What Living Out of a Carry-On for 5 Months Taught Me

We need much less stuff than we think.

Gracia Kleijnen
4 min readJan 8, 2021

Person pulling a black carry-on suitcase while walking on the pavement in London city, United Kingdom.
Photo by Tomáš Gal on Unsplash

Last spring I arrived in Spain for a “workation”, the exact evening when the first full Covid lockdown was announced. It went into effect the next day. With me, I had a carry-on suitcase with some clothes and toiletries, and a backpack that carried my tech. Initially, I planned on staying for a couple of weeks. That turned into several months.

The strict lockdown was lifted after seven weeks, but traveling between provinces wasn’t immediately permitted again. Flights back home to Germany were still suspended, so I was “stuck” abroad much longer than anticipated. Not that I was in a rush to fly back. I didn’t mind enjoying a Mediterranean climate and “real” summery weather that matched the season.


My carry-on was packed with a week’s worth of clothes and contained only the bare essentials. The end destination was a tiny village. I’d be spending most of my time inside the house in front of a computer. The number of times I put on makeup can be counted on one hand. It is there that I transitioned from a decently dressed woman who made an effort when she went outdoors to a sports-and-loungewear-wearing slouch.

For who or what would I dress up now that we’d have to stay indoors? My Focusmates saw my face on camera, but they couldn’t see, nor did they care about what I was wearing.

Normally, I drag along more than the essentials. “It might rain, better pack some rainproof clothing. Oh, better pack some fancy outfits for when we go out for dinner.” But during the lockdown, no one’s going anywhere.

It felt freeing, first of all not letting myself need to worry about what to wear or to pre-pack outfits for possible events. I packed for comfort. I wore the same outfits every single week, alternating between the few items that I brought with me. It didn’t bother me.

The anti-hoarding approach to home life

When I finally could return to Berlin, I opened the door to my home, happy to be back at last. But something was off. Why was there so much stuff in my house? I looked around and felt suffocated by the non-used objects taking up…

Gracia Kleijnen

Sheets maker. Comic illustrator. Words on relationships, mental health, productivity & self-development in 35+ pubs. 📕Book author: https://bit.ly/buybumblebook