20 January 2010

De-cluttering to move overseas

Amsterdam Mood Board

A big part of this move for us, was going through everything in our apartment in Montreal. EVERYTHING. We sold a few things to friends, which was fun and friendly and we are so grateful that we had friends who needed the things we were getting rid of. Most things, however, were sold on craigslist or kijiji, which is not a process I would willingly undertake ever again. It made sense financially to sell what we could, but selling in volume on the internet means that you get all the most inconsiderate people to deal with (along with a very few totally nice and reasonable people). If you ever try it, be prepared for people who ask for stuff for free, people who want you to deliver even though you've said in the ad that you can't, people who ask lots of questions without wanting to actually come buy anything, people who ask you to call and provide a wrong number or have no idea what ads they responded to, people who don't show up or show up an hour after they agreed to, and on and on. If you haven't had this experience yourself, you are forewarned!

For all the stuff that didn't sell, no matter how much we thought it was worth, we "threw it on the fire", our phrase for donating it to the Salvation Army. It added a gleeful feeling to getting rid of things ("What about this?" "Throw it on the fire!"). From our perspective, everything we kept would cost us money to either store or ship.

We got rid of a lot, but it still feels like we saved a lot, and I'm sure that we'll get back and look at some things and say WHY?! But so it ever is when you box things up and don't look at them for awhile. We mostly stored books, art, and nice kitchen things (lots of them wedding presents). The decision-making involved in going through all our possessions was the biggest part of the work before we left Canada. Having spent a couple months forcing myself to really evaluate my Stuff with the most vicious eye has had a lasting effect. I am feeling very hesitant about getting new stuff here, despite the fact that we actually need things now. I still feel like I have too much and when we've actually unpacked (we're still living out of suitcases), I won't be surprised if I immediately box up some clothing.

Part of my hesitance to acquire is that I never want to be living with such an over-abundance of Stuff again. This intense de-cluttering forced us to not only get rid of the obvious things that we'd just been too lazy to deal with (e.g. an old stereo we weren't using anymore), but also to examine even things we thought we were attached to. Much as Europe will be filled with flea markets and thrift stores and pretty things that aren't available at home, I am going to try to enjoy these things with Restraint. Being faced with all my clutter has made me want a place with empty spaces, to not have everything already filled in and filled up.

I think North America's obsession with huge living spaces with lots of hidden storage leads one so easily into acquiring and then Keeping so much more than we actually need. I'm hoping that a lack of cupboards and a smaller space, coupled with my self-awareness will be the cure for me. In any case, I have been thinking about how I'd like our new space to look, and I made the "mood board" above to try to clarify my ideas. Hopefully it will help keep me on track when in the shops!


Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

When we moved from Canada to Boston we had all our stuff packed in a moving truck and then stored for the whole summer. We lived in a furnished apartment, out of our suitcases while we looked for a more permanent place to live. By the time we were ready to move to our new place we were wondering "Why do we have so much stuff?" It almost felt like we could continue to live in a furnished place permanently. We knew it wasn't realistic, financially speaking. But all that "stuff" - even though we had gotten rid of tonnes of things before we packed - seemed so excessive. It's so neat to hear this experience through someone else's perspective!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Your experience of moving overseas chimes with mine moving to the UK from Australia. The tiredness induced by having to go through all of our stuff and DECIDE what to do with it all was extreme (and like you said, overshadowed the excitement once we'd actually arrived). And like you again, we vowed not to collect stuff in cupboards so easily again! We have been a lot more careful about acquiring stuff here, though we have had gifts from visitors horrified by the lack of piles of mugs and teatowels etc!

Blaise said... Best Blogger Tips

interesting, our experience with selling stuff on kijiji / craigslist was completely different from yours. Granted, carly dealt with it not I, but she didn't have any complaints, most of our stuff went quickly and we never had to deliver anything.

When we did our purge, we were lucky that we had somewhere free to store our stuff (Carly's brother had an empty house) but we still did a massive purge. Now, a year and a half into New Zealand, I look over our house and I can't for the life of me figure out what I'm lacking, and evem worse, where I'd put stuff if I did move it over!

There are a few things that I miss though: I miss going to a bookshelf and re-reading a favourite (thank you Wellington Public Library; I really miss my art collection. There's nothing to me more depressing than bear walls, i haven't found much local artwork yet that's my taste and budget.

A lot of the stuff we brought I'm now kind of kicking myself for.. Mostly for not understanding the place we live. Wellington is fantastic, but bicycle friendly, no. (we live on a hill so steep the buses barely make it up)

camping here is a completely different affair with very little "freedom camping" allowed, so all our gear was a waste. My work books were pointless after all (different job)... ahh well you live you learn.

Susan M, Fibre Arts said... Best Blogger Tips

This was a great post in your blog.
We used to move fairly frequently so there was a regular purge. Now after nearly 22 (!) years in one place I've gotten so much accumulated that it is ridiculous.

I'm having trouble selling on Kijiji. Probably reflects the kind of town I am in and the stuff I am trying to sell. Books and clothing don't do well. Fancy collectibles get a passing interest but few people have shown up even though lots of e-mails come through asking about items.

I think there'll just have to be a lot of 'on the fire'!
I'm looking forward to your development of the mood collage and seeing what you ultimately choose.

Maria | Vintage Simple said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh...! You've moved to my favorite city of all time...! And yes - I totally agree that the bigger the space, the more stuff you accumulate. It's just the nature of the beast, I think. A smaller space forces you to declutter on a regular basis - unless you don't mind looking a STUFF, everywhere, all the time...

This was such a lovely post. I'll have to come back with more time and read some earlier posts of yours, dear.


Almathea said... Best Blogger Tips

Be careful, you're inspiring me to do another big cleanup! When I moved out of a large condo into a tiny apartment, there was a large pre-move purge followed by more gradual post-move disposal. I'm realizing how little I really need to live. I also "throw stuff on the fire", but I don't feel bad about it. When I was younger, most of my furniture and even some of my clothes came from the Sally Ann, so I figure I'm just maintaining my donation karma.

Susan M, Fibre Arts said... Best Blogger Tips

Like Almathea, I am inspired by your "on the fire" stories.
Right now, I am trying to sell things through Kijiji and am driven nuts by no-shows who swear up and down they will be there on Saturday if I would just hold the item for them. I think a large bag to Sally-Ann is the least stressful way to go.

I can hardly wait for the next in this series. What will your new apartment look like? We can all shop and furnish vicariously in Amsterdam!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Just looking at those white sofas... get leather, ok? Something easy to clean!!

And I *hear* you about being an expat. Once the "adventure" turns into reality, it's a little bit of a shock, eh? You'll get accustomed, though, and make new friends. Join an expat group so you have a few other people you can commiserate with!

Hugs! Love the pics and updates!