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Lessons from Living Out of a Suitcase


I’m contemplating my belongings, in hopes of determining what I could possibly need to live on for the next few months. You see, we just loaded up our household goods and likely won’t be in our own house for weeks, even months.

We’ve lived out of our suitcases many times before; that’s kind of a given with military moves. The longest span without our household goods was nearly five months when we moved from Guam to North Dakota. We were waiting ‘a few weeks’ for the new base housing to be completed while we lived in temporary lodging…which took much longer than a few weeks! It wasn’t all bad though. I found out we need much less to live on than we usually think. I’m trying to remember that right now, as I consider my two suitcases.

One article I read recently said to pack 3 bottoms, 4-7 tops, 2 pairs of shoes, and a few other things for a trip, whether it’s 1 week or 6 months (the idea being you have access to a laundry, of course!). I’m not sure I can go quite that minimalist, but I am keeping it in mind.

As far as household items go, I tend to overestimate the amount of ‘stuff’ I need for daily life—stuff that ends up hindering, rather than helping. One unforeseen benefit that has come from moving so often is that I’ve had to learn to deny my natural hoarding tendencies. The items we end up moving from household to household (and we’ve had 5 ‘households’ in the past five years alone due to military directed moves), along with the necessities of daily life, are things that I truly value. Family antiques, handwritten treasures from my children, photo-filled scrapbooks, an album made by my grandmother’s hands, gifts that Steve’s brought from his travels, and unique items collected from the Pacific to Europe make the list. Each one has some meaning attached to it, some known only to our family.

Easier to leave behind are what one would consider junk…things easily replaced or used up, worn, and which should be thrown out altogether.

Things that hinder, rather than help.

Which led me to consider…how much junk, spiritually speaking, do I insist on dragging around? What are the useless items I spend precious time on…pulling them out, cleaning them off, reorganizing them into similar piles, folding them carefully, and placing them back in their special spot in my soul? Things that don’t warrant such consideration or time spent–regrets, bitterness, preconceived notions, wrong judgments….things that only hinder, never help.

How much lighter would that load be if I took that junk to the dump and left it there? How much better to replace that old baggage with forgiveness, sympathy, understanding, and a willingness to forget?

“….let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb. 12:1)

 I’m thinking one can learn a lot from moving.



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Hi, I'm Jen!

As a military spouse of three decades and now the mom of an active duty son, my hope is to support you in your own military life. You’ll find help for your military marriage, deployments, PCS moves, and more!