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« How To Take A Shower In Los Angeles | Main | A Good Problem To Have »

Less Is Sometimes More, and Hard Is Often Good

We're packing up for our next big move, and our goal is to cut our belongings in half (again) before we leave. At this rate, when we get back home we'll each have a swimsuit and a t-shirt to our name. And a steamer trunk full of electronic gear.

Today our job is to pick up every single individual item we own, decide what pile to put it in, and either give it away, send it back to LA in a suitcase, or keep it. We're about half done. I'm exhausted, the house is a wreck, and I leave for LA tomorrow morning, while Bob carries on by himself. 

We're giving LOADS away to charity shops: extra electronic stuff, UK electrical adaptors, winter clothes bought from other charity shops six months ago, markers and notepads and little plastic toys from cereal boxes, maps to places we've already been, book we've already read...

We all have our own way of dealing with the paring down. Eleanor has been giving things away to friends. It helps her say goodbye. She's got piles for Roonagh and piles for Ayla. It's very sweet, but she still doesn't understand how little space we have. She's asking what kind of toy I'll bring her back from LA.

I am sending home all my winter things: boots, coats, and sweaters, and also clearing out any extras. I'm feeling a bit naked in the process, but also really delighted to be lightening the load. It's hard to know what I need to have, since I don't know where I'm going. Hmmm... I think there may be a metaphor somewhere in there.

Bob keeps making different piles of cables and equipment, muttering "redundancy, redundancy," and trying to figure out if he's worn a sweater enough times to warrant the fact that he bought it in the first place, using a complicated system involving dividing the number of times worn by the price paid.

Owen, given the choice, would fill his suitcase with books, and wear the same clothes every day. We're in negotiations. I keep reminding him that we do have the Kindle, but he's desperate to keep the pile of mangled Manga books that Babysitter Ben gave him before we left home 8 months ago. He sat for an hour this morning staring at about two dozen paperbacks laid out on the floor in front of him, and finally burst into tears, deciding that he wanted to just quit traveling and go home. NOW!

We had a family pow-wow, there on the living-room floor. Being sad about leaving somewhere is an unavoidable part of our journey. Sometimes it's just a bit too hard, and having a family Sad Session is the only thing to do. It generally doesn't last too long, and we're all better for sharing the moment.

In a few weeks we'll be in France, and no one will miss the things they've left behind. The people are a different story. We hope to keep in touch with our new friends, and to help the kids to do the same. Thank goodness for the internet!

When we leave France we'll probably go through it all again to some extent. And that's OK. The hard comes with the good. I think that paths that are important, and fulfilling, are often quite difficult as well. It's life. We're living it.


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Reader Comments (5)

What a great lesson and experience your kids are learning. All the memories, the new people, the cultures. When they get older and people talk about where they'd like to go your kids can say "I've been there and it was an awesome experience". Or if they see places on TV or in books they can say "we lived there" or "I have a friend who lives there". Unforgettable is what this trip will be for them. At first I truly thought you guys were crazy for doing I think it's just remarkable!!!

Mar 12, 2010 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterpamela

"To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did." Is that metaphoric enough? I forget who said it first.

This was a rough one to read. My heart is with all of you as you continue on your groovy journey.

See you soon.

Mar 12, 2010 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered Commenternoho1960

Great post, which has relevance for those families that are travelling, those that are planning to, and those that are staying at home. When we moved halfway around the world (Australia to the UK) we went through this very same thing (though we also had to move a household, and remember not to go too sparse!) and our son would waver between the fun of giving EVERYTHING away, and the realisation that he wanted to keep everything. It was a great lesson for him, and a great lesson for us. And it is obviously yet another lesson for your kids, one of the many valuable experiences you are giving them with this wonderful trip you are on.

Mar 13, 2010 at 1:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterNatalia

My dearest Owen, I know how it feels to leave books you want to keep forever. It is also hard to leave friends. I think your mother does this so well because when she was growing up we moved about every 4 years. That is not the same as moving every month or two but maybe it helps you to understand. Change is very hard, it is harder on some of us than others. Being in one comfortable place and knowing what will happen from day to day is very comforting. You have done an amazing job of finding new friends and opening yourself to new experiences. I can learn a lot from you about adapting to different circumstances. I don't do that too well eather at times.
Always know this Owen, I believe in you and think you are a wonderful boy. I am fasinated by the way you view things around you, by the way you are so protective of Ella and by the way your wonderful mind works. If it ever really gets too hard for you to take, all this moving around, just call or email your Nana and I will be right there to get you. You can live with me until the rest of your family settles in one place. I have enough books for both of us!!!
Hang in there Owen and know how very much I love you and admire who you are. Most of the time getting rid of "stuff" opens up an avenue for more exciting things to come into your life.
All my love,
Nana June

Mar 14, 2010 at 6:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterMOM

Oh, I'm remembering a fabulous quote that's just right, but I'm forgetting who said it and how it goes! To paraphrase: Value = Effort. (I'm sure the original author said it way better!)
We just took a 2-day trip (that's just about what I'm up to over here) to the Anza Borrego Desert to see the wildflowers this past weekend. With grandma (oxygen, walker, meds., etc.) and the dog. We may need less stuff, but we definitely need a bigger car! The dog sat on my lap, Matthew's lap or Cody's lap for the 5-hour drive going, 5-hour drive returning and every short or long drive in between! It will be a miracle if he ever agrees to get in a car ever again!
See new sights, breathe new air (clean, desert air!) - isn't that what it's all about? Looking up at the desert mountains & sky, down at the desert flowers (so tiny & fragile) I can feel my mind expanding. You'll all resemble Jimmy Neutron when you return!
Owen, don't forget that air has been around forever and ever. When you're in France, you'll be re-breathing molecules that your friends breathed 10 years ago in Perth, Bamberg or Los Angeles. What goes around really does come around. You'll be re-breathing air that you yourself breathed at the Turkish baths. Nothing lasts forever, but nothing is destroyed. You're made of water and air that never goes away.

Mar 15, 2010 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicole

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