When I say moving I’m actually talking about household effects.
We moved here using suitcases over the course of three years from a home where we’d lived for 21 years. Our old house had lots of storage. Lots and lots of storage. We had so much storage that we lost track of what we were storing.
When we married many years ago, we merged the contents of my apartment and my husband’s condo into his two bedroom condo. It was a small space, but big enough for two of us. We didn’t have much stuff. When I became pregnant with our first child we started looking more seriously at houses. We moved into our four bedroom house just a few months before our daughter was born.
Life was very busy from the moment we became parents until we moved out of our house six months ago. We both come from large families and we have many nieces and nephews. We didn’t have to buy anything for our daughter. Well, we bought diapers, and eventually food. We were given so many gifts and hand-me-downs that she was outfitted until the day she said “I’m not really a fan of that colour” or “that style”. It was the same for our son, although there weren’t as many boy cousins and their clothes were more likely to be worn out before they made it to our house.
For awhile I was able to stay on top of the inventory, or so I thought. Then more stuff started to enter our house. Toys, books, school supplies, crafts, clothing, movies and music all made their way in, with very little purging of the old. Sure, I very often had a bag or four or five to give the numerous charities that called regularly looking for “gently used clothing and household goods” but I also had lots of storage space. You can see where this is going. If you’ve ever moved from a place you’ve been that long, or cleaned out a house after a parent or grandparent passed, you know where this is going.
For over a year, I carefully went through every box and bag and closet. I gave away several bags and boxes each week filled with clothing, linens, books and movies. It hardly made a dent. I persisted. We had a garage sale. We gave stuff to our children. We gave away more stuff. We sold stuff online. Still, we had a storage room full of boxes and closets full of clothing. Every time we came to our place on the island, we filled suitcases with carefully packed pictures and plates and mugs that had special meaning.
When we finally moved we only brought things that either had special meaning or that were incredibly useful and hard to replace. For example, our garlic press didn’t take much space and we hadn’t found one we liked here, so we brought it.
The move from the old house was not a pretty sight. At first it was fun to read old letters and cards, and to look at old photos and our kids’ homework. I had sorted through them, making piles to shred, scan or save. The scan pile was never completely scanned. Those things were thrown away. Our photo albums, filled with travel and family photos from pre-digital camera days, are still in a parent’s basement. Lovely items given to us as gifts were deemed too large to pack. I don’t remember where they went.
When we finally moved here permanently, we had already moved a lot of our favourite things. It wasn’t the huge and overwhelming task that we would have faced if we’d put everything into a shipping container and had it delivered all at once. We still hadn’t found places for everything, though. We are determined to avoid mistakes of the past and store things that “might be useful” someday. We don’t have much storage space, so what we do have is being used for Christmas and seasonal storage, and to store “winter” clothes for travel.
Once in awhile I’ll think of something that I gave away, or may have given away, and I wonder why I didn’t keep it. Or I’ll wonder where it went. For the first month or so, I’d feel a stab of pain and I’d be close to tears for something as random as being in a kitchen store and not seeing a single thing I liked as much as what I’ve given away. Regrets, I’ve had a few…. Those feelings are thankfully hitting me less often. I don’t like to compare it with Post Traumatic Stress or grieving, but the triggers have become less potent over time in the same way. Just this morning I wondered what we did with our ice cream and yogurt makers. The last few days of packing really are a blur, so I really don’t remember.
Sometimes I’ll have a stab of guilt over selling the only home our kids have ever known. They are students and as such they don’t have a permanent address. Our son visited recently and referred to our place here as a “home away from home”, which was some consolation, but our daughter hasn’t been to this place since 2012. She is less emotional about the loss of her childhood home, however, having left years ago and spending very little time there even on summer holidays.
There is a silver lining to all this. We gave away a lot of our things to friends and family, offering first dibs to our children. On a recent visit to my daughter, it felt like my “home away from home” with the artwork and pictures and even cooking utensils and bed sheets we’d passed along. My sister has my fine china. She uses it every day. That makes me happy, especially when we have dinner at her place. Once our son has his own place, he’ll be using dishes and linens that we donated from our house. There is no need to store things anymore. They are being used. That also makes me happy.
What I’m trying to say, is that you shouldn’t get too attached to stuff, but if something gives you good memories or has a sentimental attachment, keep it, use it, and cherish it, or share it with someone who will. Don’t store too much stuff. Get it out and give it away, or use it. There isn’t much that actually becomes more valuable with time, no matter what the collectors tell you. I sold hundreds of dollars worth of collector plates for the equivalent of lunch money, or I gave them away. I enjoyed them while I had them, but I couldn’t bring them all with me.
I probably enjoy my the photos and pictures we’ve hung on our walls more than I ever did. In this smaller space, I see them more often. Every item we kept was carefully selected, wrapped and delivered here personally. What I didn’t bring, I hope others are enjoying as much, if not more, than we did. Sometimes I even get to see it.