Minimalism for travellers and nomads

After a year and a half of lugging all my worldly belongings around Europe, I’ve started to re-assess my possessions and look at them in a different light.

I think you might agree with me when I say that most people (myself included) have a lot more possessions than we really need. You might recognise the drawers of ‘stuff’ that you can’t be bothered to sort out; the boxes of ‘just in case’ items in the attic and the cluttered surfaces around your house.

Minimalism as a concept and lifestyle is all about challenging that. The word ‘minimalism’ might make you think of pristine homes with white walls, white sheets and only 2 pieces of furniture, or strict rules about only owning 12 items of clothing, or living with just a toothbrush and a pair of pants. But the real meaning of minimalism, as I like to look at it, is:

“Just owning what you truly need and want, with no excess”

This can be an excellent lifestyle for anyone. Reducing your possessions down to just what you need and nothing more can make you more organised, cleaner, tidier and calmer. It can also save you money and space in your home, and even save time when you’re looking for useful items among the clutter.

However, for regular travellers or digital nomads, minimalism on some level is a pretty essential concept. It’s not an option to drag everything around in a suitcase, so instead of renting endless storage crates, why not think about reducing what you own and streamlining your lifestyle?

How can you put this into practice?

Obviously step one of creating a more minimalist lifestyle is to assess what you have, and get rid of some of the things you don’t need. To make this simple for you, here are some of the ways I have done (or am doing) this:

1    Clothes

I can safely say I have way, way too many clothes. And I’m fairly sure most people can say the same.

The only real solution is to be pretty brutal with what you own.

I suggest that you empty ALL your clothes from your wardrobe/drawers/suitcases and do the following:

  • Pick out anything stained / torn / worn out. Either commit to repairing it, tear it up for cleaning rags, or throw it out.
  • Identify items you haven’t worn for a year or more and bag them up for a charity shop. If you didn’t wear it in a 12 month cycle, likelihood is you won’t wear it again.
  • Identify duplicate items or multiples of the same thing. I.e. if you have 20 different sweaters, you realistically only need about 5. Donate the others.
  • Go through all your underwear and socks and throw away anything that is long past its best (holey socks, saggy bras, discoloured whites…)

If you need help on what to throw out / donate, try these resources:

30 + things to throw out

7 items to purge from your closet – sorry this is a Buzzfeed post but the advice is sound.

You can also try a tip that I’ve read somewhere but I can’t remember where. Basically, it involves turning all your clothes facing one way in the wardrobe. After you wear one, put it back the other way round. Anything that hasn’t been turned around after 3 months should go. (You might want to do this seasonally).

If you want to take this seriously, you should consider a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a small number of basic essential pieces which can be combined to create all the outfits you might need. Project 333 is the ultimate capsule wardrobe challenge. It advocates owning only 33 separate items for each 3-month season of the year (some may overlap).

How to create a capsule wardrobe

As for me, the real challenge is cutting down my collection of band t-shirts… But even just winnowing out a few old and unworn items is a great start. Fill your bags and rejoice.

2   Beauty and toiletries

Take a look at your shelves of makeup, cosmetics or toiletries. Can you honestly say that you use and need every item? I went through a phase of watching beauty vloggers on YouTube and thinking that I needed to buy primer and toner and all sorts of superfluous cosmetic items to look good. However the reality is that many products are more or less completely unnecessary, and all that flashy marketing is just there to try to convince us we need them when we don’t.

In fact, I come from a very minimalist family: my mum washes her face with soap and only uses lipstick, whilst my sister doesn’t wear makeup at all. I would love to be one of those people who splashes their face and heads out the door, but thanks to a lifetime of terrible skin it’s not really an option. However, even as someone who doesn’t use that much makeup or that many products, there were several in my bag that really didn’t need to be there.

We can all take a look at our shelves of products and identify which ones we really need and which are just marketing hype.

Do you really need a separate moisturisers for face, hands, body, feet, eyes…? Do you need 10 perfumes? 50+ hair products? Shades of eyeshadow or nail varnish that you haven’t worn since high school?

Minimalist toiletries – multitasking bar products

Here are some tips to cut through all that:

  • Identify essentials
    • These are items you absolutely must have. For example, mine would be:
      • toothbrush
      • toothpaste
      • soap (one does fine for hands and body)
      • razor
      • hairbrush
      • shampoo
      • conditioner
      • facewash
      • moisturiser
      • deodorant
    • You should invest in decent quality items for these essentials. Better to have one really great organic moisturiser than 5 dodgy ones.
  • Identify products which can ‘multitask’. I.e. one product that can double for 2-3. For example one bar of soap can be used for hands, body and maybe face. Can you use the same moisturiser for body, hands and face? Can your eyeshadow moonlight as blush or brow pencil?
  • Throw out any gross expired products
  • Identify products you don’t like, use or need. Give them away, throw them away or use them up and don’t repurchase
  • Consider a capsule makeup collection
  • Consider switching from bottled to bar products. A simple bar of soap can do most things on its own. It takes up less space than all those bottles of shower gel, hand soap and antibacterial washes, and does the same job just as well. It also reduces packaging waste which I love. Bar shampoo, deodorant, facewash, conditioner and even more things are available from Lush and online stores. If you’re interested in reducing plastic waste, take a canvas bag and tin to Lush and get them to put the bars straight in there.
Ultra-simple capsule makeup

Here are some ideas:

Create your capsule beauty look

Video: Decluttering your makeup

3   Papers, letters documents

I hate doing this, but papers and mail tend to pile up and they will never go away unless you get hardcore and go through them. Go through your ‘important’ document pile and properly dispose of anything that’s expired or no longer needed. Go through your mail and recycle any junk you don’t need. Consider going paperless with your bank and other services to reduce the amount of mail you receive, or sign up with a service like the mailing preference service. Cancel any subscriptions to things you don’t read or want.

A quick jumpstart for your decluttering:

As I travel so much and am rather anti-consumerist, I don’t own much beyond clothes and hygiene products. However, if you want some further inspiration, this video is a great jumpstart for items you can toss NOW to start 2017 fresh.

25 things to get rid of before 2017 (video)

My goal for 2017 is to complete the decluttering and minimalism process to get my possessions streamlined for my next travels. Let me know how you get on!

Finally before I go, here are some recommendations for my favourite minimalist vloggers or bloggers so you can continue your journey.

Jenny Mustard – an outrageously cool and unique Swedish minimalist who also has a great YouTube channel

Zoey Arielle – YouTube channel with practical tips

Lindsay Weir aka Minimalist Insider

A TEDx talk about minimalism

Treading My Own Path – zero waste and minimalism, what’s not to love?!

2 thoughts on “Minimalism for travellers and nomads

  1. I love Jenny Mustard! And after spending extended periods of time abroad and living out of a suitcase, I think it becomes pretty obvious that you don’t need 80% of the stuff that you own. (Pro tip for bookworms: check out your library’s ebook and audiobook collections or subscribe to Overdrive! My bookshelf would be at 400 times its capacity if it wasn’t for Overdrive.)


    1. Yay glad you’re a Mustard fan too! For me I definitely needed to cut down on clothes and a few unneeded beauty products (what even is primer anyway?)… you can do almost everything with just a plain soap and a simple moisturiser.


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