Monday, 25 June 2007

Traveling light

When the Good Man and I first moved in together he packed his worldly possessions into a BMW, fetched me from my parent's house with a suitcase and that was it. We stopped at a liquidation centre on the way through to the house we'd just bought and got them to deliver a bed, table and chairs and borrowed linen from family.

We now also own a few sofas and sundry other items which live in our house in Cape Town. But the tone of our life together was set with this first move. We travel light.

Our approach to moving is a little different from most. We set ourselves a target volume and then shed things until we can pack to that limit. For this move, our upper limit is eight cubic metres. We'd like to come in at around six if we can. Given that I usually get blank looks when I 'speak metric', we're targeting less than a quarter of a container. This is not a lot.

The only item of furniture we'll be taking is my mother's oak cheval mirror so that she can keep an eye on us through our travels. A large chunk of the balance will be taken up by art (paintings and sculpture), clothes, kitchen equipment and toys. Pre-Bambi we we would have targeted four cubic metres. She compensates by taking up less space in the car.

Anyway, I have now begun the process of ditching the things we will leave behind. I tend to be quite unsentimental through this process. If I haven't actually looked at something, worn it or used it in six months, it's out.

According to some, this makes me quite a hard person. But it's not that I feel no emotion, rather that I don't link my emotions to items. I like to remember things - they often look better in my memories than they do in reality.

Anyway, I thought I would throw a question out to Blog world:

If you had to pack you and your family's life into eight cubic metres, what would you take? And, perhaps more interestingly, what would you leave behind?


Iota said...

When we came to the US, we ditched a collection of pre-school videos which had been built up and refined over about 8 years. If I had my time again, I would bring them and the video recorder, and trust that I could find an adapter to make it work. Now that I know what the US has on offer as pre-school tv, that is. Sorry - not a very thoughtful reply to the interesting question you pose, but one which represents a frustration of daily life.

The Good Woman said...

Hi Iota. Actually it's the kind of thing I'm looking for. I worry a bit that in my brutal approach to packing I'll find myself missing things which could easily have been kept. I have no videos, but the CBeebies DVDs will go with us!

Gwen said...

I was moving house recently and threw out (from a very small one bedroomed flat) enough stuff to fill yet another small one bedroomed flat. And I still had anough stuff left over to fill a second two bedroom flat. Very scary!

Dee said...

Oooh.. I am a light traveler too! I moved countries a couple of times, and if anything, it teaches you not to hang on to stuff you no longer need. I go through my wardrobe regularly (at least every 6 months) and ruthlessly donate everything I haven't worn since the last time I went through the wardrobe.
I do have trouble with books. I can't part with books easily. I tend to give them to people I love (can't even do charity shops very well!), hoping they will find a new good home.
I am not sentimental, nor am I a hoarder. And I don't like people who hoard - gives me the heebie jeebies. I've been in houses where you can't see the surfaces of furniture, because it is coverd in CRAP. Drives me nuts.
Good luck with moving.
Love you blog.

Dee said...

I haven't answered your question now have I... lol.
I would NOT part with my mom's belongings (small items, pictures, a few books and cook books), my extensive bag and purse collection, letters, photos, books.
I don't care for furniture though - maybe that's because I've never bought anything really expensive yet.

The Good Woman said...

Hi Gwen. It is frightening how much we accummulate - and then give away each move.

Dee, like you I hang onto things I have been given or left from family in friends. Here's a question: letters from past loves?

Before Bambi arrived we had little clutter at all. Now we're under something of a Fisher Price tidal wave!

Katie said...

When I moved to Scotland, I came with two suitcases and that was it. They mostly contained clothes and books. The books made my suitcases very heavy, but leaving them back in the US wasn't an option.

It helped that I didn't have to worry about furniture because I knew I'd be moving into a fully furnished flat.

The Good Woman said...

Hi Katie

I realise on rereading my post that I left out books. The Good Man collects books - specifically early editions of the early travellers in Africa - Selous, Stanley, etc. These travel as hand luggage as they represent some of our best investments.

Paperbacks stay behind...

jenny said...

That's a loaded question for me... There are 2 times that stand out in my mind in the many times I've moved. Once when I was a kid and we sold our house and moved into a camping trailer. The 2nd, was with hubby and I selling our house and moving to our current home.

We weren't planning on moving when we spotted this house in the sales ad. When we looked, it was just what we needed and we had to hurry and get our house on the market before we lost out on this one. We painted, installed new carpeting, packed and cleaned a whole house in the space of less than a month and the house sold in 9 days. We got lucky. Needless to say, having 2 toddlers (and unknowingly pregnant with baby #3) by the time it came to pack up the large garden shed, I was pooped. We left it all behind and now I kick myself for certain things I thought we had and Hubby reminds me we left it at the old house. I often wonder if the new owners are using the things we left, or did they grumble and tote it all to the dump?

The Good Woman said...

Hi Jenny
All that in less than a month - wonder woman! Maybe the people in the old house are grateful for the gifts you left for them. Maybe it has added to their happiness in their home - not a bad legacy.

lady macleod said...

I am totally on board with your scale down philosophy. If I have not worn it or used it in the past six months out it goes. It became so disturbing to Q, who does not hold to this philosophy, that she insisted I give away nothing of hers before checking first!

I always pack the altar then the books, everything else is negotiable.

laurie said...

wow, interesting conundrum. i have never moved to another country, which seems quite bold and adventurous. my first apartment was so sparsely furnished and i had so few belongings that i moved from it to another place by hand--i had no car, and i just carried boxes down the street from one place to the other on thanksgiving day.

now we have a whole house, a basement, a garage, and two floors of stuff. mostly books. the furniture i could let go without a pang--except for my father's desk. he died three years ago and left his writing desk to me.

so i would say the desk, and many books. and photo albums. and all the dog toys.....

see, it can't be done.

Annie said...

I am the queen of 'throw it in, just in case' - so I'm no use to you, I'd be taking everything! Just wanted to wish you luck in your packing, and your purging.

Amy said...

When we WERE going to move to Australia (that fell through), we decided to take just what can fit on the air cargo - about 56 inches cubed. (Of course, we stored a lot of stuff to come back home to.) We ended up packing things like towels, bedding, pots and pans, Hubby's favorite coffee cups, a few toys, my piano books (music), umbrellas, a couple of folding chairs, the kids' DVDs, and various odds and ends that filled up the rest of it. We got quite a bit of stuff in, and I congratulate myself for packing the essentials. The shipment hasn't made it back yet, and several times a day we hear, "Where is such-and-such an item?" to which the answer is, "It's in the shipment." I figure that's a good sign - I packed the stuff we'd really need!

As for me, I'm actually very unsentimental. I hate clutter! Going through the house and selling/trashing/donating a huge amount of items was very cathartic for me. I don't know when I've been happier. Hubby is a holder-on, though, so we do still have a storage room full of just his stuff.

Dee said...

How did you know! Yes I do hang on to letters from past lovers, but also letters from penpals from when I was a kid and a teenager. I have a big box full of letters, and another one with postcards. If there ever was a fire in the house, that might very well be what I would grab before running out.
Thanks for commenting on my blog... I'm not very good at it yet, it's a work in progress :)

The Good Woman said...

Lady M. I tend to be quite unilateral - things will have been given or thrown away before the Good Man gets back from work!

Hi Laurie - a writing desk sounds like a beautiful thing to have from your father. My Dad left me advice. Not always beautiful but it packs light!

Hey Annie - packing and purging - I like that! Thanks for the award - will write about it soon.

Oh dear Amy! You didn't go! At least you got to clear decks. Going over to your blog right now....

And Dee - gotcha!