The Suitcase Test

Over the weekend, my parents came to visit. At one point, we were talking about the experiences I had during my college days, and they mentioned that when I would move in and out of the dormitories, it would require a pickup truck to move all of the stuff.

During the conversation, I realized that if I were to do it all over again, I would be just fine with roughly a single suitcase worth of stuff. All of the rest of it was unnecessary and a huge waste of resources and money.

Things You Really Need For College

This idea intrigued me, so I actually made a list of the stuff I would take:

Five pairs of pants
Seven shirts
Five pairs of underwear
Five pairs of socks
One pair of shoes
A set of bed linens
Basic toiletries
My laptop
My cell phone
My iPod
A backpack

When I got there, I’d acquire the school supplies I needed – textbooks and notebooks and the like. I’d eat in the school’s food service, get my books from the library, and get around on public transportation. At the end of the semester, I save the notes I’ll need in the future, sell the textbooks, and pack myself up in that same suitcase I arrived in.

What this Would Have Accomplished

1.My startup costs would be much lower

No dorm room fridge. No entertainment system. No video game consoles. No huge CD collection. Just me, my brain, and what I need.

2. Most of those extra expenses are distractions from my studying

The less stuff I bring, the less stuff there is to distract me when I need to put my nose to the grindstone and study. It would also encourage me to not hide in my room and instead explore what the university has to offer.

3. Minimizing the amount of entertainment equipment discourages me from shopping for more content

I won’t blow money on video games if I don’t have a console in my dorm room. I won’t spend money on DVDs without a DVD player. And not having a television keeps me from utilizing either one. Instead, I can save that money to buy textbooks or reduce my student loan load.

4. The cost of transportation is much lower

If you don’t take much stuff at all with you, it becomes much easier to transport yourself to school before the semester and away from school at the end of the semester. For example, you can easily take the bus or train and not have to deal with shipping the excess material.

Things You Really Need in Your Life

That seems like good advice to give to a college student, but why not apply it to our own life, at least to a certain extent?

Just step back and think about it for a minute.
If you had to fit all of your belongings in a suitcase and walk away, what would you pack?

My list would actually look much like what I described above for my college suitcase. Those items, along with books from the library and my Nintendo DS, would take care of how I spend the vast majority of my time provided that my family was with me. I’d need some basic supplies for cooking, of course – a few pots and pans and a few dishes – but, in the end, what else do I need?

If you carry that thought a little further, why not simply apply the “suitcase test” to every purchase that you make? If it’s not something that will fit in your “suitcase” – basic clothing, basic toiletries, cooking supplies, and a small number of splurge items – don’t buy it, or at least strongly consider not buying it.

Recently, my wife and I have been going through our stuff and getting rid of a lot of old items we don’t use. Some items have gone to Goodwill, others have gone out in the trash, still others have been sold on eBay. It’s been a slow process, but an enjoyable one – during evenings when the kids are in bed or during nap times on weekends, we’ve been cleaning out closets and talking about what to get rid of and what to keep.

Our default positions usually are that I want to sell/get rid of the item while my wife wants to keep it. Over the last few days, though, I’ve mentioned the suitcase idea to my wife and she’s started to see the appeal of it – especially as we go through the large “master closet” in our bedroom.

At the center of all of this is our “suitcase test,” and while I find myself having a smaller suitcase than my wife, it’s provided a positive mindset for both of us.

Less is more.

It’s more money in the pocket, directly from eBay sales and indirectly from less spending. It’s more open space in our home without clutter. It’s more items that are high quality instead of cheap items to take up space.

It’s all in the suitcase, baby.