Tag Archives: suitcase

using it

Now that we are more or less completely moved from the U.S. to Australia and consider that anything left behind is disposable, it’s easier to take an account of what we have. Remarkably, we shifted continents using only suitcases and small boxes over the past two years. We are settled and not encumbered with stuff. The war still wages within me to not use precious valuables that have become even more special due to the vast oceans they’ve crossed. I still have to fight daily to toss out recyclable crafts brought home from S.’s kindergarten. I have to consciously attack the clutter around me to keep my desk cleared. But progress has been made.

My Turkish rug made the journey to Australia along with its missing piece still detached. But for the first time since I purchased it in 2003, the rug is now on the floorImage being used daily by both people and cats. I look at the gnawed-off edge and say,  So What! Rather than protecting the very happy memory associated with its purchase, I get to make new ones while playing with S. and her legos on the floor.

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packing up

ImageWe 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.

 

revenge of the hoard

D. spent the last ten days or so in the U.S. from whence I received a few messages such as, “And the bathrobes in the guest room closet… do you want those?”

While he was busy going through crap trying to find the few items that I said I really wanted, I was busy not remembering what I had left where. I haven’t been to our house in the States for over a year, and honestly I’ve forgotten almost everything that might be there except for the requested ice skates, photo albums and art work. Mostly I want things that can’t be easily packed into suitcases and will cost a fortune to ship. I’m a practical gal.

D. finally arrived in Australia early Saturday morning and the contents of his nine suitcases vomited all over our new home. Many of the items had been special ordered (clothes for our daughter and me), some were thoughtful gestures (my ceramic beer mugs from our favorite brewery), a few odd items I’d forgotten about (a sign that says Bordeaux 1996), a few broken pieces (glass containers and photo frames that I bought at an auction for $1), and one item I thought I had lost forever that has plagued me for two years as I have repeatedly wracked my brain to think of where I put it (a compact travel umbrella that I thought I lost in Florida in 2010 when we packed up at the end of vacation).

photo purchased for one dollar in Michigan, recycled in Australia

The stuff has followed me to Australia. It pains me to see some of it though I fail to express why. I just know I’m having trouble knowing what to do with these things I’ve forgotten about. I also know that if I don’t start getting rid of items at the same pace that they arrive here, I’m going to have a relapse. That familiar weight of things is no longer a comfort here.

unpacked

How do you cure hoarding tendencies? Move 3 times in 12 months, one of those international, followed immediately by 2 trips during which you must live out of your smallest suitcase. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but it has made me habitually re-evaluate what is important to have with me at all times. It comes down to my passport, my money, my computer/iPad, phone and some clothes and kitchen things family. Oh right, family! The ones I love are healthy and happy and so am I. That’s all that really matters.

Still, there’s all this other stuff. Baggage. It trails behind me with little wheels, sometimes a comforting pleasure, sometimes a burden. I’m packing today and trying to decide if I check a bag, how to keep it light. My brain is a chaotic mess of lists that keep slipping away. My body is ready to relax. Tonight I’ll hit the road for a research trip in which I have 5 different destinations in less than 10 days.

ImageIn honor of the voyage ahead, I finally emptied my backpack (left exactly as shown). I’ve pared down the contents several times in the past few weeks, but still, the contents are impressive. It’s my “just in case I need it” inherited hoarding disorder. 3 chapsticks, several tampons, two packages of kleenex, one pack of baby-wipes, numerous pills (sinus, pain), 10 or more pens, scraps of paper, an umbrella, plastic bags, headphones, iPad charger, sunglasses, cereal bars, breath mints, a bottle of water. I even found a flashlight and a clean pair of underwear. Those are the things I drag with me everywhere hidden in pockets. That’s not including the important passport, money, phone, books, tech…

Apparently I still have work to do in the hoarding category. But at the moment, I’m pleasantly unpacked and about to start stuffing it back together again.

And you? What’s in your bag?

when it’s ok to purge

While unpacking and repacking yesterday, I realized that when I travel I really do enjoy leaving behind little objects. When we were in Australia last year, I left an expensive blouse in the hotel room on accident. I knew I couldn’t go back to get it, but part of me was thinking, “Oh well. I’ve left a piece of me behind.” It felt kind of good.

Last night I was going through my tubes of shampoo and deodorant and whatnot trying to guess which things would not be coming back with me in a few days. I’m trying to finish up the little pouches and pastes to make my bags lighter, and it makes me happy to think about leaving it here on the road. Is it purging, or am I just marking my territory… expanding my clutter to the far reaches of the world while it lives on in my memory?

up in the air

up in the air

For our movie date night this weekend, D. and I watched Up in the Air on demand. The story line has George Clooney living out of a suitcase, with a home in Omaha that is more empty and less attractive than the hotel rooms he frequents on business travel. His character says he travels some 320 days of the year and he gives seminars using a “backpack of life” metaphor.

The movie gave me pause. The man lives a stripped-down life, empty of people but not human contact, empty of things, but still he hoards intangibles. He has a life goal of reaching 10 million air miles, he belongs to hundreds of fidelity programs (Hilton Honors points or Marriott Rewards, for example), he even has a collection of hotel keys in his wallet and frequently mistakes the one he needs. He has a certain amount of clutter, small as it may be, and comes into contact with hundreds of people daily because of his job as a professional communicator.

In his speaking engagements, the man asks the audience to imagine all of their things from little to big (knick-knacks to couches) being put into a backpack and to feel the straps dig into their shoulders. The unbearable weight of things is then compared to the unbearable weight of people as we are asked to put in our acquaintances and fill up the backpack until we get to our most significant other, and again he asks us to feel the weight.

I’m highly suggestible and participated in the imagining. While the “things” felt somewhat heavy, the people backpack was incredibly light. I do not feel burdened by the people in my life and said as much to D. He quickly reminded me: that was not the case when he met me. I suddenly remembered the dread I felt dealing with my family and friends and the incredible weight on my life they incurred, especially as I was going through my divorce. I had all of these relationships that seemed to be important but were not giving me support in return when I needed it. In fact, they were more crushing to me than the weight of actually ending of my marriage.

It took me a year or more to clean up the relationships, to learn to let go, to break up with friends. Today when I think about the people in my life and the amount of space they take, I cannot see this as a burden. I feel incredibly light and joyful when I think about putting my grandma in that backpack, or my daughter who I would carry a million miles over, joyfully, or my husband who has carried me in countless times of weakness.

I’m sometimes bothered that I have trouble building deep friendships with people and D. and I frequently discuss – why is it that no one seems to like us? Or for me – what’s my problem that I keep choosing friends who will not be available or able to help me when I need it? But the stripped-down life that we live now, knowing who the real friends are, is far less heavy than the one I lived under false pretenses six years ago.

The point of the film, for me at least, is that absence can be just as heavy as fullness. The George Clooney character was tied up in his inability to commit or settle and he had real moments of burdened pain because of these absences and superficialities. In the end, empty is just as burdensome as filled-past-the-brim.