In the past five years Nicole and I have lived in a combined seven different cities in five different countries. Add in at least a dozen apartments each, and one would be safe to assume (as my brow starts to perspire just thinking about it all) that moving has been quite a thing for us over the years.
If you’ve ever moved you know how hellish the experience can be. And for two kitties faced with a limit of one, or on rare occasions two suitcases to make it all happen with, the activity becomes both more and less difficult.
There are weight limits to consider, transportation methods, shipping costs, the weather in the destination city/country. Important factors that if ignored could result in having to dip into your savings at the last minute, or showing up in a tropical paradise with seven pairs of shoes in tow - all of which would be better suited for the slush-filled spring days left behind in Montréal. We'll leave it to you to ruminate on all the other moving fiascos you've experienced/witnessed/heard rumours of.
On a more philosophical level, after a few moves you become more attuned to the intrinsic and extrinsic value of your clothes, books, toiletries, and general things you keep in your possession. Beyond that, you begin to question your definition of home, and perhaps even of self.
Do you live in a museum of stuff?
When I think about the eight tote boxes that are being (graciously) stored by a cousin at her house on Vancouver’s Sunshine Coast, the task of having to fill and cull those boxes before moving to España was overwhelming. Why shouldn’t I keep my prom dress, or all three editions of War & Peace I (apparently) own? Though their meaning is useless and unnecessary in the context of European travel, their intrinsic value is more hazy (ok ok... one copy of War & Peace could be useful, but would travel far better in a fourth, Kindle-sized version). Faced with thoughts of “will I ever live in Vancouver again?” and, “what if my cousin decides to move?” These understandable, logistics-focused questions inevitably slide down the banister into darker territory: “If I leave for too long I’ll become an ex-pat and then what’ll I do for health insurance?” “Why do I never want to settle down?” “I’m going to die alone, aren’t I?” And pretty soon the existential fog starts rolling in.
Stuff is… stuff.
To walk into a room full of familiar things can feel calming, reassuring, stabilizing. They make us feel as though all is right in the world. “Here are my things! They are mine, they make up my space, they have come from special moments, special people, special places, and they’ve been laid up within these walls in a way that only I am able to lay them up. How special and comforting!” we tell ourselves.
When one makes the mental shift towards movement - whether temporary or longterm - to walk into a room full of familiar things can feel oppressive, suffocating, and overwhelmingly futile. “Here are my things! What purpose do they serve? Did I actually spend good money on this? Where did this all even come from?”
As Nicole put it so eloquently as she was going through her stuff during her most recent move from Montreal to Palm Beach, “for every one thing that’s good, there’s ten things that are trash.”
The opening and closing of your mental schema of time and place has an interesting impact on the stuff you choose to buy, keep, take with you.
In the western context we’re told that purchasing real estate is both an intelligent and necessary thing to do because it’s a physical testament to your financial stability, sense of responsibility and general “shit-togetherness.” Filling up said home with piles of stuff in a trendy-yet-elegant way is supposed to tell our friends, family, co-workers and neighbours what type of people we are.
The decades long mortgage that comes with the price tag on a home of this decidedly permanent nature threatens to keep you decidedly in place. Simultaneously, the idea of movement becomes dipped in dollar signs and spreadsheets full of budgeting, rather than feeling light and freeing and dreamy (as we think the prospect of movement perhaps should feel like).
The attachment to things is similar to the attachment to place, to people, to our families, to ourselves, and so fort. As a person in a body that’s moving through time (through no effort or consent on our part), on a physical level we are neither fixed nor attached to any given space, or place. Our attaching is purely psychological. To move is to accept and play with the fact that we are allowed to do it, and there’s nothing (except the things we tell ourselves) stopping us.
Is home where you heart is? Or is home where you are?
Circling back to the concept of moving, less is always more. More space to fill up with new things from your destination. More ability to carry the damn bag. More mental lightness if you ground yourself with the knowledge that things can be replaced.
In a previous post about packing, I maintain that the only things you truly need to be able to travel anywhere is a passport, credit card and health insurance. The same applies here.
Move, little kitties, move! Knowing that no matter where you go, what you bring with you, and what you leave behind, either it’s all going to shift and change, or you're going to shift and change. So get a move on.