We returned back to our home in Australia on Friday morning with all 9 checked bags, 2 carry-ons, 3 backpacks, and 1 pillow pet more or less in tact. Although that sounds like a lot, the only things I left in the U.S. are a winter coat, gloves and pair of boots and some things that should be sold on craigslist. Oh wait … well, no there are some other things that did get left such as my grandmother’s china which was not shipped to my brother. Frankly, I forgot to send it and did not realize it until just now. I spent my last full day in our home with the vomiting-diarrhea-fall-asleep-on-the-bathroom-floor kind of illness. Fortunately the suitcases were almost packed before the illness struck.
The checked bags were not excessive: 2 bicycles, 1 box of artwork, 1 carseat, 1 bag of hockey equipment, 1 bag of odd junk like tools, my flute, and S’s new tennis racket, and 1 personal suitcase for each of us. One of the personal suitcases was filled with breakables. I did my best to protect them but sadly many things that once seemed important to us have now come to rest in our Australian rubbish bin. I packed my childhood tea set in that bag. I still have the original box (!), but 2 pieces did not survive the crossing. We broke some corning wear, handmade canisters, and jars. My favorite antique Christmas ornament that belonged to my great-grandmother suffered some splintering. And some things we really don’t care about at all came out just fine.
The rest of our things were shipped in boxes via USPS at $60 per large flat rate box. I had to go through photo albums and notebooks and decide if I really needed prom photos or if I could just resnap them quickly with my iPhone and let the distorted image be good enough. I have handwritten journals I’ve kept from age 5 to 35, which I always thought would be an awesome gift to my child (wow, what was I thinking?) or useful as notes for a mémoire. I almost tossed them, but couldn’t bear to let go of all of it. Somehow it makes me feel sane when I go back and read snippets of what I went through to get where I am today. Instead I broke down bindings and tore out pages to condense them. I’m curious to see if the pages can be scanned through a top-feeding machine.
This is the minutiae, the overwrought details of the stuff, but ultimately, that’s all the stuff there is now. We got home and our house was delightfully clean and empty. No clutter in sight anywhere. It felt good to look around and see no mess. Just a stack of mail to sort through.
The unpacking went swiftly, the shards of glass were swept up, and our life is officially here now. It’s good to be home.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Australia, breakable, china, hoard, keepsake, packing, photo album, photos, scan, shipping, stuff, tea set, things, travel
We leave tomorrow morning for a couple of months in the States. This is the end result of the pack-up. I took an oft-used tip that Joanna discusses on her blog I won’t be a hoarder too: take some old clothes with you and leave them behind. The blue suitcase pictured here is full of clothes that almost don’t fit S. We’re giving most of them to her younger cousin and we’ll buy her new clothes as we need them.
Each suitcase has other suitcases inside it so we can bring back more things if we want. My greater dilemma, though, has been to take enough so that I do not buy clothes out of desperation that I will never wear later. I don’t want to buy things just because they’re cheaper or because I didn’t pack what I already own. I don’t want my home in Australia to be filled up with useless stuff. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve never packed so light before.
A friend came to see me while I was packing up and asked if I was going to post a picture of my desktop. It is visibly empty, and all cared-about belongings have been removed from drawers. Last week was a frenzy of sorting, tossing, shoving into suitcases, trying to be clear-headed, vomiting, washing, and leaving behind my most cared about “stuff” in the world – my best friend, D. He has been left with the chaotic mess of empty envelopes, half-filled plastic bags, coat hangers, shampoo bottles, and the like. While absurdly we continue to wait for his paperwork, he has to sift through the rubble. In the meantime, S. and I are on the other side of the planet, shuffling about dazed, waking up at 3 a.m. not knowing what day it is, and feeling empty without him.
the more things change...
The best I can do to describe my present state of disorganization is “spinning.” I grab a very very important new piece of paper — like my bank account information — put it in a logical place, and promptly forget where I put it. Then I grab my passport and join it to the pile where I think I’m going to need it next — like with rental applications — and then I need it for banking and can’t seem to find it. I’m a whirlwind of mess, chronically sleep deprived, untethered, cry at the littlest, “maybe that’s daddy?” when S. hears a noise… and so on. And my “stuff” is not here to hold me down, make me feel embedded, push roots into the earth, or any other metaphorical fodder that it is supposed to do. My landmarks are missing, the biggest one being my partner, and it feels like my legs have been chopped off in a sense.
None of this is to complain, because I’ve fallen into a weird community of genuinely happy, smiling, friendly, eager to serve and please people. Strangers stop and talk, everyone looks relaxed, the sun is so brilliantly white that everything outside seems to sparkle until 4 p.m. when it starts to get dark. Then the lights sparkle some more on the water. I feel guarded and suspicious of all this openness. In fact, I thought I had been living in a very friendly town until yesterday. Now I don’t know what to expect. Unanchored, weightless, temporary, and very sad.
Posted in weight of things
Tagged bag, best friend, chaos, desk, desktop, empty, float, light, mess, packing, roots, rubble, sort, spinning, stuff, untethered, weight
Today’s desktop photo: a clean desk sponsored by other people needing to use my space. Am I cured of my hoarding tendencies? Probably not. I’m really just stalled. We have no idea when our last immigration paper is going to come through – anytime between now and 6 months from now. So we wait. I am doing my best to use things up and throw them out and buy smaller replacement versions only when necessary. I still have a number of things to pack up, but I have a very blasé attitude. What’s the point? The exercise has been good, but I am lacking the motivation to carry out the decluttering to the end.
We’ve been informed that our move is going to be delayed for a couple of months or more, and this, right at the moment when I was kicking the packing into a higher gear. I’ve boxed up some of my precious books that I won’t be teaching for a few semesters and am clearing off shelves in my office. I haven’t bought any new shampoo, conditioner, or other products in quite awhile, hoping to bring them down to a minimum right before we leave. Now I’m looking at my sparse environment and there’s a challenge in front of me. Can I maintain a sort of minimalist sense of living, bringing it down to life out of a suitcase for a couple of months? If I can manage to do that, there’s just enough time that I might form some positive habits before we go. Or… I could go the other direction and spread my books, papers, receipts, and other stuff all over the office again and be comfortable. What to do?