Packing and Stuff

The moving company comes one week from today, and we – make that I – have started to pack up our things to be shipped back to America. And while moving is always a little daunting, there is a lot less stuff to worry about on our way back than there was last year at this time. We moved to Switzerland with about 13 suitcases and boxes of stuff — mostly clothes, toys, some technology and paperwork, and a box for Joe’s guitar. It seemed like a lot when we were lugging the majority of it through airports and train stations during our initial travels. But for a family of five for a whole year, it’s really not that much stuff. Especially when you compare it to the gigantic storage garage that is packed from floor to ceiling awaiting us back in Milwaukee. What is all that stuff?!

It has been liberating to live without much of our stuff for a year. Granted the kids complained every now and then about toys they remembered that are currently hibernating in a dark, rectangular cave (or at their cousins’ house). But, they were quickly distracted by other activities using the things we do have here. It’s amazing what you can do with paper, string, sticks, water, balloons, and repurposing other toys. Henry is the easiest. For starters, he doesn’t remember any of his toys that were left behind. Plus, all I have to do is fill a sink with water and put a few things in it, and he’ll splash happily for quite a while. Emily and James require a little more creativity than that. We found great origami projects on YouTube to make the best paper airplanes and boats, Joe taught them paper football, we made home-made playdoh, a backyard bow-and-arrow, and much more.

I enjoyed the freedom of not having a lot of stuff to worry about, clean up, locate, put up, take down, etc. Less stuff definitely equals less stress and more time. It also helps me to live in the present. Without the stuff that you are saving from different parts of your life, it is much easier to really focus on what you have and what you are doing right now.

There were really very few things that I missed. At Christmas time, we had brought a small box with some of our holiday items, and I made a lot of improvised decorations. I missed our stockings and other holiday things with family significance at that sentimental time of year. In the kitchen, there were a few times I needed something I didn’t have here, like a funnel or a cupcake tin. But, other than that, I can’t say I thought about any of our stuff. Which, again, makes me wonder what exactly is in all of those boxes back home.

It is kind of fun to think about it as I pack up all of the stuff we have lived with all year. For the kids, unpacking their toys will be like Christmas in August. For me, I think it will be more like a reunion. Like old friends you haven’t seen for a while, seeing my stuff will bring back all of the memories and associations I have with them. Some things may not have aged so well, and it might be time to move on. But others do have real meaning. At least I think they do. After this experience, I might be even more picky about what stuff is really worth keeping, and what stuff is just adding stress, mess, and holding me back.

As I go to pack up the next box, and face the task of relocating all of our stuff once again, it also helps to be able to laugh about it:

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