Tag: Moving

The Paradox of Space and Stuff

“Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.”
― Alan W. Watts

When our friends were in town the other week it was an amazing chance to catch up. One half of the pair, Chris, and I have been friends since freshmen year of university. In fact he, Jeff, and I were all in an assigned cohort for freshmen students and it’s kind of funny to think about how life has turned out for us in the past 12 years. I absolutely adore his wife, who I’ve known almost as long, and having the ability to see friends from the States is such a rare pleasure for us.

In talking all things work, life, and adulthood related we got on the the subject of upgrading. They live in California and bought a house there. Since then they’ve been working on all kinds of DIY projects to improve their home and add value to it, and seem to be enjoying the process. But in spite of being able to do these improvements on a tight budget and by themselves, we quickly found we were dealing with a similar issue even though we live in a rented apartment.

The famous saying is mo’ money, mo’ problems. Add mo’ space, mo’ spending to the mix.


We started comparing notes on how that as soon as we’d either moved into a house or a larger apartment, we found our “stuff” multiplying. Closets full of items they rarely used on their end, furniture we’ve never previously owned on ours. More empty space that we feel compelled to fill for us, a garage for them to store stuff, which means they’re holding on to things that they’ve never accumulated before.

Chris told me of a piece of motorcycle equipment that he doesn’t use anymore, but is loathe to give away or even sell because 1) it cost him a pretty penny to get in the first place and, 2) what if he needs it again in the future? We now have a second bedroom (currently being used primarily as storage) which is where, if an item doesn’t really have a home yet, there it goes! A quick, sheepish scan of the contents this morning revealed a number of older cords and electronics I should probably recycle and a bag of linens and stuff that I’ve been meaning to drop off for donation since we moved in. Oops. Having space clearly does something to our mental relationship with stuff!

In our old flat, we didn’t have room for much…and so we didn’t have much. When we moved to a twice as large apartment in October, we suddenly had twice the space to fill. Plus we gave up landlord-provided furniture as part of a negotiation for lower rent and so had to buy furniture for the first time since living in London. Our old apartment barely held a loveseat, but suddenly we needed a sofa to fill a living room. In our old apartment, that loveseat and a desk chair were the only places we had to sit down in, in our new apartment we had a breakfast bar but we now needed stools to sit at it. We have two bathrooms and so needed two bathmats. We have more than one cupboard now and have somehow acquired a mug collection. Oops again.

Like water, people, their money habits, and their stuff seem to expand to fit their containers. Ours certainly have. When we have made more money, we have historically spent more money…even after living quite comfortably on less! Before moving to a larger apartment, our expenses didn’t necessarily change, but we found our habits did. Both we and the handful of friends I have unscientifically surveyed for this post have also found their ability to accumulate and retain stuff grow significantly due to moving into a house for the first time, a bigger apartment, or a first home all to one’s self after leaving the sharing economy that is living with roommates. Call it the curse of comfort! Part of the reason I don’t want a big house anymore is because I don’t want to have to pay to outfit it, keep up a yard, and take care of the whole thing. I’d rather have a much smaller home with fewer, nicer things, and spend my money on other priorities.

On the other hand, I do think there is a correlation between generally being in a position to make more money, and it having more places to go. If you are working full time, you are likely to be an adult with either rent or mortgage to pay. If you’re living in certain areas, you are more likely to require a car. Past a certain age you are statistically more likely to have a partner or children, leading to different kinds of costs. Life gets more expensive the longer it goes on.

As I’m working to limit my consumption, I’m starting to think a portion of that mindset long term will come from limiting my space, both physical and metaphoric. What else will I have to resize besides a “dream home?”

Have you found this same correlation between space and stuff? Those of you who have up- or downgraded at some point in your lives, I’m doubly curious to hear from you.


Doctor’s Orders

“Health is not simply the absence of sickness.”
– Hannah Green

When prepping for a tramp abroad, ducklings, it’s important to get your health in order as well as your house.  There is nothing fun about getting sick in a foreign country where you may or may not know how the health system works so do your research (speaking as a girl who sprained her wrist in Turkey and was a little, ah, surprised at their hospital system).  Find out well in advance whether or not you qualify for a nationalized service plan or if you should get traveler’s health insurance to cover you in the event of a mishap.  For the best results, long before you go, get the basic preventative work.

Get your teeth cleaned and ask for a fluoride treatment for extra protection.

If you can, get a blood work up.  Find out what, if anything, is lurking in your chemical makeup.

(Gentlemen, avert your eyes) Ladies, get a pelvic and breast exam.

Are you on prescription medications?  Figure out how you’re going to continue to get the meds you need, whether it’s by utilizing the resources available to travelers in your land of destination, or by taking a large supply with you.

Have your dermatologist check out and moles, freckles, lesions, sunspots, or anything else that you weren’t born with.  99% of them will be harmless and the remaining 1% will be treatable if you catch the problem early.  If you have eczema, boils, psoriasis, cysts, or acne, it can and should be treated.

Get an eye exam and update your prescription as needed.  Replace any eyewear that is scratched, broken, barely balancing on the ridge of your nose, or otherwise past its prime.

If you have orthopedic shoes or other bracing, shaping, or corrective gear, make sure it’s in good condition, and still doing its job.  If you need to update any of it, do so.

If you have more personal issues of depressions, anxiety, or any of their tricksy cousins, make sure you are equipped to care for yourself.  Whether that means having a few visits with a trusted counselor to get some coping techniques for the stresses of the move, sorting out your medications, or just making sure you’ve got a support system of people in place.  Anyone who tells you psychological problems don’t have physical symptoms, you should just “suck it up,” or “it’s all in your head” is an idiot.

Now all of this takes time, and money.  If finances are a worry, there are programs like Planned Parenthood, free clinics, student health centers, and physicians who are willing to do pro bono work.  Take advantage of your resources.  Start working through your appointments a few months before you head out to give yourself time to diagnose and treat any trickiness that turns out.

Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, address any health concerns you have with a physician.  I don’t care whether it’s chronic headaches or the alarming tendency to pass out every time you turn left.  I don’t care whether blue snot is draining out of your ears or sometimes you just feel an odd shooting pain in your elbow.  I don’t care if you have hemorrhoids or hair loss, acne or agoraphobia, stress or smallpox.  I don’t care.

Why, you ask?  Because you are entitled to feel well, whole, healthy, happy, well-adjusted, fit and equipped.  You do not have to suffer through pain, anxiety, and discomfort, and certainly not without fighting back!  Take care of yourself, kittens.

Obsessive Compulsive. Disorder.

“A pint of sweat, saves a gallon of blood.”
– George S. Patton

Know how I can tell I spent my youth catapulting across continents and time zones?  Apart from the various personality quirks it engendered, my ability to learn languages rather quickly, my fluid definitions of “home” and “family,” and the long-lost art of being able to keep in touch through letter writing?  Because I am an obsessive move planner.

Does this make me a packing rat?

I’ve been collecting boxes for our eventual move for over a year now (our office is a tragic sight), and I’m continually going through old clothes, knick knacks, cosmetics, random collections of pillows, pictures, books, etc.  Occasionally I send a box of things home to Snickers, or foist a bunch off on Margot when she comes by to watch movies, and at last resort I donate armfuls of stuff.

Occasionally I take it a step further.  Such as this morning.

One of my health insurance company’s benefits is that you can earn cash back for participating in health challenges – eating a bushel of vegetables a day, jogging 20 miles before breakfast, etc.  You can earn up to $200 a year per person.  And call me crazy but a year from now, when we’re living Quetzacoatl knows where, I have a sneaking suspicion that $400 could come in handy.  So J. was dragged awake and forced to endure a round of blood drawing for tests, long before we usually eat breakfast, all for $50 a year from now.

You be the judge, am I psycho or just extremely well organized?

Hear Me Roar!

“We’ve turned into one of those couples.”
“What sort?”
“IKEA couples.  Yuppies.”
-J. and C.

I woke up yesterday at 6am, was into work at 7:10, dashed home at 8:30 to meet the plumber and still made it back to work within my “lunch hour” time allotment.  Sometime about 2 I snagged a fifteen minute break to set up our electricity and gas bills, which due to the incompetence of customer service people turned into a 45 minute project.  I got off work at 4:20 at which time I dashed home where we managed to get everything left in my old flat into our new one.  At 7:30 we dashed up to IKEA to pick up a bookshelf and dresser and make a pit stop at J.’s parent’s house to pick up the bedframe they’re giving us.  Then home (11pm) where we carried the lot inside, set up my bed, I puttered around setting up necessary stuff before collapsing into bed (1am). 

Oh, and the gas couldn’t get turned on until today so I spent a freezing night bundled up and burrowed under my blankets.

But my stuff is in!  Bills will be paid!  Hypothermia was kept at bay!  AND I showed up at work today with only a slight limp!  I.  Am.  Awesome.

Moving On Up (so to speak)

“However did you get your couches in?  Doesn’t seem like there’d be enough room on the walkway.”
“Val and his friends lifted it over the railing.”
“Oh, very nice.  Man-ual labor.”
-C. and Venice

house_movingJ. and I enlisted Scotticus and my godbrother Bear today (many thanks, gentlemen) for the picking up, maneuvering, and dropping off of our sofa and loveseat today.  Huzzah, they’re in!  AND I got my landlord (who is probably heartily sick of me at this point, what will all my calls, questions, and obsequious permission asking) to give me the go ahead to paint.  Et voila, I have a major weekend project!  I’m probably biting off way more than I can chew, but that sort of thinking goes with the whole, “Let’s get married,” theme.

Mattress comes tomorrow, and I should be ready to start bringing stuff in this weekend.  And apart from the total lack of pots, pans, towels, tools, and various other things one get from registering for gifts (all of which are pretty necessary so living without them will be an adventure) I’ll be set. 

Mom approved the wedding invitations so basically I’m through planning this Carroll-esque caucus race!  Hurrah!