was bigger than you really needed, we're talking a LOT of stuff!


I owned a 'small' home in Terre Haute, Indiana, for six years. It was billed as 1400 square feet. But it also had a massive 4-room basement. And an oversized garage. And a garden shed. And a screened in porch. And half an acre. And.... Point is, I quickly found myself needing to fill more than just 'two beds, two baths' with furniture. And once you start filling a house, others start helping you fill that house. You're gifted people's discarded furniture. Friends give you housewarming gifts. Parents send knick-knacks. Things you might have thrown away get put in the garage to be 'fixed' later. I've never liked a lot of clutter, and I've always considered myself good at not accumulating (especially given that my mother has hoarder tendencies), but when I went to move, the stuff just kept on coming. I'd donate bags and bags and boxes upon boxes to Goodwill, only to open a cabinet and realize there was still more stuff. I was downsizing up until the actual day I handed over the keys.



Image: My former house in Indiana.


So when you go from living in a house to short-term rentals, what do you take with you?


It may sound obvious. Clothes. Duh. Also your laptop charger.


But living on the road isn't like going on a two week vacation. There are other things to consider. You need to be able to make someone else's space feel like your home - especially if, like me, you'll be staying in each new place for a month or two. A lot of AirBnBs are stocked with only the bare minimum - a fake leather sofa, a tv, and that's about it. I'll avoid these places because they require bringing or purchasing cookware, linens, extra pillows - the stuff that makes a home actually comfortable. But even a thoughtfully appointed place is still someone else's, and that can be disheartening. So I opted to bring some stuff that would make me feel at home and make the transition easier. Here's what I ended up with:


Clothes, duh. 1 large suitcase and a large duffel bag of workout gear, sweaters, jeans, a couple nice dresses - clothes for all weather since I'll get all the seasons.


A set of sheets and a comforter. Fun fact, if you're traveling with a dog, some places ask that you bring your own linens.


A pet-friendly furniture throw. My dog sheds. I don't want to cover other people's furniture in hair.


Art. Nothing makes a strange place feel like home more than art. I brought along a few small paintings that speak to me. They don't take up much space and make a world of difference.



Image: Painting and other small "stuff" that travels easily. Bar cart and flower were already here.


Photos. I'm not prone to getting 'homesick', but I do like being able to see my people's faces.


Toiletries. You never quite know what you'll find in a long-term rental. Sometimes it's just a travel sized shampoo and conditioner. Some things can be easily purchased at your destination (q-tips, toothpaste, etc.) but I brought along specific toiletries I like, like my shampoos and harder to find make-ups.


A towel. As both The Hitchhiker's Guide and South Park teach us, always bring a towel.


My perfume collection. Yup, it's an odd one, but perfume holds a special place in my heart. Since scent ties so strongly to memory, my perfume collection is sort of my life history in liquid form. It comes with me, even if it's a pain to pack.


A few books. In retrospect, I wouldn't have brought them. I would instead have just checked them out from the library at my destination. I'll shed them as I go.


4 puzzles. I'm an 80 year old at heart and I love a puzzle on a rainy day. Like books, I'll leave them behind as I finish them.


My special coffee. In a new place, I find that having a coffee I know I love in the morning helps me feel grounded. After all, nothing's worse than brewing up whatever the host has on hand and finding it's terrible. So I brought along a bag of one of my faves.


Dog accessories. These take up a surprising amount of space. My dog has a bed, a harness and leash, a brush, medications (she's very old), doggy bags, bowls, a bone, etc.


The dog herself. Mine is a 55 pound pit/lab rescue. Conveniently, she doubles as my best traveling buddy. She's mercifully great in the car.



Image: My dog Harley, who travels with me.


A wax tart warmer and wax tarts. 'Home' for me is very scent based, so filling my new place with a favorite scent is comforting.


My laptop, phone, cords. Non-negotiable, of course.


A few special items, all small enough to fit in a tiny box. These are just random things that are special to me for various reasons, like a conch shell and a creepy shadowbox I picked up in Mexico, or a few miniature houses I got in Norway.


Necessary documents. Passport, tax forms, etc. They're not fun, but they've gotta travel with.


A Roku stick. What? I've gotta be able to watch Dexter.


There were also things I thought about bringing, but ditched, like my favorite houseplant (a Pothos named Irene Adler who stayed with the new owners of my house), some large framed photos (I popped the photos out and put them with my documents, then sold the frames), a lot a lot of a lot of clothing, a few favorite mugs, my French Press (still sad about that one) and my kayak (the hardest thing for me to let go of).


What I learned is that the more I got rid of, the easier it was to get rid of more. And once I started packing it all into my car, it became a whole lot easier because of necessity. When I arrived at my first place (a sweet little apartment in Lexington, Kentucky), I immediately ditched a few things that had bothered me during the drive by clanging around, as well as a sweater that itched my skin the whole way. I will drop more as I go.


But for now, that's what I have, and I can't say I've missed anything I let go of so far. In fact, I'm anxious to use things up so I can travel even lighter to the next place.