If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to start completely over at 30 years old, I can tell you: Difficult. Expensive.
My husband, my son and I sold everything we owned in 2013 so we could move to Scotland for a year. The list of reasons for this break from Minnesota and the year in Scotland is long. We needed a change for our sanity and our marriage. We wanted our son to get to know his Scottish side of the family (as my husband is a British native). I wanted to fulfill my dream of completing a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, and a competitive program in one of the world’s most literary cities let me in.
We knew it was the right thing to do, and the initial shedding of all of our ‘things’ was easy: we just sold or gave them away. We got rid EVERYTHING, except a few boxes of books, mementos and cothes. My dad moved into our empty apartment where the only thing we’d left for him was our dog.
It felt liberating to move with three suitcases.
But, inevitably, stuff started to mount up again in our tiny Scottish flat. Two-year olds need a lot of stuff, I learned. And our space was…wee.
When summer of 2014 rolled around and I was still scrambling with my dissertation, we began a process we had grown used to doing: whittling everything down to a few measley suitcases. Vacuum packing. Squishing. Creating “maybe/hopefully” piles. But this time the emotional toll was greater. I didn’t feel liberated, I felt sad.
I loved those curtains we bought.
Why couldn’t I keep every single book I read for my Master’s degree?
But, you can’t GET these boots in America.
Alistair played with this digger every day!
Our route from Scotland to Minnesota was the cheapest we could find, but it meant lugging everything we owned through Edinburgh, Belfast, a train to through Ireland to Dublin. Dublin Airport, Orlando, and then, finally, home.
But it wasn’t home anymore. My dad and my dog were there, and the walls the were the same, but it was full of my dad’s belongings now. I walked in half expecting to see our old living room set. To go to my room and sleep off the jet-lag and the reverse culture-shock. But my room wasn’t there.
I finished my dissertation on a variety of surfaces: air mattresses, grass, my signature table at Starbucks. We were back in America, and reality hit: we were homeless (in one sense), jobless, and owned…nothing.
The six months which have followed have been the worst for us, financially, since we got married 10 years ago. And that’s saying something, considering how young and naïve we were back then.
This is because we had to start over…again.
And while in Scotland you can rent furnished flats and you don’t need a car, in most American cities this isn’t possible.
Beds, chairs, toasters, lamps….apparently we needed it all to survive in 2014. And it added up, to the point that we fell behind on everything else.
I’ve never cared for possessions, anyways. If you’ve known me long enough, you’ve heard me say, “We spend our money on experiences, not things,” and it’s true.
But I grossly underestimated the cost of starting over.
We’re now back on track, with jobs and schools and a routine which involves appliances and toys and smartphones and couches and simple things you need to feel comfortable in a two-bedroom townhome. We don’t have very much stuff. But it’s too much for me!
These things I felt we so badly needed are cluttering my floors and my brain. It’s hard to keep up with.
When the new year started I had every intention of decluttering, minimizing, and getting this weight off my shoulders.
But The Neighbors stepped in, and they don’t like the sounds of cleaning, the sounds of packing, the sounds of 3 year olds, or any sounds at all, really. The Neighbors DO like harassment, so my family and I have the opportunity to move again. As we are bound to a certain rental company and lease, our choices were limited.
But my husband and I agreed. Give us a ground floor, and we don’t care what it is.
We are moving out of our townhome and into a smaller two -bedroom apartment next month.
And I intend to shed so much of the weight of things.
Exhibits A and B, below:
It’s not that our home is a huge mess. We’re not at risk of being invited on Hoarders. But I know there’s an inverse correlation between clutter and clarity.
And I can always use more clarity.
I love to hold on to things. Tangible things, like clothes which I wish would fit and cards I’ve received for my birthday.
But I hold on to abstract things as well: relationships I wish wouldn’t have changed, ideas of who I wish I were, unattainable ideals not grounded in present situations.
I’m hoping that as I shed the heaviness of holding onto too much junk, I can shed the weight of so many unmet expectations as well.
As so many of my blog posts reiterate, I’m on a quest for the present.
I’m picturing President Obama dusting the dirt off his shoulders. (I don’t think the abstract things I’m holding onto are DIRT- of course not, because if they were meaningless I wouldn’t be carrying them around) But I like the mental image of dusting these loads off my shoulders. When I let go of ‘should be’s’ and embrace what IS- I imagine my body will feel lighter. I’ll be able to stand taller.
Since starting this blog, I’ve made some habit changes which are making my body feel better. I’m exercising regularly. I’m more aware of what I put into my body. I’m practicing mindfulness, increased spirituality and have added some homeopathic and prescription supplements.
I believe that shedding the weight of ‘things’ is the next step in my journey. I’ll be sure to share the results!