“Nowadays, they have more trouble packing hair dryers than baseball equipment.”
– Bob Feller
Come on in darlings, and sit down. Tea? Hot chocolate? Huge amounts of doughnuts? Alright, it’s time to face the hard truth. When prepping for a continental move or extended travel, you’re going to have to leave most of your personal things behind and it’s time to start making some cuts.
No, no, come back. *pats couch beside her* This isn’t as harrowing experience as you seem to think, although it might be a bit surreal at times, but Aunty C. is here. There is no need to clutch your pearls, I promise.
Here’s the thing: you probably have a lot more stuff than you think you do. When you live day in and day out with furniture, books, clothes, appliances, computers, serving wear, towels, blankets, and everything else, you tend to stop thinking about it in terms of individual things and more as just the basic equipment that makes a household go. Which is of course exactly what it is, but when push comes to shove, you’d be surprised how little you can actually live on. You will be equally surprised how much stuff that leaves you to get rid of, store, or donate. Let’s start with the biggies:
Depending on who you are the volume of and attachment towards them may vary. At Chez Small Dog books are sacrosanct, and we have lots of them. Also, we don’t buy books casually, all the books in our library have been thoughtful, deliberate purchases as we refuse to clutter up precious bookcase space with untried tomes – that’s what libraries are for. The practical downside of this, though, is that none of our books are negotiable. Store.
We have multiple sets of towels, sheets, and blankets. We may or may not take some of these things depending on what housing we get (Dear University, still waiting…) but if so it will be one set of sheets and one blanket and we will pick up anything else that we need there. Ditto for towels. We have a gorgeous quilt made by the sparkling Marie and her mother for our wedding and a pretty afghan my grandmother made for us that will go in storage. The cheap blankets we use for napping on the couch, cuddling during movies, or as throws will go to anyone who wants them, or the donate bin.
I realize that we’ve moved on from that medieval notion of CDs but you may have some lying around. If they are dear to you, transfer them to your digital library and store the disks. If not, find someone who would like them and get them out of your way. J. and I buy movies like we buy books: deliberately. However our tastes in films is a bit more snobbish, we buy them very rarely and generally ones that will stand the test of time. Decide if you want to take any of your films with you and if so in what format – digital library, their individuals cases (which I don’t recommend at all), or a large multi-disk holder (which I do). Again, remember that wherever you go you will have things like libraries, film festivals, student discounts to movieplexes, and in a pinch Netflix to amuse you. Although if you’re going to a place with a thriving theatre and social scene (read: London) Aunty C. would be ashamed of your for staying inside and watching a film you’ve seen a dozen times on your laptop. Take a few movies for sick days, by all means, minions, but if that’s the extent of your entertainment while living abroad, I wash my hands of you.
Most women and some men have a mix of good and cheap jewelry, and it’s time to separate the sheep from the goats. I have only a couple of long, chunky necklaces: I seldom wear them and they aren’t precious – they’ll be shipped off to my sister (Snickers benefits greatly from this move, let me tell you), while I have some very nice pieces that I will take with me. If you have truly precious sparklers, family heirlooms, or anything at all you’re not comfortable traveling with, secure it! Store it properly with Good People or in a safe deposit box, I really don’t recommend taking that sort of thing with you unless the move is permanent (and in your carry on bag, if not on your person!). I have a large, beautiful rosewood jewelry case that was a birthday gift from my parents – it’s being stored and I’m taking to London instead a small box J. got me in Korea. There’s enough room for my wedding rings, a few pairs of my favorite stud earrings, and a couple of pretty, shorter necklaces. Less is more when it comes to baubles, kittens. Also, be aware of the care and cost attached to your pretties: silver tarnishes, diamonds can pop out of their settings, and pearls require frequent wear to keep their lustre. Take only what you know will wear and can care for. Get rid of the cheap stuff (you can always buy more costume jewelry) and properly account for the good stuff.
Make common sense decisions. That desktop computer isn’t fitting in your luggage, make arrangements to store it, or sell it (after having it professionally wiped of all personal information!). If you’re a smart cookie, which you are of course, you could trade it in for credit on a laptop that is move friendly or store credit for something else you may want. Do you have old phones that you have long since forgotten in your many upgrades? Give them to younger siblings (hi again, Snickers), friends, or recycle them properly – you can find drop boxes at most tech stores or their customer service people can help you. What about old mp3 players? If they are in good shape, sell or give them to someone you really like. Organize your music and entertainment libraries far in advance of your move. Make decisions about your bigger items (we’re going to sell our large TV to get some extra money out of it, but we’re keeping J.’s beloved Playstation). You’re going to have to store anything you keep, be sure that it’s something can withstand long storage periods, that won’t be obsolete by the time you get back (like certain televisions), and that – if leaving it with friends or family – that it will be properly taken care of.
There, chapter one of your primer is complete, and was it really so bad? If it was, sorry, we at Small Dog are all about tough love. Have some more chocolate. Next step, your closet.