Monday, September 21, 2015


The HSU sweatshirt my Spanish professor bought for me when I was living in Spain. The green zippy fleece that I bought for $3 after Thanksgiving my first year in Denver and then wore for the next 150 days straight. The Ikea nightstand that has been beside me as I’ve slept for the last 8 years. My diamond engagement ring that belonged to my husband’s grandmother.

I’m leaving a lot of things behind.

David and I are waist deep in sorting through our possessions. We are deciding what goes to friends or Goodwill, what gets packed into our parents’ garages and what, like my ring, will go to their safety deposit boxes (it feels too risky to take it). As I go through closets and drawers, as I divvy up our pots and spatulas among friends, simplifying and saying goodbye to my possessions has been hard.

I fully support simplicity, and for the last two years, our combined life has comfortably fit into our one bedroom apartment with two closets. Yet, even with those minimal things, a lot has to get cut when you go from one bedroom and two closets to four suitcases.

Some things are easy to get rid of. (Goodbye snow boots with the tricky zippers! I hope I never have reason to miss you! So long to the bizarre floor lamp that followed my husband into our marriage!) But parting with other things, things infused with memories or items that feel brand new and far from “used up,” is a reminder of what a big change is happening in our lives.

During this process, a part of me inevitably longs for a life that is a bit more predictable or settled.  Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to invest in furniture you like and use it for the rest of your life? What would it be like to have a personal library full of resources and favorite novels and be able to buy books without a thought to their size and weight?

Yet, this life of suitcases and Goodwill donations is the one we have chosen, and we are committed to it. David and I have both lived overseas for stints before, and we understand what it is like to live out of a suitcase for a year or two. This move, though, is for the long term. We have come to terms with the fact that we don’t know when, or even if, we will return and live in the States long-term in the future. While family and friends have offered to store some of our things, we are trying to bite the bullet and say our final goodbyes to most of our possessions now.

That finality brings up other emotions. I know it’s silly to feel sad about getting rid of my knife block or my collection of good wool socks. Really, it’s less that I have an intense emotional attachment to those items than that they are a reminder that I’m not storing up much of a safety net for myself here. There won’t be a way to buy a plane ticket back to my old life. Except for a few boxes (or at least what I hope will be only a few!), we will be taking our lives with us to Cambodia and cutting our ties with these things. There’s no turning back, and I’m committing to it shelf by shelf and closet by closet.

Moving is painful, but I’m learning that it is liberating, too. Sorting all this stuff reminds me that excessive things really do weigh you down (I’m looking at you, hall closet). Our lives are getting lighter, and that feels good. Parting with all of these things is also a physical reminder that my joy and my worth are not tied up in things, no matter how cute or cozy they are.

In the end, I’m reminded of how little we really need (which is, I hope, four suitcases worth).