The Great Purge

Moving sucks so hard. By the end, none of your belongings will “spark joy.” Throw them all out. Everything.

-My interpretation of Marie Kondo

I think Marie really says something like this: Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle. . . . [W]hen we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. Word, Marie. Word.

The past few days have been rrrrrroughh. When I began this process a couple of months ago, I thought packing up my life and moving would be a cinch. The same weekend I decided to do Remote Year, the gods at Netflix served up Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. After watching it, I was inspired– emboldened even! I thought to myself, “This is no big deal. You’ll KonMari your apartment, donate all the clothes, sell all the furniture, and you’ll just have a couple of cute boxes left over to cart in a cute little car to your cute little storage unit.” Easy peasy. Ah, if only.

Needless to say, since then, I. Have. Been. Hum.Bled. I always thought of myself as a semi-minimalist. My wardrobe, save my professional clothes, has not changed since 2007 (thanks for the sweet threads, Mom!). I don’t really spend money on clothes, and I like to think I didn’t start out with that many in the first place. In my bravado, I failed to realize that I do, in fact, have more than one suitcase’s worth of clothes, which is all I’m allowed to bring on Remote Year. And for all my gusto about donating, which to be fair I did do a fair amount of, there was still a TON left over. I kept trying to sort through them and eventually, just got so frustrated, I could not continue. Sorry, Marie. I tried, I really did. But at a certain point, nothing in the world would have sparked joy and I just wanted to throw all of my belongings out. I seriously almost did. I had them in trash bags and everything.

Then there was the matter of my furniture. At first I thought I would sell all of it. I sold a couple of pieces, but then the online buyers started to feel a little sketchy, and I played this little rationalization game with myself where I said, “Oh well, I HAVE to keep my TV, it was so expensive and my one “luxury item.” I’ll definitely want it when I’m back. And then if I’m keeping the TV, I might as well keep my dresser which is my one nice piece of furniture.” This then turned into “Ok, I’ll keep my furniture, and I’ll get a little, itty-bitty baby storage unit for that and my clothes.” Even so, I was so cocksure that I would be able to move my stuff in one day without legit movers. All I needed was some labor and a truck, no biggie, just a couple of hours, so I used TaskRabbit.

This is the part where the wheels really came off. I thought I was being so responsible leaving myself five days after my last day of work (see above: cocksure) to pack and move everything. But of course I procrastinated, got distracted by all the new Netflix (shoutout to Natasha Lyonne and the entire Russian Doll cast and crew!), and leisurely left everything till the last minute. I hired a TaskRabbit to help me move my furniture, we’ll call him TaskRabbit Guy #1, and he assured me he had all the tools to do this correctly. However, turns out he had a one-foot long dolley and a truck that only fit a couple of things at a time. So really it was just me and him carrying my furniture to my storage unit, going back and forth, over and over again. It was insane. (I should give a shoutout to Brad, my prior personal trainer, without whom I probably would not have been able to lift a napkin much less a couch!) I spent a ton of time shrink-wrapping my mattress and couch, that all went to shit because the day we chose to move was windy. It was an unmitigated disaster. My mattress, so lovingly wrapped in cellophane, got ripped and wet and is probably not usable for when I return. Yay!

As you can guess, the original cute baby storage unit I picked was of course, too small, so I had to get a larger one. When me and TR Guy #1 were finished, I was still left with 70% of my stuff in my apartment. The dresser was too heavy for just the two of us, the TV mount was too complicated, and none of my kitchen stuff was moved. T-2 days till liftoff. I started to panic. I hired another crew, we’ll call them TR Guys #2-#3, to take all my kitchen stuff, and my dresser, the one I just HAD TO KEEP because it was so pretty, and donate it. I just couldn’t deal with it. So all I now have left of my kitchen is a couple pots and pans and my Vitamix/SodaStream. And no dresser. I then hired yet ANOTHER TaskRabbit, #4, to help me move the remainder of my stuff the next day after I had finally finished packing. He then drove off in the truck without me, leaving me standing on the curb wondering where he was taking my stuff. Then last night, I just started indiscriminately throwing out whatever was left because I just had no more Fs to give. I threw out some stuff I actually even needed. I just wanted no more stuff, I wanted it all away from me. The final TaskRabbit (yes, #5) came this afternoon to give my apartment a final clean, and failed to mention she would be bringing her toddler with her. I love kids and I am so cognizant of the fact that working moms’ daycare plans fall through and they have to bring their kids, but I was so mentally and emotionally drained, I was not in a mental space to have to babysit a stranger’s kid without warning. Especially when I had hired that person specifically to make my life a little easier by taking away some of my own labor hours. I hope I held it together well and made the kid feel safe and welcome. Anyway, I probably sound like a huge brat, and I’m sorry for that. There’s a lot more detail about the horrendousness of this moving process, please contact me if this post isn’t tedious or stressful enough for you and you want more. Peep the photos for a fun stroll down memory lane.

My biggest lesson from this, and I think Ms. Kondo would be proud, is that it is truly astonishing how much emotion is tied up in stuff. Even stuff you’re not sentimental about. ESPECIALLY the stuff you’re not sentimental about. Just the energy that they take up existing in your space, the energy required to consider every item; it’s mentally and physically taxing. This has really, really made me cognizant of every item I own and forced me to really consider which things are necessary. How many pairs of workout outfits do I really need? I can do laundry a little more often, it’s fine. How much “home decor” is really necessary? I know there’s a need to nest and make things feel like home, but do I really need all the tchotchkes and knick-knacks? How many pots? Pans? How many duplicates of everything? When you live in one place for any length of time, it’s easy to accumulate a lot of unnecessary stuff, and I’m actually grateful now that I move often enough to prevent this from growing out of control. Although this “purge” was more procrastination followed by sputtering fits and starts, punctuated by panic attacks, that finally ended in indiscriminate dumping, all in all, it was something. I think I will force myself to do some kind of move or simulated purge every couple of years to keep myself in check.

Another major realization I had through this process was how alone I felt. Alone, not lonely. Maybe there was a moment or two where I wished someone else was there, but it was more out of laziness than loneliness. I simply became very aware of the fact that if I did not do a certain thing, it would not get done. TaskRabbits aside, I could only rely on myself and I was the only person in my immediate vicinity who was going through this particular thing. No one else was moving with me. No one else could take off four days from work and help me move. No one else’s home was being dismantled and destroyed before their eyes. Just me. It was a pretty intense feeling. I’m sure my fellow Remote Years are going through this experience in their own ways (as judging by the Insta posts I am seeing), so I took comfort in the fact that although I am alone in my experience, we are alone together. (It may sound lame, but it really did help!) Plus, when I was done, it was pretty cool to know that I had figured it all out on my own, even with the bumps and bruises (both literal and figurative).

Finally, the blessed moment came this afternoon, and I handed in my keys. All I have left on my person are my backpack (which is not one that is international travel-ready but I, of course, ran out of time to buy another one when the one I originally ordered from Amazon was awful), an overpacked suitcase that is way over the weight limit and will have to be repacked before Peru, and my purse. All in all, I’m glad it’s over. I probably kept the wrong things and threw out some sentimental things, donated things I probably will need again, but at the end of the day, they are just things, they are replaceable, and I am trying to remind myself of that. I think a lot of my emotion about getting rid of my “stuff” is displaced anyway. I realize now how attached I had become to my apartment as a concept. Frankly, it’s been the hardest part (besides saying goodbye to my friends and family) about leaving. This apartment was the first place I’ve lived that I made into a permanent home completely on my own, and the first place in my adult life where I truly breathed a sigh of relief when I entered it as my sacred, safe space. Not to mention, I also lived in a dope location. I will truly miss it a lot.

But, on to bigger and better! I am currently sitting at the airport, chowing down and waiting to board my flight to Florida. I will be spending quality time with my parents over the next couple of days (read: buying a new backpack and having my mom help me repack my stuff. Thanks Mom (again!)). On my way to the airport, we drove through the Mall, and as we passed the Washington Monument, the sun was shining directly on it, and the sky was crystal-clear blue. Although I have such a complicated relationship with D.C., and sometimes it’s really easy to get bogged down in the current frenzy that exists here, I’ll be damned if passing that two-toned obelisk doesn’t still give me chills every. single. time. D.C. as a city still takes my breath away. Sometimes the universe sends you little winks, and that moment for sure felt like a reminder about why I chose to live here and why this place means so much to me. And then, funnily enough, in the security line at the airport, Senator Elizabeth Warren was right in front of me. It really felt like the city was bidding me a fond farewell this afternoon. I’ll be seeing it soon! (Also so glad I got out in the nick of time to escape the snow!)

If you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed. Much love to all my DC folks and I’ll see you all on the flip side!

Toodles,

ATZ

6 comments

  1. Good start to the journey, Abby!
    Alone, not lonely. I had the same feeling when packing up my life in Houston, selling furniture, and driving across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and to the east coast. I was exhilarated, nervous, and pretty shocked that I could do this all on my own. My relationship was falling apart and, as I drove, it dawned on me that this is what it means to rely on yourself. Packing up and driving across this vast country felt like such an accomplishment.
    Sending you much love as you embark on the next steps, sister!

    Like

    1. Thanks, Karima! It’s wild how something like this, moving on your own across the country, can outshine or at least hold a candle to certain “objective” accomplishments like finishing law school in terms of personal empowerment. I’m seriously in constant awe. Proud of you and everything you are doing!

      Like

  2. Wow this post took me through a lot of emotions. Stressed, REALLY stressed, relieved, nostaligic and finally proud of the growth you found through all this. Moving rocksssss

    Like

  3. I can sympathize with everything you said having moved twice in 6 months. I can really relate to how our idea of home as a place of zen is really comforting. I miss our Chicago home so much that I honestly still see when I picture “home.” While you may crave that sense of home over the next year, just remember what you’re gaining (freedom, learning more
    about yourself) is so much more than what you’re giving up! ♥️

    Like

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