I’m back in Los Angeles, which means I’ve survived the cross-country move from Chicago. Before officially unpacking the two huge luggages I took with me on board the flight, I want to take the moment to recount the process of moving my life across 1,700 miles back to the place I call home. Hopefully this will serve as a reminder for myself in my next relocation. I appreciate the experience– no matter how exhausting it all was– since these lessons could only have come to me when I was deep into the process of packing and moving.
Moving is not easy.
I would be the first to say that I love to move. I’m energized by movement, the activity that promises many different encounters with people, things, places and ideas. I like the ongoing stimulation of being in the center of things that are currently happening. I’ve developed a lifestyle that allows me to move easily between places– whether part of my travel hobby or changing my living situation. I prided myself with the ability to live minimally, which I kept successfully for three years…until I found out while packing that I’ve accumulated enough stuff to fit in 10 boxes. Albeit these boxes are small, no longer can I say that all that I own fit in two luggages. Sigh.
Packing reminds me to reassess my consumption habits.
I wouldn’t have known that I’ve amassed more stuff over the years, especially since the change is incremental. Buying a coat for this fall, a rain jacket for spring, oh, and I must have a tank top in different colors for mixing-and-matching outfits in the summer. Having this reminder every few years makes me become more conscious of my spending, and challenges me to maximize the usage I can get out of the things I already own.
Moving compels me to recalibrate.
Moving to a new location requires one to confront some of life’s challenging existential questions: where am I now? Where do I see myself going? While it is uncomfortable and difficult to be in this position, I welcome the opportunity to think about these questions every couple of years. These allow me to make sure I’m still enjoying what I like to do, keeps me on track with what I want to do long-term, and pushes me to determine what else I want to do and the urgency required around all these activities.
Start with the boxes when packing, rather than the stuff.
As I was packing my stuff away, there were moments when the inconveniences of boxing up everything became frustrating. I felt I had already packed a lot of my stuff, but a quick look across my room reminds me of how much I still need to pack. I then realized that none of the stuff I own were necessary to bring. Sure, I need clothes, shoes, and other material possessions, but all of these can be replaced and I have enough of what I need at home in Los Angeles, even if I don’t pack anything from Chicago. There were several times throughout the packing process when I just wanted to give away, throw or donate what I owned. Then, an epiphany came when in a moment of frustration, I rolled up my sleeves, took a deep breath and told myself: I will only bring less than 10 small boxes with me, and anything that won’t fit will need to be given/thrown/donated away. That made packing more efficient and effective. I came away with 9 small boxes, 70% of which were books, grad school readers and paper handouts. I saved a lot of shipping costs this way (most were shipped via media mail). Limiting myself with what I could bring placed another layer of discipline to the entire process.