Operation: You Can’t Go Home (Nomad Edition)

I’ve moved 3 times since leaving the “house formerly known as home” – a way stop at my parents’ for 3 weeks until I moved into the snowbird’s for 5 months and  then back to my parents’ for (hopefully only) 5 months. Moving 3 times within 6 months to places where I can only have a subset of my “stuff” has taught me a few things.

#1: I don’t need much to live a happy life.

When I was preparing to become a temporary nomad, I made a decision to only bring my clothes, some of my linens, and basic everyday possessions with me. A select number of things that I use very frequently – like my 8″ pan, favorite spatula, and immersion blender to make my daily banana pancake – came with me. Things that I used occasionally – like various sized pots and board games – were packed away into storage.

A packed suitcase
This little suitcase has been getting a workout.

Granted, both places I’ve moved to have been homes that are already set up with functioning kitchens and bathrooms, etc. But it was surprising to me how little I missed my “stuff.” So much so that, aside from furniture and dog gear, I’m having a hard time thinking of what I have in storage that I’d “need.” Sure, when I leave a furnished house for a place of my own, I’ll need cooking supplies and such. But I’ve got about a dozen boxes in storage and I am wondering how much of it will actually prove useful.

On weeks that I don’t have the dogs, I frequently end up packing an even smaller subset of my things to stay with Dave. It takes a little planning to have my entire work week wardrobe (say that three times fast) picked out and I’ve occasionally found myself really wishing I had a particular item, but mostly one small suitcase has provided more than I need.

#2: I still have too much stuff!

When I was splitting up and packing up stuff in preparation for moving out, I did a lot of purging.  I’m talking about right down to “If these dress socks has a really thin heel, there’s no point in taking it with me, I’ll buy a new pair when I need them.” Clothes I liked but never wore, books I knew I wouldn’t read again, random bits of personal flotsam that had collected due to indecision. Dozens (hundreds?) of things trashed or donated. I ended up with a huge box for Goodwill that, come to think of it, was practically coffin sized and felt like moving a dead body. RIP Married Julia.

In short, I left the house feeling like I’d cut out the excess and packed light. But in March, when I was stuck on crutches watching other people move my stuff, I realized I still had more than I needed. Even more than I needed for this little nomadic version of life.

Since moving back into the “in-law suite” at my parent’s, I’ve challenged myself to get rid of even more:

I spent a night going through toiletries – which had been pruned before I moved last year! – and got rid of even more “just in case” items or lotions I didn’t really like but thought I’d use up. The awesome gun metal silver nail polish I bought in 2001? Sure, I still love the color, but I’m pretty sure the liquid is a bit chunky by now.  The eensy weensy hair clips that hold about 10 strands of hair? Cute, but I barely style my hair and I certainly don’t get that intricate. I slashed what I had nearly in half. Now I’m doubling down on my pledge to use things up before buying more/different versions of the same.

A box full of items I plan to donate

Another day, I went through jewelry – I decided that I needed to fix or toss any damaged pieces, get rid of things I knew I’d never wear, and keep things that either meant something to me or filled a need. Dozens of costume jewelry earrings that I never wore, gone. Fun but heavy necklace that I avoided because it gave me a sore neck, adios. I sold a few “real” pieces to the jeweler which paid for repairs to the damaged items I loved. There are a couple of items I kept “just in case” or because parting with them felt a little heartless (even though I wasn’t sure I’d  ever wear them). Once again, I cut the amount down by about half.

And all along the way, I’m going through my wardrobe yet again to see what I can do without.

#3: It’s still so tempting to buy more stuff.

Even while I’m in the middle of my crusade against clutter, a trip to the store presents temptations to go right back to a glut of stuff. I stop into a store to look at sandals and try on some dress shoes, hiking boots, and sneakers too. Granted, in the ideal clutter-free wardrobe I have in my mind, I’m still missing a few pieces that I consider part of the minimum. And I’m damned hard to fit (please) so I try much more than I buy. But a trip for one thing can become wandering around “just looking” at a plethora of other things so easily. And what about those ever-so-appealing great deals that are just so hard to pass up? That thing that I want (but don’t need) now at 50, 60, 75% off?? How can I refuse such a great deal?? Why not buy that handy <insert activity specific item here> for the few times  a year I <insert activity>?

#4: I’m very tired of this nomadic, bi-local life.

One of the things that I tried to explain to my ex last summer was that he was keeping something intangible – not just the house, but a place that was truly “home.” While I have been extremely fortunate to have wonderful friends and family whose generosity has allowed me the luxury of time to find the right space (that allows dogs!), I have spent the last near-year feeling displaced. Out of place. Picking up and moving after a couple of months or at the end of every week – even though the things I’m moving are small and easy – is exhausting to me. I yearn for a place to make my own.  More accurately, “our own” as I make the cohabitation leap with Dave. Somewhere to settle, relax, find my new normal.

This nomad is weary…

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