When I first moved into my first ‘proper’ apartment in Kuwait, I had the luxury of space. For the first time ever all my worldly possessions were under one roof. It was nice in a way – knowing that everything that belonged to me was right there with me, not at my mom’s house, not at my grandmother’s house … just here with me. Having lots of space was a blessing – and to some extent, a curse. Having space for everything meant that I didn’t really need to throw anything out. Even though I had things locked in trunks and knew I wouldn’t use/need them again, I still kept them.
my collection of pencils – to be looked at only, not used
sure we had space for all the DVDs — but did we have time to watch them all?
The reality of all my ‘stuff’ hit me when I got ready for a major international move in 2014. We were provided with a shipping cargo, which meant we had lots of room. Yet once again, all that space turned out to be both a blessing – and to some extent, a curse. I packed things in the most organized way possible, but even then I packed too much. If there was anything I hesitated about, I kept it. I kept trying to ask myself questions – do I need this? Does it make me happy? Is it incredibly, irreplaceably sentimental? Instead of taking any hesitation as a sign that I should get rid of it (or the fact that it had been locked in a trunk for the past 4 years and never once thought about), I kept it … and as a result, the whole lot followed me to London where I ended up living in a house that was less than half the size and with not much storage space at all – what a curse! Or could it be, to some extent, a blessing?
our shipping container … and our stuff
Most of my things ended up in (very expensive) storage [giving me nightmarish flashbacks of a storage unit I kept in the United States for 3 years, even though I no longer lived in the country!!] while I tried to settle into my new life.
the arrival of cargo — mixture of excitement and dread as we put it all in storage
Living in a small house with most of my stuff in storage was quite revealing. Since we didn’t have a lot of storage space, we only had the bare minimum. After a year of living in what would be my version of minimalistic living, I felt quite liberated knowing how little I actually needed. I didn’t need endless Tupperware, cutlery, or cutting boards. I didn’t need to have so many clothes or (gasp) shoes. I needed so very little to live a complete, fulfilling life. The small house that I once thought I would never adjust to living in turned out to be the best thing that could happen to me.
That being said, all my (our) stuff was still in storage! Knowing that the small house was only temporary and that we hoped to move into a larger house, meant that I didn’t have much motivation to go through all that stored stuff. Instead, I just let it sit there until space opened up … and sure enough, after a year of living in the smaller house, we upgraded to a bigger one.
Ah, space!! What a blessing (or curse?)! Would I be able to learn from the revelations of the small house or would the sight of all my boxes and ‘stuff’ spring me straight back to my old habits?
It ended up being a mixture of both. The new house wasn’t as large as our place in Kuwait, but it was definitely a lot larger than the previous one. I had lots of decisions to make. It really was a test in letting go. By this time, my stuff had been in storage for a year, so not only did I not need it (nor did I miss most of it), but I also had to ask myself – do I really want to wear clothes that have been sitting in a box for (over) a year? Do I really need these utensils or cups or books? I went through another major phase of de-cluttering … and I’m talking MAJOR! Since this was our first home, I wanted everything to be organized and in its place. I didn’t want piles of ‘unknowns’ sitting in boxes in the corner of a room. I didn’t want the extra sets of dishes that would never really be used. It was time to let go – in a big way.
In that initial phase of moving in, we got rid of A LOT! From garage sales to car boot sales to online sales, things were leaving our house fast. It was great. Once the sale frenzy settled down while we settled into our new routine, things eventually found their place … but to be honest, I still had too much stuff.
downsizing — before (above) and after (below)
still too much?
I knew I was holding on to books I would never read, clothes I would never wear, and papers I would never refer to again. So why couldn’t I let go? I guess I still have not been able to break away from the mentality that if it is clean, organized, and has a space (i.e. clothes aren’t just dumped on the floor or kitchenware isn’t taking up space on the counters), it can still stay. *sigh*
Even though I feel like I have been de-cluttering for years now and even though I know I have gotten rid of over half of my possessions, there is still much more to be done. The effort continues …