If you asked me where my floss was, I’d whip out its container in seconds flat. No matter how inconsequential, I knew every item’s location in my pack.
In fact, as a pilgrim, all my items had an assigned place within the pockets and pouches of my backpack. My blanket, for example, I rolled up tightly each morning and tucked close to my back, clothes in front. My clean socks and undies lived in one plastic bag in the bottom compartment, and the soon-to-be-washed ones in another. There’s nothing in the world so wonderful as a fresh pair of socks.
When you carry fewer than one hundred items on your back for seven weeks, you learn the value of your possessions. Though replaceable, each item was precious.
So maybe you can imagine how I felt when I stood before my closet, naked and clean from my first luxurious shower at home. The open doors revealed an abundance of colors, textures, and sheer options that overwhelmed my senses. Oh, my God! The choices!
“Socks!” I shouted out to Mary, who was in another part of the house. “I have socks! All kinds of them!”
“I know!” she shouted back, amused.
“And underwear! Tons of it! Oh, my God!”
In just under two months, I had completely forgotten how much clothing I owned. Although I’ve never been much of a clothes horse, I’d worn the same two outfits for weeks—which made my closet seem like a treasure trove. Running my fingers over the soft cottons, I marveled. I felt rich.
“And I don’t have to carry any of it! Woohoo!”
Moments later, it dawned on me that this abundance also had a cost: laundry—and the dreaded tedium of drying, folding, and putting it all away. “Every item you own requires energy and maintenance,” I’d said many times while teaching my organizing classes, but now it seemed a powerfully personal revelation.
Within a couple of days, I had tried on every item of clothing I owned, resolving to keep only things that felt good on my body. That session in front of my full-length mirror yielded two bulging black garbage bags of tops, sweaters, jeans, and shoes for donation to a local charity. I also brought two grocery bags full of nicer items to our local resale shop and exchanged them for cash.
It gave me an amazing feeling of lightness.
Though I would never get my closet down to the fifteen pounds I’d carried in my pack, finding balance between abundant choice and simple essentials was a way to honor one of my many Camino lessons.
Even after all that purging, I still kept all my socks.