Over the past few weeks and months, Ben and I have been playing our own version of Shoot, Shag or Marry – only with our stuff. We have literally handled and considered every item we own and have asked ourselves, ‘take, chuck or store?’ That’s every darned thing.
When we originally talked about taking this sabbatical, we discussed options at two extremes of the continuum: either get rid of everything and start from scratch when (if) we return, or sublet our apartment fully-furnished.
We opted for something in the middle. We rented a 2m x 3m storage unit for a year, set a moving date and started playing our ‘fun’ new game.
I am proud to say that I have pared back to 5 pairs of shoes – and that includes thongs (flip flops). Those who know me will understand the extent of this miracle. Let’s just say, I have just a touch of Carrie Bradshaw in me. So, what made the cut? Thongs, sneakers, trainers, Birkenstocks, and ballet flats.
I also packed a small pouch with what I call, ‘very useful things‘. These include a small chef’s knife, a stash of zip and twist ties, command hooks (with two-sided tape), a sewing kit, Blue-tac, a portable clothes line, and carabiners. As, I said, very useful things.
Add to the shoes and very useful things, Summer clothes, a collapsible backpack, my stack of technological rectangles (laptop, iPad, Kindle, phone) and chargers, enough underwear for a month, a small stash of my fave (but not expensive) jewelry, and toiletries, and I am good to go!
While going through all the things we own, we made the easy decision to off-load the bedside lamps that I’ve never really liked, and the more difficult decision to sell our couch, which was cherry red and made to order. I loved that couch, but am pleased to say it went to a good home.
In the end, we sold off, gave away, donated and binned about 1/2 of what we owned.
Hard rubbish inherited an array of things including my desk, which broke into three pieces when we tried to move it, our well-used and somewhat abused BBQ, our bedside tables which were on their last legs, and every chipped or mismatched cup, plate, bowl, glass and teapot.
We even managed to eat through the bulk of our pantry, fridge and freezer in the weeks leading up to the move, which resulted in weird meals, like Dim Sum with Greek salad. The rest was bagged up and taken to our friend’s house to fill (clog) up their pantry and freezer – thanks (sorry), guys!
Deciding what to put into storage – or rather, what we would pay to store – was perhaps the hardest set of decisions, but we quickly discovered what I will call, ‘the second drawer factor’.
Every kitchen has a second drawer, the drawer filled with random, often costly, utensils and useful kitchen things. Some are used daily, some rarely, but when you’re paying for storage, setting aside 1/3 of a small box for these items is a lot cheaper than replacing them when you next set up house. I’m talking about you, ice-cream scoop, pizza cutter and citrus reamer. The same goes for other small, useful household items and tools. They essentially cost next to nothing to store and a lot to replace all at once.
Clothes were a little trickier. I kept quite a few of my work clothes, mostly because I tend to buy items that don’t date and that I look after. They’ll be great for those 2019 job interviews. We also sent a box of Winter clothes, coats and boots to the UK for the last 1/3 of our trip which will be in cooler or cold weather.
Art, artifacts and memorabilia were a no-brainer. When we travel, we buy souvenirs – paintings, photographs, ceramics, books and such. We also each have a collection of childhood memorabilia. These things will make our new home feel like ours.
Anything else we had room for: When I commenced packing, I started with books. Books are easy to pack; they have uniformity and you can stack them. I was really proud of my first few boxes – so neat, so organised, so easy to label: ‘books’.
By the time I finished packing, my labels read like this: ‘iron/hair diffuser/decorative rock/greeting cards/board game/lamp/place-mats’. It became less about ‘like things together’ and more like a real-life game of packing Tetris. In the end, we had the room, so I started to be less stringent with the culling. If we liked it and if it still worked, it got packed.
The (real) lesson
When you start to sort through your stuff, and when you do a complete audit of everything you own, you tend to realise that we exist everyday with far too much stuff. We are each about to travel for a year with only a suitcase, a carry-on and backpack or handbag. No doubt, we will continue to do some ‘chucking’ along the way.