I'm moving to Chicago to start law school and for the first time in my life, I've been taking active steps to control the huge amount of crap I own.
There've been many times when I moved to a new place without going through any of my stuff — carrying extra boxes and crates full of unorganized… well, crap. For a long time, all that stuff represented safety to me — security against want and unfulfilled needs. I failed to take into account the fact that when everything's shoved together in a box, it's easy for me to forget I have something, so I'll go buy another… and maybe another, just to be safe. I'm fairly certain this is how I accumulated three boxes of replacement razor blades, four boxes of band-aids, and five umbrellas.
Honestly, though, in the last few years my priorities have really changed. I lived in London for one glorious semester my junior year of college, which forced me to really consider what I needed to live. I lived out of two suitcases the whole four months and did not want for anything. Of course, I hadn't yet conquered my need to buy and hoard things, so I came home with four new pairs of shoes… but it was a good wake-up call about how much of my stuff I genuinely don't need.
I felt empowered to realize that I could go anywhere and do anything with just a few possessions and be totally fine. This opened my eyes to a lot of traveling I've done since then, usually with just a backpack of clothes and basic toiletries.
I've been out of college for two years now and you know, it's really funny how supporting yourself and paying all your own bills reins in your spending. I've also had some experiences with roommates who had so much stuff it overwhelmed them, but were not able to let any of it go because they treasured it so much. Watching one couple try to move out and have meltdowns over the huge amount of books and knick-knacks they had was quite the education.
So, I've been slowly whittling down all my belongings — going through everything I own and really looking at whether it's being used and loved or not. I've gone through my closet, my baking supplies (I'm a cupcake girl), my harp music, my craft supplies — everything I can possibly imagine — picking out large amounts of things to sell, donate or throw away. When I was done, I took a big breath and did it again.
It was a lot of hard work. I took a lot of cues from an article that ran on Offbeat Home about how to move the Army brat way . I didn't follow it perfectly, but it helped me be a lot more ruthless in determining what I should keep around. Another Offbeat Home article about determining where everything belongs helped me sort out in my mind what was actually getting used and what wasn't. If my answer to "where does it belong?" was "nowhere," I really didn't need to keep it around at all. It made me realize… What was the point in keeping all these things that people have given me over the years if I'm just not using them? I've cut down my t-shirt collection from 20+ to about eight that I'm unwilling to part with — I think that was one of the toughest things I had to do.
Though I'm never going to be a minimalist, I'm proud to say that my belongings are more under control now than I think they have ever been in my life. They don't overwhelm me any more. I'm about ready to start putting everything into boxes and loading them up into a container for the ultimate move out. In the meantime, I've got to find my dream studio apartment in Chicago, which will probably be so small that it will set off another belongings purging frenzy. And for the first time in my life, I'm actually really looking forward to it.