If there’s one thing I’ve learned about leaving the country, it’s the art of being ruthless. Which possessions do I love enough to store? How much do I really need to live out of a bag for a year? Would I miss this dress? Is that thermos really irreplaceable? As somebody with the tendency to hoard – and the desire to have less – packing my life into a shed and getting on a plane with a backpack is what I would call practice.
I don’t think I’ll ever be a minimalist, but there’s something to be gained from the principle. With every step in the weeks-long process of packing and moving, I felt myself shedding weight. With each piece of furniture sold, each bag dropped at the op shop, each box packed for storage, my life felt lighter. I’d been vaguely looking for a reason to clear things out for a while and here was the best reason. One that required me to be ruthless. I estimate that I gave away half of my belongings; so far, I don’t miss any of them. The criteria for keeping items were simple: do I love it, or is it irreplaceable/essential? If an item met both criteria, so much the better.
If there’s a second thing I’ve learned from leaving the country, it’s the art of saying goodbye. (Let me state a universal truth here: goodbyes are THE WORST. Who even invented them?) Looking a goodbye in the face is tough, but necessary; it acknowledges what people mean to you.
There’s a common element between being ruthless and saying goodbye (not that I said any ruthless goodbyes). Both require me to let go. To live without some things for a while.
But there is one difference between ruthlessly disposing of belongings and farewelling loved ones. Writing this as the plane pushes back and creeps down the tarmac, it’s not wondering whether I’ve packed enough underpants or forgotten my phone charger that bothers me (neither, by the way). Even my most favourite possessions can be replaced. There’s just one last thing I want to do, and that’s wrap my arms around those people one more time.