Monday, October 29

Every Last Bit

Back in the Spring of 2005, our family began preparations to move from Phoenix to Leiden. In hopes that the experience would be longer than the one-year academic course my husband would be attending, we divested ourselves of most of our possessions. We held garage sales and Internet sales (I sold my car by email). We donated goods to charity and gave goods to friends. When August, and our imminent departure, rolled around, we had reduced our mass to virtually what fit inside our 10 suitcases plus carry-ons. That we left a corner of our Arizona house stuffed with a few remaining--too precious-to-toss--items didn't deter us from believing that we had truly simplified. It was liberating to imagine that everything we needed or wanted could be carried with us (albeit with a luggage carrier).

The first year in The Netherlands we lived in the home of a Leiden University professor who was on sabbatical with his family in the U.S. It was an ideal living arrangement for us as they had left everything of household necessity behind and available to us. From dishes to bicycles we were covered and found ourselves wanting and needing nothing.

With the mentality following that we would be repacking for a possible return flight to the USA after that first year, we kept our accumulation in check.


I began to be suspicious of our collective ability to pull off the simple life when we moved from Leiden into our friend's home (we would house sit for the summer) in July 2006. That it took more than one van load to haul our things to her house was mildly disconcerting. Still, all in all, I figured we were still maintaining that idyllic reduced-possessions lifestyle I so wanted to keep.

From that moment onward, that hope in keeping it simple has been a lost dream. Part of it is understandable, really. When we moved to The Hague last summer it was into a home without furnishings. I adjusted my thinking to include the notion that it would be all right to once again own furniture. Surely, I could make my home comfortable without overdoing it in the accumulation department.

However, it just didn't stop there.

Admittedly, once our placement here in this country moved from temporary to exit-at-an-indefinite-date I allowed myself to think bigger and more permanent. We bought stuff. Stuff we needed sure. And stuff we wanted, most definitely. Hell, I even bought more shoes. And a computer. A file cabinet. A television.

And other stuff.

Trust me now when I tell you, my belongings no longer fit into 10 suitcases plus carry-ons.

Here then is the source of this diatribe. I spent the better part of my Sunday morning cleaning out my closet--removing summer gear and replacing it with heavy winter sweaters and long sleeved apparel. I also took the opportunity to throw out (meaning: ready for donation to charity) old clothes which I no longer wear for a variety of reasons. I filled 3 large plastic bin sacks full.

And yet?

Yet my closet is full. More things than I can possibly wear, more than I can definitively declare that I NEED.

And as I sit here at my brand new computer with my feet clad in my (just purchased yesterday) fuzzy pink slippers, I am suddenly loathe to consider just how I would live without it.

All of it.


  1. Yippeeee she's back
    Yippeeee I am the first one to notice and to comment :-).

    ....and I'd never have been able to live a 10 suitcases belongings life, I think. Wow you're amazing. But the fact that you are buying more and more...doesn't that mean you are nicely settling in?
    ...yippeeee she's intending to stay closeby so maybe we can meet for coffee one of these days.


  2. I've just done much the same thing in reverse. Packed away all our heavy clothes, the doona's and electric blankets. I've thrown out several enormous bags of stuff.....and yet our house and cupboards are all still FULL!?

  3. I'm with you - live with less. I grew up with a permanent "Goodwill" bag in my closet. And yet, like you, there seems to less room in the closet. It's like my stuff is reproducing. Do mothballs work on that?

  4. Lol - I know what you mean. I came to switzerland with 2.5 suitcases and left with 10 plus! LOL... I never thought all of my belongings would be so much yet so little at times...

    Again I have that problem here in Canada. I know I need to go through the closet too! Great reminder...

    I hope I'll take some time off work to do it.

  5. Holy crap, I just wrote a novel in your comments. I'm deleting said novel now, and I'll be posting an entire post dedicated to you and this post. Post post.

    Anyway, you've inspired me. And NOT for the first time. :-D

  6. When Dave and I moved in with my parents, we went from a house full of stuff to a carload.

    When we moved into our new house last year, we wondered what we'd do with all the space. Now, we're shopping for outbuildings for added storage.

    Somehow, we find a way to fill the space we have available, regardless of how much or how little it is.

  7. Ha ha, you complaining about accumulating things!! You know first hand what pack rats my family is!! Just this weekend we put 4 big bags of clothes and shoes in the recycle bin, separated out two boxes of toys and usable clothes to go to the goodwill store, two more boxes to go to the toy resale shop, a box of Dutch books to go to one friend, and two boxes of hand-me-downs to go to another. And still...(sigh)

    Am I really a terrible friend if I tell you that I am happy for so many reasons that you are back in full-consumer mode?!

  8. Since we move a lot.... I mean, A LOT, CableDad has a hard and fast rule about keeping "junk". I'm a pack rat. He's a military brat with 20 addresses by the time he was 18 so he keeps NOTHING. His rule is that if we pack up our crap to move and it doesn't get unpacked and used in the first month or so of our new residence, away with it.

    Needless to say I try my hardest to find uses for my useless crap. lol

  9. Will you PLEASE post more often. I mean it wasn't like you were sick, with a new job and transitioning to life with a nanny. It's been pretty quiet.

    But now I find, instead of blogging you were CLEANING?!? Just please don't tell my husband...

  10. Okay, so I'm the opposite of CG and her DH - I'm the zen person wanting NO possessions (um... except for my computer... and my kitchen stuff), okay SOME possessions, and he is the pack rat. He. can. not. throw. anything. out.

    Well, that's a tiny exaggeration, but sheesh...

    And I second SMID!

  11. When we moved, nearly 2 years ago, I vowed never to accumulate so much junk ever again. But our new house has lovely big cupboards....and now they are full!

  12. Boy do I know how you feel, while I haven't moved to a different country, I have moved all over the USA and have the same difficulty. When hubby and I married and moved to Maryland, we had 2 suitcases. By the time we left Maryland we had 1 kid one on the way and 1 small u-haul. By the time we left California, we had 1 large uhaul and 2 kids. ...

    Now we own a house 2 teens and more garbage than I though possible to accumulate in just 3 years. and I only have 3 pairs of shoes. :) 4 cameras, but 3 pairs of shoes. :) My daughter took them all :(

  13. I've been trying to pare down for years. We don't have a lot by American standards because we don't want a lot. And still... I know all about those donated bags of clothes to charity. :)