Getting Small

For the last five years I’ve been traveling from LA to Palo Alto in my work for the most exciting company in the world.  Hotels in Palo Alto are tough to come by, and expensive during Stanford basketball and football seasons, and in 2005, I was lucky enough to find 225 square foot “mother-in-law” unit in a great mid-century Eichler house in a cool tract of Eichler homes.  While my pad up north lacks a kitchen (I get by with a mini-fridge and microwave), I’ve come to realize that less can really be more, and super livable.  When Manhattan Beach became “disco” in the old New Economy, and charming beach cottages made way for lot to lot McMansions, my disdain for large and overbuilt increased like beach front square footage, and had me thinking about what you really need if you live in a place you really love.

I’m renovating a 1920s beach bungalow with these thoughts in mind—more on that in another post—, but I’ve tried to take the concept of physical domicile downsizing to heart in many ways.  I’m far from austere and my posts on the love of things tells that my soul is one of a collector.  But what separates a collector from a hoarder is curating.  And besides, editing is good for the soul.

I’ve been lucky enough to deal with Japanese uber-collectors of midcentury modern furniture and vintage workwear.  While acquisitive to be sure, their collecting style is a highly edited one, dictated by urban space constraints of home and closet.  Rather than owning four mediocre pairs of vintage denim, or multiple variations of the Eames shell chair, Japanese collectors search for the best examples, and stretch for that one great piece.  It’s hard for a hunter/gatherer like me to say this, but I see the wisdom in their ways, and am taking it to heart.

I’ve always over-indulged—or been sloppy with—my choice of luggage.  I always go for the best stuff (i.e. Filson), but I go large. Too large.  Same with the Dopp kit I lugged around—it was so big, it would only leave my bathroom counter as I headed outta town.  This is unnecessary.  While carry-on luggage is the badge of honor of road warriors, I’ve never lost a piece of super-sized rolling luggage that I’ve always been proud to check.

But last month I took a different tack.  I’ve always been intrigued by aluminum luggage, and went through the Zero Haliburton phase, when Sonny Crockett was chasing Colombians through the streets of Miami with Haliburton cases, chock o’ block with blow, and cash.  The real deal isn’t the American-made stuff, but Germany’s finest—Rimowa.  Created for trips to the tropics, the water- and humidity-proof Rimowa was adopted by Japanese jetsetters who prefer their pieces beat up, true to the Rimowa tagline that “every piece tells a story.”  There’s even vintage, tag-covered piece on display high above the new pieces at Rimowa’s outpost on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki.

To do this right, I bought the 22” carry-on Rimowa from Tom Park at Leather Soul Hawaii , and I’m amazed how much I can fit inside.  The luxury of packing multiple pairs of shoes is gone, but editing my travel needs is cool.  My new smaller case called for a smaller Dopp kit as well, in effect downsizing from a desktop to a netbook.  I discovered the GoToob travel containers, and am “rolling my own” , packaging my favorite smell goods and Kiehl’s products.  I picked a tiny Eagle River waterproof bag to put it all in, and instead of using one set of toiletries at home and away, “mini-me” stays in the Rimowa between trips.

While this may not seem like a big deal, and my partners in crime have always “carried on,” this is pretty new to me, and I like it.

It’s a good meditation on how I want to live my life, focusing on the stuff—literal and figurative—that matter and make the important things easier to achieve.

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