moving out and moving on. when to let go of the clutter.

by Kerry on March 24, 2010

sailing with a lifevest

What is it they say about hindsight? 20/20 i think…meaning if you could see clearly how something would turn out ahead of time, you would have done it that way in the first place. But who see’s it clearly the first time?

We’ve all moved. If you live on Martha’s Vineyard then chances are you’ve moved quite a bit. Winter rentals to summer rentals, year round to hopefully, your own home. I’ve lived here 11 years and have moved more than 10 times. I’m not sure what the exact number is, but one year alone I moved 4 times. They call it the seasonal shuffle. I call it hell.

Amazingly I’d forgotten exactly how awful it was over the 7 years that I’ve owned my own home. During that time I have been in nesting mode…collecting linens and bedding, old furniture that I’ve salvaged from the trash and things that people have generously given to me. I own multiple dish sets, innumerable coffee mugs, and have a room full of “projects” that I would get to some day. Sewing, mending, sanding and painting…

I also own more clothing and shoes than I could wear if I changed outfits 4 times a day for a solid year. When I moved here from the city I brought my clothing “collection”. My suits and sweaters and heels. Dresses and dress pants, blazers, scarves and nylon stockings. Clothing so completely inappropriate for island life it bears mentioning that I have an unusual attachment to garments and accessories. Even when years had gone by and none of them were worn I hung on. My husband had to build a special closet for me in the basement of our house, and I would visit often with nostalgia and the occasional try-on session.

I know now that my attachment and collecting had less to do with wanting, and more to do with identity. Leaving my country and moving here was fearful, and my stuff became security. Like wearing a life jacket on a sailboat, my things were going to keep me safe and comforted. I would be protected form drowning by hanging on to my chair/jacket/boots.

It may have taken me longer than most to get to the bottom of my little hoarding issue, but it has taken me months to make a dent in the accumulation. I have been slow with the dissemination. Occasionally putting aside things to give away,only to go back and pick through them with uncertainty and a little fear.

Our pending move was the deciding factor…it was time to make some changes and let go.

I don’t know how I managed to move so many times without accepting the inevitable. My need for stuff, things, far-off projects and trinkets was more compulsion than want. I do love stuff, lots of different types of stuff, but I need piece of mind more. And so began my last adventure with moving and purging, letting go and clearing out.

Most of this is happening after the fact. Though I did do a preliminary sweep a few months back and packed up boxes of vases, photos and nick knacks (ew!)  Oddly, within weeks more stuff reappeared in place of the things I had put away. Not that I was buying new things, I just had so many things that they were revealing themselves in their corners and appeared to be multiplying!

The big eye opener was moving into a new house having only packed a few outfits and some cutlery. As the days passed and our “real” moving day loomed, I realized that I did not miss or crave anything more than I had with me. We had a few dishes and the furniture…if everything else had disappeared we wouldn’t have noticed.

I have now been going back and forth from the old house to the new for weeks, each time with more clutter to bring from my old home into my new one. Unpacking the boxes and bags is like putting on a dozen sweaters at once. I’m all bogged down and I just want to be free.

So now, after the fact, after the move, I am purging and de-cluttering. I’ve given away trash bags full of clothing and shoes to friends and neighbors. I’ve new tenants moving into my old house and was able to leave behind an entire kitchen’s worth of stuff. I’ve moved into a house twice the size, and have half the stuff.

On the next move, and there will be another, I will clear out before I move on…leaving the clutter and heaviness behind. Hopefully there will be much less of it, and moving will take half the time, half the effort, and result in twice the satisfaction. I finally feel safe enough to let go.

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Joanne Sardini March 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm

I come from a long line of hoarders and unfortunately, so does my husband, so 2 years ago we finally out grew the 1 bedroom apartment we had been renting for 7 years (and he lived in alone for 2 before that). We moved into a 3 bedroom house, complete with an attic and a shed – a hoarders dream of extra space! Then I found myself doing the same thing as you have – I realised, as I lugged another box into the house, that I had no idea what was in it and more to the point, I didn’t care! I purged and cleared out, gave away and trashed for a week – it felt great! I hate to admit it but I see the clutter creeping back into my world – thanks for the reminder to keep it simple – time for another clear out!

CJ Rivard March 26, 2010 at 8:42 am

Boy can I relate! 2 years ago, we moved out of the house that we’d been in for 14 years! 4 kids later, what a collection of “stuff”! I am also an only child so a lot of my parent’s “stuff” has been passed to me, and then we add the sentimental value and the struggle to part w/it escalates. I had thought to make a huge purge before moving, but ran out of time and only did a minor one… and so the struggle to rid myself of “stuff” continues! I agree that it seems to multiply, and w/out seeming to buy anything, I never seem to make a dent. Thanks for the encouragement — I am now motivated to tackle those piles ! 🙂 Definitely planning to never move w/so much again!

Kerry March 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Thanks for the solidarity ladies, my husband manages to live out of a gym bag type thing so we a polar opposites on “stuff” and significance of said “stuff”.

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