My Suitcase was Stolen – What A Declutterer Learned

The Gulf of Mexico…calling me 

School was out.  The beach was calling — a 4.5 hour drive through Alabama to the panhandle of Florida.

I was SO ready.

So ready, in fact, that I packed the day before and went ahead and put the suitcases in the car so that we could roll out of bed at 7 AM and make it to sand-and-surf by lunch.

We awoke as planned, with that Christmas morning feel.  I was excited to get Outta There to my beloved Gulf.  I scurried to get the final items together.  I happened to glance down at my phone at one point (habit) to see that someone in our neighborhood had posted that his Jeep had been ransacked the night before.

I paid no attention…until I went to my own car.  Did I leave the glove compartment open for some reason?  Why is the center console wide open?

Oh no.  Where is my SUITCASE?

I did what many a Southern lady would do:  I called my Mama.

“I think I’m just in shock!” I told her.  She had complete empathy. After all, summer had just begun, and I had lovingly packed my favorites of the favorites of summer attire (which is my favorite):  the best-looking and most comfortable.  The white linen pants that fit perfectly, the aqua sundress bought in the Bahamas which seemed made for me, the just-enough-baggy shorts that were as comfortable as pajamas without sacrificing style.  And the bathing suits!  All four of them.  Not to mention my best yoga clothes and running shoes.  Ack, the bras and panties alone!  Oh, and sandals.  Good ones.

If you follow me at all, you know that my mantra is DECLUTTER.  Over the years, I have refined and refined, and while I’m not quite a minimalist, I have definitely whittled my belongings — including my clothing (which is no easy task being the daughter of a daughter of a daughter of seamstress/designers) — to that which is only necessary and/or “sparks joy,” a term lifted from Marie Kondo’s teachings.

Take away one suitcase, and you are basically taking away my entire wardrobe, or at least very key pieces of it.

Once past the initial shock, I succumbed to the fact that we were going to be leaving for the beach later than anticipated.  Curious and caring neighbors came out to pat me on the back, as the cops arrived; it turned out that many cars in the neighborhood had been vandalized (but no broken windows that I know of).

Still, I was so ready to get to the beach.  I gave my report and went back inside for a duffel bag, and this time, I took minimalism to heart, grabbing only a few items of clothing and tossing them in.

(And yes, I stopped by a store once at the beach and found one bathing suit that would carry me through.)

At the beach, I admit I missed my clothes.  After all, the second round of packing was not thought out much, and I didn’t even have a cover up with me.

I simply wore what I had, and that was as good as ever, it being a casual trip to the beach anyway.   But still, there were some unsettling moments of, “Oh yeah, I’m going to have to replace my strapless bra now” and “Oh yeah, I wore that easy blue dress a lot; now what?”  “Oh yeah, this dress I brought really needs those shoes to look right.”

Enter:  The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.  It was recommended by a dear client, and you know when you get that little ping  — I knew it was my book for the beach.

The book is a revelation for me on many levels, but for this post, I’ll focus on his descriptions of “form” and “space.”  Tolle explains that, in today’s society and over many centuries, humans have been heavily preoccupied with form — our bodies, our cars, our houses, our level of success based on this and that, our test scores and achievements, our clothes– over “space,” which is our inner essence and life and God itself.

In the shortest of short, he says that a balance between the two is the key to happiness, connection, and yes, joy.


Back home, I alerted my insurance company about the theft, and I’m still waiting to hear.  For fun, I decided to make a game of the loss, and I posted on Facebook that my stolen suitcase is a good excuse for my friends to declutter and to please give me the clothes that they no longer want.

This worked.

I have been relatively unpicky in what I received — if it fit decently — I kept it.

It’s amazing what the Universe brings you if you just open up.  Very little of what was given to me would I actually take off the rack at the store and buy myself, but interestingly, the pieces are working for me in a different way.  Colors that I am not drawn to while shopping are now in my drawers, which feels good for a change!  New shoes that I would have overlooked now sit in my closet, and they are turning out to be my most comfortable and functional yet.  One tank top (that I almost discarded) surprised me by working perfectly as a work-to-yoga piece, saving me an outfit change for the day.

Sure, I will have to reassess in a  few weeks, and I’m sure I’ll need to let go of some of these items.  And of course, yes, I will soon be shopping to replace things like bras and running socks.

In the meantime, I’m wearing the things that in my own closet were second-tier, and they are finding new life, and then enjoying the gifts, and possibly a new means of self-expression?

More significantly though, what I’ve released at a deeper level is that the stolen suitcase is a chance to dis-identity to form at all, at least when it comes to my personal fashion style.  In decluttering, with Kondo’s mantra, “does it spark joy?” when choosing items to stay in one’s home, comes the remembrance that, although these items may bring forth a moment of happiness, they are not the source of the joy.  The source of the joy is pure spirit, within us, and these items are simply (and paradoxically) vague, dreamy reminders of that.

For me, the loss of the suitcase gave way for great joy:  the opportunity for playful shopping experiences in my friend’s closets, the adventure of “what will the Universe provide”?   It opened space for my friends too:  they are now less cluttered, and they got to be the joyous givers of things that no longer served them, in hopes of serving their fellow human: me.

I ask you:  where in your life can you be less attached to form and more open to space?

I recommend the adventure that arises from it.

a few items that I received! (the middle is the work-to-yoga tank)  🙂

  • Jenny Gaynor

    What a beautifully written article. Thank you for the reminder that the source of all joy is within and also that there is opportunity for growth and expansion in every life experience – even something that seems at first like a huge loss and disaster.

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