I have been thinking about something a lot lately. The idea for me started when I got a comment on my book “ultralight and comfortable” about the chapter on Leave no trace. Now this introduction and the actual article that follows have very little to do with each other, but just the idea about being in the outdoors, the simpleness of it all, and in some ways the full experience of being in the “now” as it were. There is another aspect within backpacking called the leave no trace. It’s the idea of when you are in the outdoors you leave as little trace as possible behind you when you go. For example, bring your trash with you, bury your poop, don’t chop down perfectly healthy living trees and so on. So I started to think about this and it’s implication in everyday life.

If there is one thing that drives my wife and myself crazy it’s how messy the house gets from one day to the next. As if some kind of magical dirt elf ran around spreading shit all throughout the house just to irritate the piss out of us. It’s not unusual for the elf to leave my pants in the living room (it’s my thing to take off my pants as soon as I get home), or how the elf leaves out my wife’s arts and crafts on the kitchen table. Hell the elf even has a habit of leaving out dirty dishes, iPads, phones and socks. Even little things like remote controls and books get spread out throughout the house. Then comes cleaning day and my wife and I are always and equally surprised by how bad everything got over the course of the week.

Too be honest the two discussions that we have the most right now concerning cleaning and all around happiness is this:

1. My wife wants to hire a maid to clean up after the elf
2. I want to clean out everything we own so we don’t have anything for the elf to spread

However a third option has started to brew in my mind: Leave no trace. How hard can it be to put things back from where they were taken? Or does everything actually have to be moved from one spot to another? Let’s me be honest here, even if I got my way and cleaned out the house completely, I would still have my pants on the stairway, my iPhone on the sofa table, the tv controllers will be placed anywhere from under the sofa to behind the kitchen table.

Now practice leave no trace with minimalism and I seriously doubt a maid will be needed. I think leave no trace creates a kind of discipline sourly lacking in our lives (my family).

So here is my challenge for the next few months to see what happens, as with all new habits, in-order to form a new habit and old one must be broken, slowly but surely:

  1. Create a new habit of picking up after myself.
  2. I will start small – First my bed every morning (been so long ago since I last made my bed, I almost forgot how to do this)
  3. Putting my computer back in it’s spot, iPhone and tv remotes
  4. A book I take out I will put back
  5. Clean up after myself after every meal (I usually cook dinner)

My guess is that by creating these small changes everyday I am training myself to be more conscious of what I do during the course of a day.

  1. I won’t be leaving a large mess to clean up later.
  2. I love emptiness or tidiness, I love cleanliness and it makes me happy.
  3. I won’t have as much clutter.
  4. I will be more aware of my surroundings and my daily life.

Sometimes that is all that is needed in-order to be happy: To just slow down and realize what you do and have.

Posted by Kenneth Shaw

Blogger, photographer and backpacker. If you like my writing or my site don't be afraid to follow me, like or share my posts here on the site. Thanks and enjoy!


  1. Many valuable life lessons come from backpacking, don’t they? Nonetheless, in your case, it sounds like you need to make a deal with your wife about boundaries…very hard to see what’s wrong with throwing your pants on the floor for a few hours after work! Maybe if you just define a “pants on the floor is ok” area in that case?


  2. Be careful. If you succeed, you will find your wife to be that elf spreading chaos around. When I realised that not making mess is far better and easier that loosing whole weekend on house cleaning, I found myself stalking and tormenting my mate. Now we live separately, and when she comes from time to time I’m always impressed with the piles of things rapidly rising around every corner.
    Seriously, don’t let “the change” ruin your marriage.


Leave a Reply