2014 Book List: Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt

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I loved this book!  It was loaned to me by a friend who thought I might like it and she was right!  So here’s the scoop…
Official title:  Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage
Author:  Allison Vesterfelt
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Vesterfelt takes the reader on an interesting and funny, yet profound, journey as she sells most of her possessions to road trip through every state with someone she just met in an effort to figure out what she’s supposed to do with her life.  Her travel companion, a free spirit and aspiring singer, is constantly encouraging her to just do what she wants…be a writer!  Through the sales of their possessions and merchandise sales at gigs, the two women meander their way through the US with their remaining possessions filling the car, living as frugally as possible.  Starting out neat & tidy like most road trips, they quickly come to realize that they don’t need half the stuff they brought so they lighten their load by getting rid of what’s become burdensome.  In addition to learning that she can easily survive without so much physical “stuff,” Vesterfelt also learned to let go of some of the mental and emotional things that had been holding her back.  She learned that all her expectations and all the things she thought she was entitled to – a good job, a nice place to live, the perfect man to marry – weren’t really things she was in control of, that God was and He would provide what she needed, when she needed it.
The book appealed to me for a couple of reasons.  First, I love road trips and have always wanted to drive through every state.  There’s no denying we live in an amazing, unique world and I love to explore it by car, with the freedom to stop whenever you want to look or photograph or explore on foot.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my husband if we can just buy an RV already!
Second, I’ve been in a “stuff purging” phase for a long time now.  When we got married, I was amazed at the amount of stuff two people had individually collected over the years.  Trying to fit everything we each owned into one house was hard.  Not to mention several of my husband’s former roommates had left quite a bit of their own stuff behind.  It seemed our only options were to become hoarders or purgers.  Being someone who prefers an organized, neat, clutter-free home, I decided to purge.  It felt good to get rid of as much as we did, but then we threw a home remodel into the mix.  We shifted things from one room to the other in order to work on particular projects or spaces.  And we shifted and shifted, until most of the remodel was done and it was time to find homes for all that stuff.  But we still had too much!  So another purge, then another, and another.  I think we’ve averaged at least one major clean out every year for the last 5 years.  Part of the problem is that my husband and I are both emotional packrats.  We keep things that have memories attached…some of them valuable and worth keeping, some of them silly where taking a simple picture of the object would suffice to preserve the memory.
We’ve learned a few things over the years though.  Something we’ve become good at is paying attention to how often things get used.  We’ve adopted the rule that if something hasn’t been used or worn or fixed or whatever in a year, then we must not really need or want it that bad, so it’s gone.  And something that we’re great at is not buying knick knacks and decorations for our house.  We try to use things we already own…my husband’s musical instruments along with framed photographs I took during an epic road trip adorn living room walls, a nautical naval map of waters my husband navigated during his time in the Navy hangs in the hallway, antiques from grandparents are proudly displayed on shelves.  That’s the type of “stuff” we want to be surrounded by, not stuff that we bought on a whim because it was trendy at the time, or trinkets that have no meaning.  I admit I do have a few knick knacks like that, but now, when I’m in a store and that “I want that!” feeling comes over me, I stop and think about it.  Where’s it made?  Is it good quality?  Does it serve a purpose?  Will I do anything with it over the next year?  Is that really how I want to spend my money today?  Or when it comes to clothes, do I really need another blue shirt?  (Seriously, you should see the rainbow of blue shirts hanging in my closet.  Ridiculous.)
And, like the author, beyond physical stuff I’ve learned what some of my mental roadblocks are.  I totally buy into the reward system idea.  It’s hard to do the right thing or work hard, and not expect great things to happen.  I mean, you should get rewarded, right?  It’s what you’re taught as a child by your parents, or what you’re taught in school – if you work hard, behave well, etc., then you get a reward whether it be a prize, a good grade, or verbal recognition.  Well, that doesn’t necessarily carry over into adulthood and that’s okay, but it can definitely be frustrating at times.  I’m human, I’m selfish, and I want things to be fair.  So if that person gets a reward for doing the same thing I did, then why don’t I get a reward too?  This book helped serve as a reminder that life isn’t always about stuff and fairness.  And while this concept may be fresh in my mind for now, I have no doubt that I’ll slip into that thinking again in the future…that, hey-where’s-my-reward attitude when I see others around me seemingly being rewarded for the same action.  But when the next attitude adjustment reminder comes along (and it will), hopefully it’ll be an even greater length of time before the next slip-up and that the reminders will happen less frequently.  It’s a good thing to continually learn and grow, even if we have to re-learn from time to time.  We’re fallible humans so we’ll never be perfect, but maybe, if we learn to lighten our load, to get rid of our “stuff” along our own personal journey, we’ll find that we discover what’s really important and gain a better perspective where earthly rewards aren’t so appealing.
There were quite a few parts of the book that really resonated with me, and I wanted to share a couple that made me stop and think.
“…when I don’t have resources, I’m learning God often gives them to me.  The lighter I pack, the more I realize He knows what I need even more than I do, and He is more generous than I ever imagined.  Sometimes He even meets needs I didn’t know I had.”
“Maybe sometimes it’s best to make decisions like this – without overanalyzing or overthinking.  Some of our best decisions are made on the fly, on instinct – without too much deliberation, without an elaborate pro/con list.  I’m not saying it’s bad to think through things, but if we thought through all the potential hangups and holdups, if we pondered all the mistakes that we could possibly make, maybe it would prevent us from moving forward in our journey.  And perhaps that would be the worst mistake of all.”
My rating:  5 out of 5
Books read to date:  4
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