I had always been jealous of my friends who could just wake up one day and move anywhere in the world. Most of the people I met in Prague lived out of a suitcase (or two) and they could easily buy a one-way plane ticket on a whim. As much as I wanted to be like them, I just couldn’t let go of all my possessions.
When my husband got a job offer to move to China, I was ecstatic. Moving somewhere crazy and exotic was something I had always dreamed of doing. The only problem? 20 years worth of hoarded books, furniture, clothes and more sentimental knick-knacks than you can possibly imagine. After long hours of research I discovered that just sending 100 kilos overseas would cost me a whopping $2,000!
I wouldn’t have even been able to afford that it if weren’t for my husband. But he understood how much the stuff meant to me. My hoarding started at a young age. I was an only child and always loved to collect trinkets. It got worse once my parents left our home of 8 years to move back to my birthplace. I was terrified of being alone, so I took everything they wanted to throw away to make my tiny unfamiliar apartment feel like home.
Before they moved away, they tried to reason with me and got me to part with over 1,000 books, my large aquarium and a few pieces of furniture. But I took everything else. Including the 15-year-old sofa that had been mine for as long as I can remember. I can still remember crying when my dad took the matching arm chairs apart and burned the wood in a large bonfire to celebrate the move.
I had always known that the time would come to purge my possessions. Luckily, we only had 3 months to get married, apply for a visa and get rid of 98% of everything I owned. This meant ripping off the band-aid quickly! Every weekend was spent photographing books, toys, clothes and my beloved sofa. I’d post them items online in Facebook groups.
I sold enough to pay for 50 kilos of the shipping fees, I donated over 200 kilos of clothes and I organized a weekend-long event where dozens of strangers came to my house and took whatever they wanted for free. My sofa was taken by some international students who will spill beers on it and invite friends from all over the world to sleep on it – a much better fate than the smoked armchairs.
Knowing that my stuff was going to new homes all over Prague by so many different people was what got me through it. But I still had to narrow down what I was keeping to just 100 kilos, and it wasn’t easy. I was slightly embarrassed when I had to fill out the shipping forms. Total cost? $2,118. Description of items? Sentimental items. Total value of items? Priceless to me, $20 to anyone else.
Although we were moving to China, we sent these items to my husbands sister in the US. It took about three weeks and I was scared the entire time that something would go wrong. There was a potential $1,000 fee for a police search and of course, things could always get lost or damaged. Fortunately, everything arrived safely.
I can still remember those last few hours before our flight from Prague. We were sitting in a bare apartment with four huge suitcases and six over-sized carry-ons. I had so little left! It was sad, scary but also very freeing. Now, six months later, I can barely remember the contents of the stuff in my sister-in-laws basement.
It took moving to China to realize that it was all just stuff and there were more important things in life – like seeing the world without useless baggage. Although it had been a sacrifice at the time and hurt a lot, giving up almost everything I owned was a blessing in disguise.
Special thanks to Naomi and her blog Probe around the Globe, for inspiring me with her article about selling her lens. Her story about giving up one dream to pursue travel made me want to share my own story. Sometimes we think our problems are so unique – but there is always someone who can relate.