A recent house move forced Cathy Madavan to be ruthless with her belongings. Here she shares what she has learned about our tendency to hoard 


I think it’s best I begin this article with some candour. I would love to ‘travel light ’but I also love shoes. It is what it is. So, going on holiday, if there is a choice between minimal baggage or extra space for another pair of sandals/heels/trainers, then extra space it is. Friends, different outfits have different shoe needs – what can I say?! So, it might not come naturally to me to minimise my belongings or to perfect that capsule wardrobe (does it exist?), but, that said, over the years I have learned quite a bit about what my needs really are so have streamlined my belongings. It turns out, I can live with a lot less than I’d previously thought…and not just on holiday. 

1 What sparks joy?

When we recently moved house, it was necessary to empty my wardrobes and to declutter the house in a fairly major way. Obviously, nobody needs 40 cardigans, and yet there they somehow were. So, how did I work out what to keep and what to ditch? Well, Marie Kondo, the cleaning expert, has an excellent point when she challenges us to consider what ‘sparks joy’ when we hold it. Now, apparently every pair of shoes causes me to erupt with joy, but some do more than others. It’s time for us all to be honest. We probably don’t need the volume of stuff we have, so it’s good to notice what we really love – and let some other stuff go.

Let’s not stay weighed down with things he doesn’t want us to carry

2 ‘Must have’ not ‘just in case’

Worrying is something many of us struggle with; one symptom of worry-sickness is accumulation. We subconsciously worry we won’t have enough and so we hoard – coats, savings, medicine, coupons – anything that might come in useful one day. We keep them just in case. But what if we learned to trust that if and when we really need something we could borrow it, find it or buy it again if absolutely necessary? Apart from the sensible or the necessary, might we live a little more freely if we didn’t try to plan back-ups for every possible eventuality?

3 Notice the view 

Some of us are so preoccupied with travel schedules, to-do lists and plans that we forget to actually enjoy the journey we’ve worked so hard to organise! I’ll admit I’ve occasionally missed magical moments, beautiful views or kind words because I’m already rushing into the next thing or planning ahead yet again. But it’s a such a shame to miss the present or to become impatient when plans change, because the goal in life is not just to arrive on time (or early!), but to have enjoyed the journey without stressing everyone else out in the process. Note. To. Self.


4 Carry less

In my book Why Less Means More (SPCK), I shared how my husband and I spent ten months last year living in our friends’ spare room with very few of our belongings. It turns out we really can live with a lot less! But as well as relinquishing some of our stuff, we also wanted to leave behind any other ‘baggage’ from the last season. Sometimes we carry heavy loads that we need to lay down again when that particular moment passes. When we carry less, we are then able to embrace the new things ahead. It’s not always easy, but God has new adventures in store as we follow him each day – and Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Let’s not stay weighed down with things he doesn’t want us to carry.

5 Choose your travel companions

I absolutely love the BBC series Race Across the World, in which pairs of people travel huge distances without mobile phones or credit cards, racing against each other. This series clearly demonstrates how important your travel companion is. The book of Proverbs summarises the same sentiment well, saying: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). This sage advice is true for holidays and trips across the world, but is even more true for navigating the highs and lows of life generally. Thank God for good friends to travel with!