The Motley News

The Things We Carried (to Sweden)

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How did we convert three floors of townhouse space into the four suitcases?

airport with Kate

Our friend, Kate, sending us off at the airport!

Our possessions have always stressed me out. The clutter in our apt/townhouse was spread over two floors and a basement, mostly out of sight and out of mind. But occasionally, in the back of my mind, a small voice whispered: “Psst! You’ve got far too much shit.”

It was impossible to ignore that voice when we got the news about Noah’s job opportunity in Sweden. With three to four months away from our official departure, our home felt like a constant combination of DEFCON 1 and hopeless malaise. When we learned about the high cost of international cargo shipping, we needed a much cheaper option of getting our belongings to Sweden. Noah suggested that we get four of the largest suitcases we could find and makes some hard decisions.

“Hard” decisions were actually painful and somewhat traumatizing. Between the two of us, books are probably the most prized possessions we own. And let me tell you, two academics know how to put away some books. I don’t know just how many we gave away (many plastic tubs and boxes full), but I can say that we only took about 20 texts with us.

Picking clothes turned out to be difficult as well. For me, I had plenty of items hanging in the back of the closet or stuffed in a bottom drawer. But If I hadn’t worn them in the last 8 months, there wasn’t any use in keeping them. Luckily, we arrived during Sweden’s unseasonably warm spring. We can buy winter coats and sweaters here; hopefully at discounted prices.

Hair and make-up was the last thing I thought about, when it probably should have been the first. I don’t know how well Sweden accommodates darker shades of foundation and concealer. Could I find a MAC counter or Sephora in my town? How long could I make my products last? I can’t answer those questions yet; I still need to do my research. As for black hair-care products, I knew not to depend on chance. I can probably find coconut oil in the supermarket, but what about a green tub of ECO-STYLER?? I pack the necessities, even though they were weighing down my suitcase: Marley-braiding hair, flat-iron, sponge-rollers, end-paper, bobby-pins, hair-ties, and oh my god, Blue Magic. . . don’t ask.

Everything else had to stay. Furniture and appliances were given away or left at the curb (for unlimited refuse week), smaller, boxed items were donated to Goodwill, the car was sold, and the rest went to the dump. I was putting things in garbage bags like a madwoman. We threw out so much stuff that it really bummed me out. After awhile, Noah and I had to asked ourselves why we had schlepped this much in the first place. We knew that we were both pack-rats, but this was a wake up call. It wasn’t hoarder status, but it was almost just as overwhelming. With our lives being disassembled and carried overseas, we had to rethink our priorities. What was truly important?

Honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t cry anymore than I thought I would. This kind of stress breaks me down rather quickly, but I’ve managed to remain pretty stoic. The only explanation I can think of is that I had Noah and there wasn’t time for the both of us to have meltdowns. I also believe that part of my strength came from assuring my loved-ones that we knew what were doing! Their concern for our well-being prompted me to convince them and myself that everything was going to be A-OKAY. Sometimes you have to fake it make it.

In the end, the four bags were a blessing in disguise. Stressful as it was, we really needed to be reminded that our possessions were just things. It is very possible to start over and rebuild. We’re now lighter, more mobile. . . free to roam. As I look around our tiny apartment, I know that we have exactly what we need. We are now what the Swedes call: Lagom.




Author: charishreid

Writer and Educator.

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