Furniture fills every room. The shelves are full of books and photos. Each drawer holds clothing for every occasion and every season. The closets are loaded with more clothes, cleaning supplies, and things we might need someday. The garage is packed with sports equipment, storage boxes, and tools. There are even things stored under the furniture, behind the drawers, beneath other things, and in some incredible situations, in a storage locker.  Is this an Ikea ad?  Or is it every home and apartment in the Western world?

Why is this phenomenon so pervasive?  Is this an irrefutable force of nature, like gravity? Does empty space in our homes act like a black hole, pulling and sucking anything and everything in neighboring stores and thrift shops, ensuring that every available place has a thing and every thing has a place.

From small college dorm room up to ridiculously large McMansions, the gravity of things must be obeyed.  No space must remain clear.  How many empty shelves or drawers or closets are there in your home?

This force is at work amongst backpackers as well, with their REI recommended backpack loaded to the gills, a sleeping bag tucked beneath, a few pairs of shoes tied to the outside, and a full day-pack strapped to their chest.  Many of those packs have impressive “bigger is better” specs:  87 Liters of storage, a staggering load of 2.7 kg, a ton of storage pockets.  These guys are prepared for anything, heat, cold, rain, snow, acts of God…  anything but being able to walk comfortably

Bigger is Better

Bigger is Better

I’ve never been a rabid consumer or space filler, preferring the inherent beauty of empty spaces, natural surfaces, and minimalist design.  Clutter occupies both physical and mental space, occupying our thoughts and draining our wallets.  So when it came time to get ready for the road, we worked with what we had, keeping it simple

Walking past an REI one day, we stopped in, thinking it might be nice to get a down jacket.  They are light and pack small, and we love our down sleeping bags.  But with a price tag north of $300, we instead asked a simple question:  Do the people that live in the cold regions that we will visit have $300 REI down jackets?  Unlikely.  We can just buy local, if needed

This philosophy carries through the majority of things that we’ve carried with us, allowing us to fit everything inside our GoLite Jam packs, including our sleeping bags and shoes.  Weighing only 0.7 kg and with only 50 Liters of storage, our packs don’t look as impressive in the the school yard with all the big kids, yet they are lighter and easier to manage and we have all we need.

If fact, we have even more than we need… we’ve filled every available space, and have an abundance of stuff we don’t even use.  Even backpacks have gravity

95% of Our Stuff

95% of Our Worldly Possessions

(Thanks to Jim over at for coining the phrase “even backpacks have gravity” during an exchange between us on his blog. Its an elegant summary of something I’ve been thinking for years)

Jim also has a great series of posts on investing and portfolio building.  Here is Part I

Source (of my travel backpacks):