Someone had the brilliant idea to simplify our lives. To downsize from an already small apartment, which was growing smaller by the day as our toddler grows like a well-watered weed. To save a little more money each month so we could travel more often in this beautiful country while we’re here. (And to invest more in the business I’ve recently started.) The blessing and curse of expat life is that we know we are leaving eventually. This creates both instability and the possibility of tremendous freedom and growth.
But first, we must simplify.
Because, it turns out, just moving from a spacious 2-bedroom apartment to a 1-bedroom plus a study isn’t enough alone to facilitate simplicity. Oh no, my friends, just like a detox, it’s got to get much worse before it gets better. One must confront one’s habit of collecting stuff in order to simplify one’s life. Actually one must admit one’s habit of collecting stuff and confront the stuff itself. Two guesses who “one” is.
Credit Image: The_Matt on Flickr
When we began the process of moving to Australia 2 years ago, it was torturous to make decision after decision about what to store, ship, donate or toss. Particularly because, through the course of building a life on a farm, we had amassed so much stuff. Even our stuff had stuff. The feeling of being uprooted comes not from the actual leaving but the fragmenting process of divvying up your goods – the disassembling of the picture of your life.
I felt like I had left all those feelings of intense uncertainty behind. But there we were last week balancing our boxes, bags and furniture (and at times our kid, who was enjoying the commotion) on top of dollies and carts, wheeling them out of our comfortable space, that I was again confronting the discomfort of moving house. (We just moved from one building to another in our apartment complex in Main Beach. Child’s play compared to the Virginia to Queensland haul. Child’s play also because my child was playing in the middle of it the whole time.)
The difference is we are now friends with this disruptive process of dismantling our lives. Not best friends, but acquaintances. (The kind you’d have over for cocktails, not Christmas.) What’s not different is how insanely hard it is to part with things! Things you’re emotionally attached to, things you might need later, things you intend to give to someone else someday, things you just look at and can’t come up with one reason to throw it away. So you keep it.
Some of the things I thought were huge issues with moving into a place with only bedroom for 2 1/2 people were really just challenges to be worked through. Harper sleeps in the study at night (a.k.a. my office) and naps in our bedroom during the day. Less closet space equals less stuff to store equals less mental clutter. No separate play room means we get to go outside more and rotate toys with friends. With leaner living space, your focus automatically shifts outward to relationships, activities and creative endeavors.
We’ve lived here for 18 months and we’re ready to shed more things and live in a smaller place so that we may invite bigger and better adventures into our lives. As I get rid of stuff, this smaller space actually feels more expansive. (Or is the smaller space creating expansion within me?) I can take deep belly breaths and the world looks more vivid and friendly. One of the many lessons of being an expat: with less, your life can be tremendous. The quantity of your belongings is inversely proportionate to the quality of your life. There is the potential for great adventure and growth in being able to move unencumbered. Not just in a foreign country, but in one’s home. And by “one,” I mean all of us.
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