Since 2013 I have lived in seven different places. You'd think with all of that experience that I'd have moving down to a science. But every time, without fail, I'd view the experience of packing with such dread that I'd procrastinate until the very last minute. I'd putz around, packing some things away, but I'd easily get distracted by some sentimental item I would come across and ponder it for awhile, or I'd just get frustrated and look around and think, "how did I get so much crap?" Usually on the last weekend of my lease I'd end up in a mad scramble, throwing everything that was left in the apartment into boxes, completely unorganized. It was chaos.
In July of 2016, I purchased my first home and moved out of the 500 sq. ft. apartment I was renting in downtown Portland. I wish I could say it was a different experience moving out of my apartment, but it wasn't. What was different, however, was how I decided to move into my house.
My friend Justin came down from Seattle to help me move, but instead of dragging everything into the house immediately, I only brought in the essentials. What little furniture I had, some of my clothes, toiletries, and kitchenware. Over the course of the next six months, I brought things in from the garage as I needed them. I left the boxes open and just periodically took from them the items that proved to be the most useful. Sure, it was a little messy in the garage at times. A mouse even ate my favorite suit. But it became apparent pretty quickly what things were bringing the most value to my life and those that were just dead weight.
For the last several months, I have been ridding the garage of the stuff I haven't been using. Donating things that others might find useful, recycling what I can, and trashing the rest. It's been really challenging at times because I didn't fully realize how much of the clutter was due to how attached I'm capable of becoming to things, even if I haven't really used or needed them in a really long time. Those items that remain are mostly sentimental, but what I have left seems really manageable. I think I will be mostly done by the end of this month.
I'm also starting to feel my outlook changing whenever I'm deciding whether or not to buy something new. I didn't get myself into a cluttered situation overnight. It took years and years of unchecked accumulation to get there. But the last thing I want to do is start the whole process over again.
I'm considering getting rid of my Amazon Prime account because I'm just not ordering much these days to even make the $10.99/mo for free shipping worth it anymore. And when I'm at a store, I find myself seriously questioning the purchases I make, and being more intentional about what I bring into my space. The first thing I ask myself is whether or not the thing I'm looking at is a want or a need. If it is a need, the second question is usually, "how much useful life am I going to get out of this thing?"
I probably won't be moving again for a long time, and it's a little bit ironic that it took putting down some roots in a larger space to finally declutter. But I have to say, it's been really freeing, and I can feel my stress level decrease just a little bit more every time I take the donation box down to the second hand store.
If you find yourself getting stressed out thinking about an upcoming move, I challenge you not to move out the way I did. Look around and take an honest inventory of what things you are getting regular use out of and those things that aren't bringing you as much value anymore. I bet if you lighten your load, the move won't be nearly as bad. It will just feel better, because being lighter feels good.