Vacations can be more than just time away.

I love travelling. I love to visit other countries and see how other people live. I love the different weather, the different architecture, the different food, the different flora and fauna and… well just all the differences. I also love the sameness, how ultimately we are all just people with our strengths and our flaws.

And one of the other things I love about travel is experiencing how little you really need in order to get by from day to day. Every time I travel I learn more about this.

This time we are staying in a studio apartment. A small well equiped kitchen, a bathroom and a living room/bedroom combined. Although I like a little more space at home, mostly because I am a creative kind of person, living like this on a temporary basis proves to me how little one really needs to live comfortably. And spending so much time out on the streets exploring brings home to me, if only in a superficial way, how some less fortunate people are forced to live. Which reminds me just how fortunate I am. And Berlin is a great place to witness diversity when it comes to how people chose to live.

Being here in the winter only adds to the realisation that having a warm, dry and comfortable place to return to at the end of the day is a blessing. And that place doesn’t have to be spacious to be a greatly appreciated. The only thing I would change about this apartment would be to get rid of half a dozen candle holders and add a decent sharp knife to the kitchen. I find that amusing because even in such a little place I am still more inclined to declutter some things rather than add any.

In fact my husband and I are both inspired to look again at what we do have at home, once we return, and do some more decluttering. We also have learned, as we do every time we travel, more about what we do and do not need to pack when we set out on these little adventures. We packed pretty light as usual but there have still been items of clothing that we could have left behind.

And if you think you need to travel heavier in the winter because you need more layers then you are wrong. The beauty of winter is that you hardly ever work up a sweat and your inner clothing is nearly always covered by your outer layers. So they don’t get smelly or dirty and nobody knows whether you are wearing the same thing day in day out for a week or not. And even if they did know, why should you care. People spend far too much time worrying about what other people think about superficial things such as fashion.

I guess the moral of this story is. Equip your home and your wardrobe to what suits you. Be aware of what you really do use and eliminate what you don’t if you want to live a less cluttered lifestyle. Don’t waste your hard earned money on stuff you don’t need and you will be about to afford more of what brings you comfort or joy. Things like the building up your savings which will give you the serenity of knowing you can pay your bills and have a nest egg should an unexpected expense come along.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Good post Colleen. This is what I am learning too. There just isn’t that much I need. I plan to declutter some more as we prepare to move.

  2. Colleen it really hit home when said you tend to declutter than add items. When I go to one friend’s house I mentally declutter her place & think how much fun it would be to do so. She has never asked or said anything about her house or what I would call clutter, others would call decorations, so I just do the mental declutter & let her her enjoy her things.

    • Absolutely Calla. What is clutter to one is decoration or “necessities” to another. That is the beauty of blogging about decluttering. People come looking for a blog like mine when their mind is already heading in the same direction and then I can help them find their way.
      I have had the joy of seeing people transform for that last six years and it has been a delight.
      And the candle holders I was talking about. There are 11 tealight holders and two bags of candles in the kitchen drawer. Handy in a blackout I guess but there is nothing here to light them with. Not one match.

    • Hi Calla,

      I often see “minimalist home decorating style” examples in magazines or on the Internet. They have much decor hanging and sitting around! I would not classify them as minimalist! Not that they are unattractive places but they would take a lot of maintenance (that I would be unwilling to do!) 🙂

      • I know what you mean Peggy. While they are better than “regular” designed spaces, they still have way too much for my taste.

  3. Hi Colleen, Thanks for another interesting post. I have been travelling too since Christmas so haven’t commented in a while although I never miss a post and have kept up with everyone’s comments. Travelling certainly focuses my mind on packing light and paring down to the essentials and the long hours of plane journeys have been a good time to think about my plans for lightening the load at home and clearing out the things that we don’t use. Looking forward to reading the inspiring stories and advice from the 365-ers’ decluttering journeys! Hope you’ve been enjoying Berlin.

  4. I can really relate to this post. When I travel, I pack only what will fit in my backpack. I do without so much – and I never feel deprived. It is a wonderful reminder of what I truly need. The freedom I experience is wonderful, and it puts everything in perspective to see how others live and how fortunate I am. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Interesting post Colleen – I think it would be interesting to have a ‘start over’ opportunity, to see what kind of home base I would establish. Even though I have decluttered heaps over the years, it has been a ‘taking away’ process, rather than an intentional adding to process.

    I have an aunt and uncle who in their mid 60’s sold up everything and left to go overseas with a suitcase each. Not traveling as light as you Colleen, but for two very settled people this was such a brave change and I admire them for it.

    • Hi Moni,

      I often think how nice it would be to start over “from scratch” to add things to a new household. It is a fun dream 🙂

    • Wow, that is a big thing to do at 60. We will have had plenty of practice at it by then but I can’t see me up and leaving Australia for good. As it is I am so excited to be going home to my family and making up for lost time with the new gorgeous little grandson of ours. He is getting so big.

  6. Hi, Colleen – nice post. It brought to mind the words of Hans Christian Andersen:

    “To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
    To gain all while you give,
    To roam the roads of lands remote,
    To travel is to live.”

    A vacation can often provide insight into what you actually need and what you think you need, when it comes to packing. What you perceive you’ll need doesn’t always end up getting used. And each time I return from a vacation, I look at our home and everything in it with new eyes.

  7. Colleen,
    Loved your thought provoking post. I couldn’t agree more. Twenty years ago (I still remember the trip when I had the aha moment), I told my sister that I would love to live the way you live in a hotel when you travel. Less is so much more. The dream is not dead as I now tell my daughter that I would like to spend my retirement years living in a hotel 🙂

  8. There is really nothing like some time seperated from your stuff to make you realize how little you miss it when it’s not there!

    Re: clothing. You were lucky the winter was quite mild! 😀 Nonetheless, it’s true: clothes need a lot less changing in winter, especially the heavy outer layers like sweaters etc. I still find I have more laundry in winter – about 1.5 times as much as in summer, but that’s mostly due to some things being really bulky and taking up a lot of space in the washing machine.

    • Hi Sanna, while we have been here we have done one load of washing one week and two the next. One week it is just clothes and towels (very small towels at that) and the next we do clothes, towels and sheets. I sometimes think that a washer/dryer combo would be more useful in a small apartment than a dishwasher. It would be easier to wash a few dishes each day than to go 2.5km away on the train to do the washing once a week. I don’t mind though, it is all part of the adventure. However I will enjoy my washing machine when I get home.

  9. This post’s topic is such a timely one for me! I’m not on vacation, but my husband and I are living in a hotel for the next few months. We’re lucky that we have a little kitchenette in this hotel room. It has a fridge, microwave, two-burner stove top, dishes, and cookware. We aren’t gourmet cooks, so we can certainly make do with this setup.

    Living in a hotel has its pros and cons, just like everywhere else. I love the simplicity of it. I love having the housekeeping service once or twice a week (for clean sheets and towels and vacuuming…..I clean most everything else). But you don’t get to choose your decor, or the bedding, or the pots and pans. You can definitely get used to what is provided, though, especially if it’s just temporary.

    This is not the first time we have lived in a hotel… is the third or fourth time! The way I always “declutter” a hotel room is to put away all the “hotel” stuff. The coffee maker and tray, ice bucket, those endless placards & magazines…..I put all that stuff away asap. I bought a pretty hand soap for the kitchen sink, and a pretty candle for the bathroom. Those are my only decorations. The bathroom sink area has a large countertop, but no drawers or shelves or cabinets, so I got two plastic “baskets” from Target to hold each of our toiletries. It looks nice and functions really well.

    We’ve been in this place for a month, and it has worked out well. We have to move to another hotel in 10 days, so I’ll have to start all over again. LOL.

    • Hi, Melanie. I usually leave the hospitality tray alone but I do tuck all the hotel paraphernalia (pen, notepad, directory, etc) into the drawer for the duration of our stay. I prefer to use the space to lay out a few necessary personal items, and I replace the hotel stuff when we are all packed and ready to leave.

  10. Hi Everyone,

    I’m taking a permanent vacation from some items that were on our coffee tray in the kitchen: 2 tins of old coffee, one box of long expired coffee sachets (coffee still tastes okay but no one ever uses it). Even the tray is being switched out for a slightly larger one so that things don’t need to be stacked. Some trays that were leaning in back of the coffee tray and under-cabinet paper towel holder (and continually falling over) are being relocated. I think things will work better now 🙂