Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

6 Months On The Road: And Still Decluttering!


Decluttering is a bit like striping a plaster from a wound, I’ve learned. You can do it quickly, and get over the pain quickly, or you can peel it off slowly and prolong the agony. It’s a lesson I thought I’d learned – but apparently not!

My old van was just chock-a-block with “stuff” when I set out in early October, and deep down I knew that I likely wouldn’t need/want all of it. The day I left, it took me a while in the pre-dawn chill to finish loading my van, and it was a squeeze for Trix – who didn’t seem to mind so long as she could curl up! It turns out that about a half of what I packed in was “not needed on voyage,” which is why I haven’t written a post entitled something like “What I Packed for My New Adventure,” or some such.


The danger in traveling long-term by car or van or camper i.e. on wheels, is that you think you have so much room, so you can easily fit in those “just in case” items. Truth is, however, that even if you do have the room, there’s a lot of inconvenience to carting lots of stuff around with you. A journey is almost certainly a metaphor for life in this sense. I remind myself of this as I search, for the umpteenth time, for my car papers. They are MIA, and wherever they turn up, it’s for sure I can’t find them right now because –

I Brought Too Much!

Basically I brought five categories of  stuff with me: clothes, technology, files, household things, and, er, books.

Let’s look at where I went wrong. The technology is pretty well-organized. There is nothing I haven’t needed, except a spare adaptor & a couple of spare cables, but they are for emergencies, and don’t take up much room. When I was in UK in September I picked up these practical cable organizers from Lakeland. I adore Lakeland, and they aren’t paying me a thing to say that! I also got these adaptor wraps and once everything was wound up, I popped it in one of these packing squares…..if only everything was so well-organized!

But clothes were a different matter. Because I don’t know how long I will be away, and because I had no baggage restrictions, and because I’ve whittled down my wardrobe (oh you would not believe the clothes I once had!), I brought almost everything. You never know  if I might get a call to hightail it to UK in mid-winter, so it made sense. But, that said, do I really need thermal undies, ski gloves or no less than six sun hats? Er, I don’t think so! I now have this organized to one, smallish bag (gym bag size) which contains my winter clothes if I dash off anywhere cold; one very small bag which contains spare seasonal clothes, stuff I had too much off, so won’t bother with until the duplicate runs out, and one small case (allegedly carry on size) with the clothes I use day-to-day, minus shoes which go loose in the corners of the van.

And do not mention the books. Did I really expect to read my way through 3 boxes of books (not counting those on my laptop!) when there is so much exploring and discovering to do each day? Sign of true a true addict. Books are my utterly incurable addiction. In the next, few weeks before I leave for my next  port of call, I will whittle these down. This will be a challenge, but somehow I will rise to it!


Files remain a conundrum. Old habits die hard, this probably harks back to my early working days as a secretary……now there’s a word to conjure with! Files are:  information about how to do stuff online; magazines with articles which might be useful; bank statements (please, please to my banks – stop killing our forests to send me this useless stuff which is already online!); pamphlets, cards and flyers about places and things on this journey and possibly future ones; the important stuff like powers of attorney, legal papers etc; notebooks of ideas for various things I’ve jotted down, but never gone back to (there are a lot of those!); instructions and guarantees for all the technology. Truthfully, I can almost certainly whittle this down to about a quarter of its size, but the thought of doing it appalls me – oh for a rainy day so I could settle down with a few beers and sort it out! But, like the books, it will be done by the end of this month!

As for the household stuff? Spare sheets were left in La Gomera ( I have a sleeping bag anyway if needs be). Spare towels to be kept -for the beach, and they squidge into corners in the van anyway. And apart from the small items listed below, I dropped off the rest at Nueva Frontera (the Spanish equivalent of Goodwill).

And …….. my final declutter takes place. So far, passing through Tenerife on my way to England, I dumped three more boxes, and passing through again next month I will dump a final four more, one of which will contain four sun hats and thermal underwear. That might just leave me room to be able to use the van for camping, which I’d hoped to do this summer!

This picture taken end of February a few days before I left La Gomera - see how chilly it was!

This picture taken end of February a few days before I left La Gomera – see how chilly it was!

Odd things I’m glad I brought?

A big mug for my coffee – Spain does not, willingly,  do mugs!

My special knife for cutting grapefruit –  Great invention! I’ve never seen these anywhere else & I’ve had it now for, oh, 30 years. The blade is curved at the end so you don’t have so much waste. I love grapefruit!

Those clips for tying up packets once opened – since I did away with bulky tupperware.

Stoppers for wine bottles 🙂

Old blankets and throws – working our way through these, what with Trixy & picnicking, or just for throwing over stuff in the car.

My old duvet! I almost gave this to the Spanish equivalent of Goodwill, but at the least minute squeezed it in. When I was in England last month, my friend, Colleen, made a super, super bed for Trix from it & an old curtain, since Trixy stretched her old one out of existence. Thank you, Colleen!

Can opener – almost all cans are ring pulls now, so places don’t have openers, and I needed it just once so far.

We live and learn – of course. It’s right what folk say, pack what you think you need……and then half it!


…….and Trixy is very happy about the extra space!




Author: IslandMomma

Aging with passion; travelling with curiosity; exploring islandlife, and trying to keep fit and healthy.

28 thoughts on “6 Months On The Road: And Still Decluttering!

  1. Seriously impressed! I made a vow at the start of this year to declutter one item every day this year. So far I’m on track 🙂

    Where does all this stuff come from!?

    • Marianne, it took me ten years in all! Sold my house/furniture in 2003. Went off for a few months. Came back & bought an apartment and blow me if I didn’t start buying stuff again! Sold all of that in 2004 & went off again, for almost a year. Came back in 2005 & that’s when the serious whittling down started. The furniture & household stuff isn’t so difficult, so long as you convince yourself that you really will never need that set of shot glasses you’ve had 10 yrs & never used! Same goes for clothes – never would get back into some of the jeans I’d kept, never was going to use 3 heavy coats (after 20 yrs living in Canaries??) The hard stuff for me was books (tried to be really strict about what I really will reread!) and personal memorabilia – thank goodness the last 10 years photos are digital or I’d have another ten photo albums! I read one blog post by a woman who said she’d cleared out all her sentimental stuff too, but taken photos of it all, because it was the memories she cherished & photos were sufficient for that. Not convinced!I

      Lots of luck. It really, really does free you up! What I would love to have for the next few years is a proper walk in storage facility, so I could put stuff in and remove it from time to time, but the one I’d planned on using closed down, which scared me, because, you know, what if they close down & all your stuff is in there? That might be a problem peculiar to these islands, but not going to risk it!

  2. We should all do this in our lives whether we are travelling or not!! There must be some squirrel in our DNA is all I can say. And glad you were happy with the massive pillowcase……..because that´s all it is afterall! 🙂

    • Trixy loves her bed!!!!

      I think it gets easier as you get older, because, frankly, there is the “you can’t take it with you” vibe. I even, after all these years, took a couple of things which had been my mothers to Nueva Frontera. I considered what my mom would have wanted: that they were stuck in a box on top of my wardrobe, or that someone was getting use and pleasure from them. No contest really.

  3. I always pack too much stuff whether for 3 days, weeks or months. You just never know. And then I buy things so end up either leaving some things behind, or like last year, buying another suitcase. Fortunately when I’m on the road in the States I take my rolling home with me so have everything I need and then some without worrying about space. How I love my RV.
    Trixy looks much happier in the last photo with more space.

    • An RV would be a dream! Ten years or so ago, when I first began to dream about traveling seriously one of my dreams was to travel the US that way (even given sufficient money, though, the problem would be the visa :(). I think that’s in a way why I brought too much stuff. If I had more space it would be ok, but unloading it, locating something I need when it’s all so tightly packed has been ridiculous. It was a balance I had to try to work out what was leaveable and what not really. And it might just curb my addiction to books in the long run!!

      I envy your lifestyle, Gaelyn, you seem to have it all worked out perfectly!

  4. Winter clothes are a problem because they’re so bulky. How do you fit them in one case? Or does that not include a coat and jumper?

    • Hi there. I learned years ago that hanging onto to my winter gear was a bad idea. It took up far too much space, and end of the day, it was all dated by the time I came to use it……try wearing a gorgeous, hardly-worn long coat with enormous shoulder pads (circa 1986!!!) in London after the turn of the century and see how you feel!!

      Basically, when I go anywhere cold I layer, so vests, T-shirts, light-weight sweaters, even my leather & suede jackets are all stuff I would wear in warmer climates at times, so no, no heavy sweaters or coats, not the sort I would wear if I lived in London for example. I’ve always hated bulky clothing anyway. Loathe that feeling of being all trussed up when you’re on the tube. Really, if you’re in a city, you rarely need very heavy stuff in UK (if I go anywhere really cold I will need to buy new anyway – just gave away my last ski jacket because it was too cumbersome),and if I am in the Lake District I can use my hiking jacket, which is in that gym bag.

      You did make me wonder just what I have in there, though, so I repacked, and this is what it turned out to be: that hiking jacket, hiking pants, rain hat, buff, track suit top, 5 scarves, 4 pairs of gloves, flat cap, 2 pairs formal shoes, 2 pairs bed socks, l pair thick socks, velvet formal pants, long sleeve undershirt, thermal top, 4 pairs pop socks, 2 black, sleeveless sweaters (great for layering) and last-but-not-least my Whinnie the Pooh nightshirt.

  5. Ahhh Lakeland, which I still call Lakeland Plastics! many years ago when mum and dad were still growing veg etc mum got all her freezer bags from them. they were then working out of a garage I believe. what a success story eh? as I always say, it is a place full of stuff you never knew you needed/wanted. last time there with a GF we had delicious lunch. as for your grapefruit knife, another friends has a very ancient one which she adores too. I think most folk have a favourite kitchen gadget or knife.
    I am still battling to declutter here, may just start without everyone else and see if they can follow my lead!

    • I love the Lakeland story, too Chrisstine! Love it especially because they prove that quality (of both products and service) is still something which succeeds and a viable goal in this day and age still.

      The food in their restaurant in Windermere used to be superb, catered by Miller Howe (though goodness knows who owns that now. I’m guessing not John Tovey any longer) Sadly, the last time I was there I had to forgo my lunch. They use the system long-used in the US where they give you an electronic device which flahes when your turn comes up, but my dad just couldn’t wait, and since he always insits on coming with me, we had to repair to Booths café across the road for an uninteresting sandwich #foodfail

  6. I missed the stasrt of this travelling adventure of your last autumn. I sort of guessed you’d left your apartment and were travelling around the different islands, but didn’t know for how long. Also didn’t realise you were travelling by van. What an adventure. But I can imagine how hard it ii to get rid of so much. IIf we ever did the same, I think we’d struggle to fit in carrying sport/active ‘gear’ – bikjes, hiking and camping stuff.

    • You would need a truck, Sheila! I thought about bringing a bike. Of all places, this island of Fuerteventura would be the place I could use one. Biking is incredibly popular here. Perhaps because I’m living close to a sports hotel I notice it more, but I pass dozens and dozens and dozens of cylclists on a day out and about. It’s much less hilly than the other islands, but the heat! I see lot of runners around the outskirts of towns, where there is often a running track alongside the road, but not so much trail running as I’ve seen in Tenerife, and in La Gomera I saw few runners. I think the latter due to two factors; one the hills (the island is entirely mountains; and two the fact that overall it’s and older poppulation, most young folk have left to work on other islands, if not further afield. I actually brought weights and a mat with me, but these are two things which will be dumped at the end of the month I think. At least the mat will although it takes up little space in theory, I have a couple of ground sheets for camping which will do the same job!

  7. Had a good laugh at this. As a perpetual traveler who’s been on the road more than 7 seven years, living out of a suitcase, it looked like luxury to me to be able to take so much stuff with you. Of course, I DD just upgrade from a 22″ to a 25″ suitcase.

    • LOL I’d missed that upgrade, if you’d written about it, Barbara! I often wonder how you manage, but when I think back, the months I was traveling in 2004 were easier in some ways. I filled space this time because I have the space to fill! The silly thing is that I knew camping was a possibility, but didn’t really consider how I would do it with no space in the van. I could buy a tent etc, but I was trying to avoid the expense! If it wasn’t for Trixy really I wouldn’t be doing it this way.

  8. Oh Linda, just thought of … and another thing … you could end up as The lady in the van, as in the Alan Bennett story of his eccentric neighbour. must guard against that. get rid of the van just before you become a very old eccentric lady (maybe in a purple sunhat)

  9. Remember that Alan Bennett is now an eccentric old man himself, I wonder how he sees her in retrospect!

  10. I’m so happy you were able to bring Trixie. We had to leave our dog with some great relatives while we’re away from home for 4 months. A few years ago, we downsized and in preparing for our current trip (1 month in SE Asia, 3 months in Honolulu, Hawaii), I was ruthless in my closet. I found clothes I bought with my mother-in-law. She passed away in 1997! I’m a travel blogger/recovering lawyer who works from home or a hotel room or a coffee shop or wherever. “Hello, Girl, you are unlikely to need more than one suit.”—OK, maybe one for winter and one for the rest of the seasons, but that’s it!” What I need are some more PJ’s and sweat suits.

    • Of all the stuff I’ve gotten rid of, you know, there is hardly anything I’ve thought, “Wish I hadn’t.” The very, very last thing to go was an absolutely gorgeous suede/sheepskin jacket that I’d had since 1980! Granted I hadn’t worn it at all since 1987, but it was one of those things which, literally, last a lifetime, and it was so beautiful. Yet even when I went to Canada in January ten years ago I didn’t take it, because it was so heavy to travel with! A friend offered to take it to Nueva Frontera for me, and I almost snatched it back. How ridiculous of me! Of course I haven’t missed it at all – in the last 26 years I was barely conscious that I owned it!

      I do think, though, if you’re “into” clothers – and I am – it’s hard to fix on just what your style has become when you make these changes. When I stopped “working” (i.e. for someone else’s benefit!) I went all gypsy for a while, but one day saw a photo of myself and realized that it wasn’t me in the photo, nor someone I wanted to be. Still, it’s also fun to reinvent yourself I think, find a new style with which you feel comfortable.

      Trix, so far, seems to be enjoying the trip as much as I. Happily, I did leave her in kennels (though someone I knew and where I knew she’d be happy) long term once when I went off traveling, but at the age she is now I couldn’t leave her for that long again. She’s been good company. In fact I miss her like mad right at this moment, because I’m staying in a house share, and dogs aren’t allowed indoors. She has two playmates, and they get on great, but I miss her snoring from the next room at night!

  11. Wow, Linda! I can’t imagine living out of a van. Congrats to you for breaking free from virtually all possessions and hitting the road for adventure. I’m sure there’s a book in your travels, so I hope you’re taking notes – although I supposed the blog becomes a journal of sorts, doesn’t it? Wishing you a safe and satisfying adventure!

    • Thank you very much for your good wishes, and for reading and very much for taking the time to comment. It took me a long time to wriggle free for one reason or another (not all of them bad ones), but so far so good! Although I’m traveling with the van, and am hoping to camp with it, I haven’t, actually, resorted to sleeping in it as yet! I certainly want to do so, if only to save money at some point, but am thinking that will a summer “thing!”

  12. Oh, Linda, I can so identify with this story and the difficulty in decluttering and minimizing! It took us a year to get rid of all the things we had accumulated over our marriage before we took off to travel long term in Sept. 2012. Now we each have a 24″ suitcase and backpack and it’s a constant process, every time we settle into someplace for more than a week, to stuff it all back in when we set off! Seems like we always leave a pile behind us when we leave but, the mystery is, where does it all come from? (ha ha!) …Love your writing and looking forward to reading more – Anita

    • Many thanks for reading and for commenting – it’s appreciated! I can imagine just what you mean! So far I’m still shedding, rather than collecting. I think the more space you have the more you acquire, that’s why we acquire stuff when we stop. To some extent, it was economy with me, too. I love books for example, and when I had loads unread, why should I spend the money to buy more, but they’re going into storage in a couple of weeks, because I’ve been mislaying things and I think it’s because all of the packing and unpacking! One of the very first travel blogs I ever read, 11 or 12 years ago was a young guy who was doing a RWT, and he traveled with just two Tshirts (one on, one in the wash) and when they wore out, he simply bought new, cheap ones. That seemed like a brilliant idea to me, except that I am quite partial to clothes, and have no idea how long i will be away! Thank you very much for the compliment too 🙂

  13. I agree that the memories need to be documented and kept safely. My husband has been copying all our pictures and videos onto CD’s and DVD’s. This way I have pictures of relatives that wanted the photos too. When we moved across the country from Wisconsin to Utah as empty nesters, we blame ourselves for the guy at the dump that had a heart attack. We were bringing so much stuff there, rather than try to sell it all. I admire your ability to be able to sleep in areas that aren’t extremely comfortable for my back side. At 71 yrs, I would feel the “pea in the stack of mattresses.”

    • Ah, but I’ve been lucky with beds thus far, Neva! I couldn’t get a cabin on the ferry coming to Fuerteventura, but I doubt I would have slept anyway, so it’s money well saved. Truth to tell i’m still able to sleep just about anywhere so long as I am tired enough! I slept on a couple of very uncomfortable airport benches last year – mind you, I don’t know how my fellow passengers coped with my snoring when I continued my slumbers on the planes!! Had to smile at the heart attack comment! Many thanks for reading and commenting!

  14. Wow – Have a learned a lot in a few short paragraphs. I do not travel as much as you do and travel by plane. That being said I can still get rid of a lot of stuff that I don’t need.For example: I wear ball caps when I work out… I have six black ones! Really? That is so lame. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures. Nice to meet you.

    • LOL! I once brought home no less than six sunhats from a Disney holiday – and that whilst herding kids too! If I have to get serious for a minute I must say that losing the pension rights and a couple of bad financial decisions forced me to rethink shopping habits. I love clothes, but simply can’t afford to buy them like I used to so, perhaps just as well! Nice to meet you also. i appreciated you reading and commenting.

  15. WE lived 6 months out of a 4WD in Australia – but because we had to fly there first with 23kg each that kinda limited the stuff we could take! We ended up with a small backpack each for personal stuff including clothes. We had a whole box of books – but that was 2007 before the Kindle- now I would take zero books – though in Australia I’d still take maps.

    And when we finally got t Perth and rented a 2 bed flat we couldn’t get over just how big it was! Living in a tent will do that!

    • I can just imagine you arriving to an apartment after that. I’ve had similar experiences, but not so dramatic a change. After 6 months now I am trutly convinced that the more you have, the more it weighs you down. Although I’m taking a load more stuff to storage in a couple of weeks, I would really like to take more. Mainly it’s finances that stop me. This bag of winter clothes? If, say my dad is ill in UK, and I have to hop over there I can’t afford to buy new, or I would do it that way. I’d love to do a road trip in Oz! I have a friend who traveled around the country in an old, converted bus for some years when her kids were really small – and when immigration laws were less tight *sigh*. Thank you for commenting!

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