One of my biggest challenges when I moved to Korea to be an English teacher, was trying to pack my whole life away into two suitcases. I started out oh-so-optimistic about the whole process. My suitcases are huge! There's no way I would have that much trouble fitting everything I wanted. Oh boy was I ever wrong.
As it turns out, the main problem was this: I love my stuff! I really do.
In tangible terms, this means I love my clothing, and have a truly ridiculous amount of it. When I moved from place to place in college my hoodies alone took up one suitcase, and not the moderately proportioned carry-on - I needed the big boy that you theoretically only use for long trips. My scarfs could fill a moderately sized packing box, and don't even get me started on the boots. Before your head explodes at my apparent excess, allow me to say that, of the two things I collect in life - books and clothing - I have more books than I do clothing, and I only shop at thrift stores.
Deciding what to bring to South Korea was extremely difficult, in part, because I wasn't sure what I would need: some schools allow teachers to wear T-shirts and jeans, others require business casual. I made the mistake of mostly bringing T-shirts, because with the EPIK program the likelihood of getting an elementary school position (which allows more casual dress) is quite a bit higher than the chances of getting middle or high. Unlucky for me, I got a middle school and thus had to order a large amount of business wear via the internet. I had all of it shipped home, and then shipped to Korea... ain't nobody got $100 extra dollars for international shipping.
My eventual goal is to be able to live a one-backpack lifestyle, and when that happens I know I will definitely have to purge again. However, that is a few years down the road and I can cross that bridge when I get there. Having made the transition to my so-called two suitcase lifestyle I must say it was a blessing in disguise. Here's why:
1. Stuff doesn't actually matter - For about a week after I got to SK I had a mental list of all the things I needed my Dad to send me, for without them I would surely perish. Two weeks after I got here, that list had shortened significantly, and about a week after that it was all but non-existent: only three out of 15+ remained. It's not that I actively decided I didn't need those things, it's just that I simply could not remember what they were any more. I had been so convinced I needed them, but the reality is that none of it really mattered to my happiness or well-being, even though I had been so sure it did.
2. Simple is better. I no longer have those mornings where I stew in front of the closet for a good 15 minutes trying to decide what to wear. Also, those meltdowns/panic attacks that happen after you've tried on what seems like a million outfits... and still can't find one that looks 'Just right' are a thing of the past. Finally, my recurring fantasy, in which I burn all of my clothes and buy two pairs of jeans and 5 black T-shirts has all but disappeared.
3. Moving is a breeze. Now everything I own in the world fits into two suitcases (...and a small carry-on). That means less packing, less heaving and hauling, and less general hatred of moving time.
4. It's a vicious cycle. Buying things begets buying more things. Bought a new jacket? Well that scarf over there would compliment it so well. New pair of boots? Probably need some more leg warmers too. This applies to everything. Our society relies on consumerism. Every new product has a legion of accessories to go with it, and more often than not we don't need the original product in the first place [see #1].
5. Reorientation of priorities. For the first time in my life I am very much aware of how much stuff I accumulate and I actively try to work against that force. In order to do this I try to only buy things that are useful or add something meaningful, rather than simply ornamenting what I already had. A black blazer is useful. It can be worn formally and casually. A little black dress is an ornament. Would I wear it any other time than clubbing? No. Do I already have clothes I could wear to the club? Yes.
So, when it comes time to start packing, try to be brutally honest with yourself. Is everything you are bringing necessary? Or do you just feel more comfortable having it with you? Is it multi-functional? Or does it have a rare and specific use? Maintaining a life that involves the absolute minimum of "things" and "stuff" will go a long way towards keeping your wallet heavy and your backpack (and soul) light. Rather than weighing down your life with things that will be forgotten in a month, or even a year, try instead to pursue love, laughter, and beautiful new experiences.
Have you ever made a long-term international move? How was it for you to pack your life away?? No joke, I re-packed my bags at least 6 times... Less is more my friends, less is more. If you want to weigh in on the discussion, find me on Facebook or please do comment below!
Enjoy the beautiful view!