One of the fun things about living the minimalist lifestyle is doing “minimalism experiments.” If you’re a nerd like me, you may be getting excited just hearing the word experiment! If not, don’t worry. These experiments look NOTHING like the experiments you did in high school chemistry class.
So what does a minimalism experiment look like? It’s experimenting with how little you actually need, by living with a set amount of less for a set amount of time. For example, some minimalists prefer a “capsule wardrobe,” where they only use a specific amount of clothing for a set amount of time. Courtney Carver’s Project 333, in which she uses only 33 items of clothing, shoes, and accessories for 3 months, is a great example.
These experiments are always for a limited amount of time. That’s why they are experiments—they’re made to be short-term. You get to try something just to see how it goes. Courtney Carver didn’t get rid of all her clothes and jump right into the capsule wardrobe with no adjustment time. She boxed up the rest of her clothes and put them in storage while she experimented with less.
The result of these experiments is seeing how you’d like to readjust your lifestyle for the future. After her Project 333 experiment, Courtney Carver ended up deciding that living with a capsule wardrobe was how she wanted to live from now on, and years later this is how she still manages her wardrobe.
Minimalism experiments can also show you how you DON’T want to live in the future. If you tried Project 333 for 3 months and found it too restrictive, you could easily experiment the next time with less clothes, but more than 33. Maybe 55 items is your “just enough” amount, but you won’t know until you try it out for a short amount of time.
One of the ways I love doing minimalism experiments is with travel. Traveling lends itself naturally to minimalism experiments. It has a limited amount of time (the time of the trip) already baked in, and you’re already living with less when you travel, since you’re living out of a packed bag or suitcase.
My first travel minimalism experiment was in December, when I went on a 7-day cruise with my husband Will and my father-in-law Norm. I have been on many cruises before, and I always overpack. I probably end up wearing only 2/3 of what I pack every time.
So, I decided to pack everything I needed for the week-long cruise in my carry-on-sized suitcase, just to see if it was possible. Long story short—IT WAS POSSIBLE. In fact, I still had 2 pieces of clothing that I didn’t wear, even with the smaller packed wardrobe. This experiment taught me that even in travel, we need so much less than we think we do.
My latest minimalism travel experiment was a 4-day work trip to a conference in TX last week. I was a little nervous, because I had never tried one of my experiments when traveling for work—especially when my job includes bringing things for a table set-up at the event. I didn’t know if I’d be able to fit everything I needed for myself, as well as what I needed for the table (including display items and branded items to give away). But I decided to see if I could pack everything I needed into one carry-on suitcase. Just to see if I could.
To stave off nervousness as I started the packing process, I read a Bible passage to remind myself that even Jesus was all about traveling with minimal stuff:
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. (Luke 9:1-3)
I didn’t go quite that far (I needed a bag and money and clothes), but I took the sentiment to heart. I only packed what I estimated I would need, exactly 4 days worth of clothes and toiletries. I packed one pair of shoes, just the right amount of tops, and just the right amount of bottoms.
I first packed my clothes and toiletries (and a hair dryer and breakfast food), just to see if there would be enough space to fit what I needed for the table:
And I was amazed that there was PLENTY of space. So then I added all the things for work—tablecloth, brochures, sign, display print-outs, business cards, and 400+ seminary branded pens and lanyards to give away:
Just so you can see, this is what the table looks like all put together (the rest of the 350+ pens and lanyards are under the table and are replenished as necessary):
So, amazingly, I was easily able to pack clothes for 4 days, and everything you see on that display table, into one carry-on suitcase. I was floored. I thought for sure I would have to check a bigger bag, but I was able to do it after all. I needed so much less than I thought I did.
Jesus’ disciples were probably just as shocked that they could live with less. Later in the Gospel of Luke, after the disciples return from their earlier travels bringing nothing with them, Jesus debriefs their minimalist trip:
[Jesus] said to them, “When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.” (Luke 25:35)
The disciples realize that even though they traveled with nothing except the clothes on their backs, God (through others) provided everything that they needed. Just like me, they too realized that we need so much less than we think we do.
Too often we think it’s up to us to make sure we are prepared for everything under the sun, so we travel and keep things in our homes for “just in case.” How would our lives be different if we traveled and lived with less– only living with the necessities– trusting that God will provide what we need?