Thursday, June 11, 2015

How to Purge Your Home When You're a "Stuff" Person

I am a “stuff” person. 

I get emotionally attached to stuff.  When I look at an item in my home, I see memories.  I see the face of the giver.  I see a need to save it for when I’ll use it again. 

This is not a good thing for a person who has had to fit her life into suitcases.

I’ve read books and blog posts about people who simplify, who get rid of their excess stuff.  They talk with almost annoying perkiness about how freeing it is.  “Just get rid of your stuff, and you’ll feel so much better!”    

This has not been my experience. 

No, getting rid of my stuff, dropping it in the donation bin, selling it for next to nothing at a garage sale, leaving it next to the dumpster, it has never felt freeing.

It has felt like loss… and grief… and fear… and then some shame layered on top.

I grieve the loss of memories.  I fear for the future, that I won’t be able to find or afford to replace what I need in my new home.  And then I feel ashamed that I’m so attached to stuff, that worldly possessions affect me this way, that I’m not trusting in His provision.

This has been the story of my multiple global moves…   

Until now.

This time, it’s different. 

Fair warning before you read it, the author, Maria Kondo, is a little… out there.  She’s borderline obsessed with “tidying” and she talks to her purse.  So there’s that.  BUT, she’s not whacko. 

Her words have made a huge impact on how I am purging my possessions.  This process is being forced and expedited by my impending global move.  But I would be inspired by this book whether I was moving or not.  It's not just a "how-to organize," it gets at the root issues, which was what made it different than other things I've read.   

Here are some of the gems Kondo offers:

“Don’t organize by room, organize by category: clothes, books, papers, etc… Take everything out.  Everything.  Handle each item and ask yourself, ‘Does it spark joy?’  If the answer is ‘no,’ get rid of it.” 

“If you come across something that does not spark joy but that you can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop a moment and ask yourself, ‘Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future?’”

I’m paraphrasing here, but she says to acknowledge your emotional connection to the item, appreciate it for what it was, thank it even for what it did for you, and then release it.  It has served it’s purpose.  Just because it once had a purpose for you, doesn’t mean it still does.  Send it off with joy to make room in your life for your current purposes.

Her words validated my emotional attachment to stuff.  Now, instead of feeling guilty for the attachment, I can acknowledge it.  That acknowledgment somehow helps me to release it. 

This time, the getting rid of stuff process has actually been freeing.

Attachment to the past…. 

When I was pregnant with my first, I waddled all over Beijing, hunting for a rocking chair.  I could never find what I wanted.  Nothing looked remotely comfortable or affordable. 

So I found a rocking chair from Target that came in a 50 lb box, and I had my in-laws check it as a piece of luggage for their trip to China.  When I brought my daughter home for the first time, my dear father-in-law had it built and waiting for us.  Oh, the hours I’ve spent in that thing with each of my three babies nestled to me.

Soon my beloved rocking chair will go to a new home.  The loss of the chair is not the loss of the memories though.  Nothing will take away the importance of that season.  I can release the chair to be something special for someone else now. 

Fear for the future…

We’re heading into a lot of unknowns.  We’ve made faith leaps before, and those leaps held a lot of angst for me.  I still have my moments, but this time, there’s a deeper level of trust. He’s carried us before, and provided for us in ways beyond what we could have imagined. 

Fearing you won’t have enough, is no way to live.  

As Kondo says,

“Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.”  

Living with less stuff and less fear, it’s kind of amazing.  Even just in these weeks that we’ve been purging clothes, toys, books, papers, junk, our home feels lighter, more peaceful.

I love opening my wardrobe to this...

“What would it be like to have a home that has only items you love?”  -- Marie Kondo 

I’m still in the process of getting there.  But I’m convinced now that living with less is better.  And for us global nomads, it doesn't have to feel like loss and fear and shame.  

Our life is getting whittled down to 10 suitcases.  I know from experience though that it does not take long for a home to accumulate too much again.  But this peace and lightness that comes from having less, it's too good to let go of.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What Moving Looks Like for Us

I should be packing right now. 

Because, three weeks. 

In just over three weeks we’re boarding an American-bound plane for yet another trans-global move, this time for a one year home assignment. 

I’d like to think that we’re going to be totally on top of things this time.  No more last minute insanity. 

But who am I kidding? 

Let me tell you how it’s going to go.

Every day these next weeks, I will plan to pack and sort.  And then a friend will text to get the kids together to play because the sky is blue and how many more times will our kids get to play together?  And I will say “yes” because, of course.

I will start each morning with some journaling and not be able to stop because this writing it down is saving me.  All the feelings.  All the thoughts. 

I will go out for all those dinners, because if I don’t say goodbye to those dear ones, my heart will break and I will kick myself when I’m gone.  I will take their sweet going away gifts and discreetly slip them in the give-away box. 

And I will ask that family over for a dinner, because I need us to sit and laugh and share all our stories just one more time.  I need us to leave well. 

I will sleep very little the last week before we move.  There will be lots of late nights, because I’ve been doing all the above.

Also because packing while 3 kids are awake in a little apartment is … not what you’d call productive.

On that last day, my husband and I will scramble around, we will argue over the last items that can’t fit. 

Then time will freeze for a moment and we will hold each other in the middle of the chaos, the two of us surrounded by all the luggage.  I’ll lean my head on his shoulder, his arms wrapped round me.  I’ll remember all the times we’ve done this moving thing, how I’d do it all over again to live this life, this story with this man. 

Then a child will yell and break the spell.    

I will ugly cry when we shut the door on our empty home.  Because I always do.    

We will say our last goodbyes, and I will cry more.   

And then just the five of us will go hide at a hotel near the airport for 2 nights.  Because I’ve learned I cannot get on an airplane like this, or my sanity might be left somewhere over the Pacific Ocean forever.

We will spend an entire day swimming in the hotel pool, eating good food, and sleeping…finally sleeping.    

Then I will step on that plane, shoulders aching from the carry-on that was supposed to be nice and light, but magically grew heavy.

There won’t be a lap baby this time, which is worth a whoop, holler and a sob.

I’ll lean my head back against my seat as the engines thrust us into the air.  I’ll watch China slip away beneath us. 

That’s when I’ll breathe this, my airplane/moving prayer…

That is, I predict, how these next three weeks are going to go. 

What does moving insanity look like for you?

I'm linking up with Velvet Ashes at The Grove.  Our prompt this week is "Sanity."