Overhead photo of a brown-and-blue cup and saucer of coffee in the middle of a pale blue background.

This is Part 2 of a two-part post. Part 1 is about what we lost (a fun vacation). Part 2 will be about what I gained (life lessons and insights).

One of the things I enjoy about travel is experiencing other people and places. But whether I’m traveling to a lakeside campsite, a hotel room in a U.S. city, or an apartment rental in a foreign country, one of the benefits I most welcome is stepping outside my day-to-day routine. Whether my main vacation activities are relaxing in a camp chair with a book, or checking out museums and monuments, the change in scene is like a reset for my brain. It gets the creative juices flowing, and often helps me get much-needed perspective on…whatever.

If you read my previous post about my trip to Ecuador last month, you might think that the stress of protests and tear gas and blocked highways would have been anything but head-clearing. While I spent more time than intended (and wanted) on social media keeping up with what in the heck was happening, strangely, our trip did yield me the desired mental benefits.

Sure, the museums were closed, and we didn’t get to experience as much of the country as we had planned, but the experience of being in a space with less stuff had a dramatic effect.

Minimalism: Photo of an apartment with curved, terracotta tiled steps, rustic white walls, and a dining table visible through an open doorway.
The power of less

This phenomenon was not lost on me. To one degree or another, I experience it every time I stay in a hotel room or vacation rental. Perhaps you do, too. When I spend 10 days in Paris (or Ecuador) living out of a small suitcase, in a minimally yet adequately equipped kitchen, I realize that less can be more. These photos are of our lovely Airbnb in Quito, Ecuador, and I will say that the calmness of the space helped made the uncertainty of our trip bearable.

I have a small collection of books on voluntary simplicity that date back to the 90s. Today, those ideas have largely been rebranded as minimalism, but they’re essentially the same. Yet, I’ve struggled with translating intention to action.

I’ve always felt the push-pull of desiring a clutter-free space (this doesn’t mean austere) yet chasing a consumer lifestyle. But as my life has acquired more facets (writer, speaker, blogger, nutrition coach) and I’ve been traveling more, my need for a calm space has also increased.

Minimalism: Photo of a bedroom with rustic white walls, a sloped ceiling with wood beams, and simple furnishings (a bed, a wicker ottoman, and some small paintings on the walls)
When the student is ready, the teacher appears

It was somewhat serendipitous that I chanced upon the online Uncluttered course (run by Joshua Becker, of the blog “Becoming Minimalist“) while we were in Quito. It was exactly what I needed, and am in the middle of it now. I’ve also been reading books by other minimalist authors.

There is research showing that not only is clutter stressful, but it contribute to poor health. Some of this is due to the stress itself, but if having a cluttered kitchen makes you never want to cook, that can’t help, either. Personally, it stresses me to not being able to find something I want to use right now (a pair of shoes, a kitchen tool) because it’s obscured by too much other stuff. I also find that with as busy as my brain is all day (writing, researching, planning, talking with clients) that I reach the point of decision fatigue very easily with simple tasks like which clothes I want to wear. Next week, I will attempt to try the Project 333 challenge, and we’ll see how that goes!

Minimalism: Photo of an apartment entryway, with terra cotta and stone tiles, and open door to a tiled patio, and rustic white walls with two black-framed black-and-white drawings.
Betwixt and between

I’m in a weird place to be decluttering—like, literally, a weird physical place—because we’re renting a 2-bedroom apartment while our house is under construction (they started putting up drywall yesterday…yay!). We have a small garage filled with stuff (including most of my books, as well as our free-standing freezer and our stock of Costco paper goods and whatnot). We also have three storage units. (OK, one’s for our travel trailer, but the other two are filled with all the stuff we brought from our former two-story house + basement + shed. Oh, and fixtures for the house: bathtub, shower enclosure, kitchen sink, ceiling fans, toilets…you get the drift.)

We did a reasonably good job of not bringing too much stuff into our actual living space, but I have found room for improvement. (Piles of magazines on the coffee table, gone. Paint chips and countertop samples sitting in the living room, stored appropriately. Containers of bread flour sitting out when no bread has been made for months, no more!)

I’ve long suspected that when we finally move into our house and start unpacking, a tremendous number of items are going to be redirected to our garage sale, and now I know that for sure. I’ve already experienced that as I’ve pulled my large plastic tub of winter clothes out of the garage (“Oh, I forgot I had this…and why am I keeping this, exactly?”).


Would you benefit from a little decluttering or minimalizing? Here are some books, websites and podcasts that I’ve been finding helpful:

Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN, is a Pacific Northwest-based registered dietitian nutritionist, freelance writer, intuitive eating counselor, author, and speaker. Her superpowers include busting nutrition myths and empowering women to feel better in their bodies and make food choices that support pleasure, nutrition and health. This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute individualized nutrition or medical advice.

Seeking 1-on-1 nutrition counseling? Carrie offers a 6-month Food & Body program (intuitive eating, body image, mindfulness, self-compassion) and a 4-month IBS management program (low-FODMAP diet coaching with an emphasis on increasing food freedom). Visit the links to learn more and book a free intro call to see if the program is a good fit, and if we’re a good fit!

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