Friday, October 2, 2015

30 Days Left - Lessons I've learned as an Expat

I remember so clearly the day a bunch of friends came over and we packed up the house for our first overseas move.  I'd had a garage sale and given a lot of things away, but we still had a ton of stuff.  I'll be honest.  It was not easy. I really cling tight to my things.  Right now I have a pile of clothes that got ruined in the wash.  Red dye from some pants stained some of my brand new work clothes.  I need to throw them away, but for some reason I keep them in a wadded up pile in the laundry room--just in case.

We were the typical American family of five.  Three young children meant a lot of toys and stuff.  We were moving to New Zealand for a year and we each got two suitcases to survive on.  That's a key word here, survive.  The necessities of life really take up little space.  Everything else simply adds comfort to life.  I like comfort.  I like pretty.  I like my stuff that makes a place feel like home.  I like wearing 30 different outfits in a month so I'm not tired of what I look like each day.  But none of that is a necessity and life is just as happy and perhaps even more full without all the extra bags.

We've graduated from moving with only suitcases to moving with an allotted shipment amount.  It's interesting to see how each person fills their shipment.  Some people bring food items or their favorite toilet paper.  Others bring books.  I've seen sets of china for every holiday you can think of, packed up and carted from country to country around the world.  Things to occupy the kids--if you need a lot of toys at home then you certainly need a lot of toys around the world.  For me, I ship my kitchen and items that give my home a unique me feel.  Home has begun to feel like a collection of items from various countries.  It's not necessary.  It's a privilege.

But back to that first day.  I sat on the steps as I watched my most important things, the things I couldn't replace, get loaded into a truck and taken to a storage unit to sit and collect dust for a year.  I'm glad we didn't get rid of everything.  Each item I chose to keep has special memories attached to it.  Most of that stuff was practical as well.  I would still need a table to sit at when I returned in a year.  A friend came over and sat down next to me.  She sighed and said "I wish I could do what you are doing.  I wish I could get rid of so much extra stuff."  The thing is, you can.  Why not pull everything out of your house, item by item and only put back the stuff you really, really like and the things you need?  It's a lot of work, I know, but in the end, wouldn't it be worth it?

I have an advantage of moving every few years to a new location.  I'm forced to go through my stuff and weed out the unnecessary.  I'm doing it again right now as I try to squeeze into the smallest space I've lived in yet.


  1. yep, I can just about list everything we own by memory... of course, LOTS of it could go. Elizabeth

    1. The challenge is now with a toddler to keep it simple!