During the pressure-cooker months of May and June, I often wanted to wave a magic wand and make everything disappear. My tendency to collect, accept what others give me, organize, make good, and keep meant that I didn’t like throwing things away. Yet at the same time, I was reluctant to pay for shipping and extra baggage fees to transport all my belongings from Maui.
If such relocation expenses were tax-deductible, I would have conceded to pay at whatever cost to keep and take everything. If someone else were to pay for moving expenses, I would happily concur. However, I was not moving to start a new job, I was moving to start a new life.
Unlike my previous moves from Okinawa to Durham, North Carolina, from London to Singapore, and from Houston to London and back, this was no corporate relocation. No professional mover would appear at my doorstep to pack everything as is. I had to find sturdy grocery boxes, weigh everything, and pack it myself. In the process, I had to shed and find homes for all that I could not keep. [This would fill another blogpost: how to get rid of your stuff.]
And so I made short trips to the supermarket and befriended the young man who promised me that tomato boxes were best for holding and shipping books. They were small and light enough to carry. They came with lids.
How do I minimize the cost of transport? The US Post Office offers a media rate equivalent to $1 per two pounds. Media includes sheet music, books, CDs, and video but not personal documents. A manageable 50-pound box would cost $25, similar to what Virgin America charged for extra check-in bags. It’s the only airline that had a generous allowance of 10 check-in bags.
With considerable help, I managed to ship ten boxes weighing 25 to 70 pounds each via media rate with an expectation that they would arrive each at different times in 6 weeks or more. At the airport, I checked in ten suitcases and bags and carried a Samsonite roll-on, back-pack, and a new food container. I wore extra clothing on my $400 one-way flight to Boston. That’s how I spent about a thousand dollars to move a thousand pounds of my stuff and myself six time zones away. Surprisingly the post office delivered all ten boxes the same day I landed.
I should have been pleased that everything I owned and kept from those five-and-a-half years on Maui had made their way across the Pacific Ocean and the North American continent. On time and unscathed. Yet in the 950 square foot studio apartment in Boston, I felt overwhelmed. I tried to unpack but got stopped. What good is unpacking my dresses without hangers or space in the closets? What good is unpacking my sheet music and personal documents without binders to hold them and shelf space to store them?
When I tried to cook in the new kitchen, I regret not taking everything from my Maui cottage. I had brought the wrong items. There was already a can opener and chopping board. But there was no colander. I left perfectly good food in the fridge and cabinets. Similarly, in the bathroom I missed my shampoo and conditioner, both bottles still unfinished but left behind.
Why buy new when there’s nothing wrong with the old except it’s no longer with you?
Surrounded by my unpacked boxes and suitcases, I lamented that it would take me days to find and organize my things. I tried stuffing all my underwear in the top drawer of a dresser, only to discover it inconvenient to pick and choose. The open plan layout afforded more space at the expense of visibility. Seeing all my possessions in different states of unpacking was an eyesore.
Once again I wanted to wave a magic wand and make it all disappear.
The magic wand came in the form of a plane ticket to Amsterdam. From Schiphol Airport it was a mere 30-minute train ride and 15-minute walk. In the monument house and garden house in Utrecht, there was nothing. No wine or beer in the basement. No furniture in the four bedrooms, living room, piano room, and kitchen. The attic was barren except for the boiler and water tank. The garden house and shed stocked the only items I asked to preserve: my bicycle and two adjustable piano benches. Everything else had been emptied out four summers earlier.
I have returned to live a minimalist existence, the subject of another blogpost.