04 February 2014

On Storage and an Uninhibited Start

You’ve decided to move abroad, and with that comes the downsizing of all-things-needed into the airline’s baggage allowance. How can you fit a life into 50 pounds? So, you take what you must and leave the rest – to store.

The bags weigh twice as much as they do.

After nearly a decade of living overseas, I still take that flight with my 50 pounds maxed out with memorabilia (and food) from home. The storage room never seems to empty, and countless hours of each visit back are gobbled up in sorting out those boxes. So I’ve come to this controversial conclusion:

When you leave, leave nothing behind.

We first moved abroad in 2005, intending to live and teach in the Middle East for one year. So naturally we stored everything: furniture, kitchen appliances and dishes, books, clothes, and even linens. Even after streamlining with a moving sale, the remaining boxes still reached the ceiling of my parents’ spare room and spread 2-3 boxes thick.

My aunt commented on this: “Why not sell everything and start over when you get back?”

Ah, but I thought, we will only be gone a year. Then we will step back into our lives here.

Not so. Even if we had only been gone one year (we ended up being gone for three), we would have returned changed people. After living abroad, the same things do not excite us; the same things do not define us. 

We moved back to Hawaii in 2008. We emptied out the storage room into our apartment and realized we wanted change. We wanted to hang new artwork bought in Vietnam. We wanted smaller furniture and more floor space. We wanted to lay out our Persian rug. We wanted to use our dishes from Russia. We had changed, and our storage items were outdated.

Our family of five is back overseas now, and we still claim a portion of my parents’ spare room in Hawaii with some boxes—much depleted from our former hoarding but still too much. While back for Christmas last month, I went through those boxes and felt the past pulling on me. Those sentimental storage things are who I was, but keeping them in storage do not make me a better person now.

So I purged.

William Morris coined this mantra about decluttering: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” The same goes for storage items. Now, we keep what we use on our visits (books and clothes and baby items) and what we know to be timeless (heirlooms and art), but the rest must go.

Nostalgia inhibits progress, and storing the past can hold me back from embracing the future.

When you leave, leave nothing behind. Take what you love. Resolve, grow, and change.  Drop the weight and live lighter.

That's my husband living it UP!

Of course, this practical post can be flipped for an emotional parallel. When we leave, it's possible to box up emotions too, to put them in storage to be dealt with upon our return. It's not wise. They don't resolve themselves in our absence just like storage items don't magically disappear.

Isn't it better to sort through both types of baggage before heading abroad--to decide what is useful and what is beautiful--to free ourselves to begin anew without the tug of unfinished business an ocean away?

...to give ourselves the parting gift of an uninhibited start?

If you're overseas, do you have (too much) storage back in your passport country? Or how have you balanced your life and possessions here and there?

1 comment:

  1. We have way too much stuff back home, including boxes of clothes that haven't been worn in 8+ years! In the past few years I've been ready to purge, but we haven't been back to Canada in three years... hopefully soon I'll return and finally deal with what we left behind. What makes our home feel like home is here with us in Seoul and I have very little childhood items. I'd be happy to part with almost all of it now... I'm not the same person and don't want to go back to that.


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