In 2009, I left the United States for a life abroad. I culled down my already pared down possessions without knowing when I’d be back. I haven’t been back. When I arrived in Thailand, I didn’t have much. I ignorantly made my clothing choices, grabbed a few books and a heavy HP laptop which is now pretty much obsolete.
Since then I’ve acquired a full wardrobe with an entire rack dedicated to my work dresses, amazing speakers, furniture, a kitchen like I had back in the States, more books and loads of teaching materials. Teachers very easily accumulate a lot of stuff. Let me tell you that expats don’t necessarily live lighter than their home country counterparts – ohhh no.
I’ve been feeling rather icky and annoyed at myself for having so much crap. When you move frequently, you notice these things, your stuff that just sits there collecting monster dust bunnies. I went through a wardrobe organizing frenzy when I realized I couldn’t see all of my clothes and everything was just spilling out like an overstuffed suitcase.
But the thing about moving a lot is that even though you feel you are giving away stuff, you are accumulating more stuff like furniture to accommodate your new home. And each time I thought, “Okay, this is it! We are settling!” only to discover some new problem that we hadn’t anticipated.
When moving to Cambodia entered our picture, I knew this was my chance to cull, carve and really dig myself out of all my stuff. I wanted to be lighter again. What was interesting though was the well-meaning questions from friends, “Are you going to mail stuff over there? Are you going to get a moving container?” Hell no, I thought. I don’t need to lug all my junk to another country. Things can be bought again, yes it can be expensive to start over, but it’s a bigger headache to try to coordinate a major move and frankly it’s not necessary. Many apartments or homes for rent come with things already. I can get by with less. I know I can.
// Step one, for me, was the incubation phase where I told myself I was going to only take: a suitcase, a carry-on and a school-sized backpack (as my purse). I started to read the minimalists’ 21-day journey into minimalism.
// Step two involved thinking about what I was going to do with all my stuff. Who was going to get what, as I knew I didn’t want to sell anything. I knew I wanted to give it away. I also had a motorbike that I stopped using. I knew I had to coordinate my family picking it up.
// Step three was having a new resident to CR come by the apt. I gave her some things and offered more things when we were ready to move. I began talking to more people about my stuff, who was interested and the great thing about having this “thinking and reaching out” phase was I started to get better ideas about how to deal with all my stuff.
// Step four was starting to conquer and divide. At this point, I’m about a month out from the big move. My b/f is wondering why I’m starting so soon, but I told him I didn’t want any last minute surprises. I already had a last minute change of travel plans. I know all too well the horror of discovering a whole drawer full of knickknacks that you forgot about.
Starting this process, as in just getting going, was challenging because I simply stared at everything and started to wonder, “Where the heck do I begin?” I went to the post office and got two boxes and started to fill them up with things I wanted to give to a couple of friends in CM. Then I told myself that it was really my clothes that I needed to slay first. It was a doozy and essentially where the serious work needed to be done. Everything else would fall naturally in place, but the clothes, I had limited weight and space.
I should mention that I discovered around this time, Jess Lively’s podcast. Her episode with Caroline was the first one I listened to with rapt attention. Caroline blogs about her seasonal capsule wardrobe (37 pieces!) and it was so great to hear about how she did it and what she does and expand my knowledge of the minimalism movement.
Now I follow a few more minimalism blogs. It’s exciting and I think it fits into my lifestyle much better. After all, I left the States to get out of the “rat consumer work work work race”. Although, Thailand, over the years that I have been living here, has sped towards the customer/shopper/buyer mega-mall mentality of more, more and more. So, it’s perfect for me to recognize where I’ve headed and just full stop.
//Step five involved me creating a list of things I wanted to give away and emailing it to a friend who is helping me with the big purge. I’ve also continued to slay different areas of my apartment like my office space, another doozy. And the point of all these steps, for me, is to illustrate for those who are interested in getting back down to the basics (or making a serious move) is that this doesn’t have to be a big one day bonanza.
I know the minimalists did it this way (sort of), but I’m enjoying this process of giving and discovering what is important. Even more interesting is putting aside a pile of clothes to give away and then waking up the next day and opening my closet again to take out more. And I hope all the scouring I’ve been doing serves as a reminder not to go down this road again because cleaning some of this junk out is kind of gross.
Have you gone minimal? When was the last time you did a big purge and clean of your stuff and space? Or do you have a rattlesnake/rat den in the dark recesses of your home?