We’re getting there. Slowly but surely things are getting sorted and it feels like finally this is home, this is where we live. Although of course the sorting, jeepers, there is so much to go through to sort, to do. The whole process makes me think that we need less. Always less.
There has been a lot on the internet recently about less, from ths excellent New York Times article Living with Less to Sui writing about clearning out her wardrobe and an old post by Peonies about living with only 33 items in your wardrobe (including accessories!) Each time I have read something along these lines I have thought about the concept and liked it, yet never actually done anything about it. Until this move.
Somehow this move came at the right time in my life. We sorted, we started sorting about a month before the actual move and have kept on going until now. So far we have taken 11 bags of clothes to the clothes recycling bin, 3 boxes of stuff to a charity shop, sold a lot of furniture in DC and not replaced it all here. Thrown away an awful lot of stuff. Sorted, resorted and shredded a lot of paperwork and just generally begun to get stuff in order. It is quite astonishing how much two people can acquire and what you really actually need.
To be honest it has been a delight having our kitchen stuff back and I am so enjoying my cookbooks, pans and other kitchen gadgets. Cooking is one of life’s pleasures. But it has also been so good to have finally got to a point where my wardrobe doesn’t overwhelm and sadden me. I can see what I have (or don’t have). I am wearing the stuff I do have, each piece of it, no matter how ‘special’ that piece may be and I am looking forward to buying less but better when a piece of it finally dies.
Moving away from this relentless consumerism has felt refreshing, we have everything we need and I no longer need to buy. Instead we can save, we can spend on holidays, meals, experiences.
I am hoping that this whole long experience of moving and sorting and sorting and sorting will be turning point. That somehow I will manage to keep on this track, to avoid the relentless acquistion culture shoved in our faces all the time. To keep our house freer of clutter. To get that kick out of getting rid as I have found myself getting. We’ll see but for now I am enjoying the small amounts of serenity this is bringing.
We have been living out of six suitcases and a rescue package since early January when we landed back in London. At first it was fun, it was like an adventure camping in our own homes then the reality of not having more than two plates begins to set in…
There are pluses, like the peace you get from having an uncluttered home without heaps of stuff everywhere. Having a very minimal wardrobe which forces you to wear everything you have and makes you realise how little you really do need. (This one is a huge bonus and is making me think I need to keep with the cutting down of clothes and moving towards an ever more streamlined wardrobe).
On the minuses cooking with two saucepans and a frying pan does rather limit one. That and only having one kitchen knife, two plates, four mugs and a few knives and forks. The things I have really missed have all been to do with the kitchen and cooking and eating. I cannot wait to eat at a dining room table again. Nor to have my recipe books or my kitchen gadgets, like a really good grater, it is surprising the things you miss. Or to finally be able to invite people over for dinner and hosting dinner parties again.
We are moving ever closer to having our stuff again though so this shouldn’t be for too much longer. I’m sure soon enough I’ll be rabbiting on about how much crap we have and how we really need to get rid of it all…
We made it. After returning from San Francisco we went head first into sorting things out, throwing stuff away, giving stuff away, selling stuff. Anything to try and process everything we had in our flat in Washington. It was both incredibly cathartic doing all that sorting and getting rid and at times hard. There were moments when I had to stop because I couldn’t bear just throwing away things which were still good but we couldn’t fit in our luggage or take with us.
So six suitcases later we arrive at Heathrow, tired, excited and feeling slight trepidation about what happens next. J chose a lovely flat, lots of natural light and space, plus thankfully warm, especially these last few days. The first few days were tough, not so much a cultural adjustment, it all felt very familiar, more a life adjustment. The odd feeling that this was it, we weren’t just visiting like we had been for the last couple of years.
We’re getting there, day by day. Seeing friends, trying to write the long list of people we want to catch up with and balancing it with needing to live a leaner life and within a tighter budget. London thankfully is still the wonderful city I remembered it to be and we are enjoying discovering a new part of it (we’re NW now not SW as we were before).
Now to wait the few weeks (months?!) until our stuff arrives across the ocean and then we’ll all be set!
I’ve been under the weather for about 3 weeks now and after a while it really starts to get to you. Normally I’m in fairly rude health and this most recent stint of illness has made me realise how much I take it for granted that I’m healthy. It’s also made me think about how I really do need to take better care of myself.
This year has been busy, work has been intense at times, good but with no let up and I have travelled a lot. I’ve not had a holiday where I’ve had an entire week off since last Christmas when my in-laws visited. I really need a break to relax properly and give my body a little love.
I’m contemplating a cleanse, I’ve never done one before but with the illness has come very few gym visits and comfort eating so that of course means a slightly more relaxed waistline than I would perhaps like… The next few weeks are crazy busy though, we fly back to the UK for a few days to try and find somewhere to rent, then I have a work project for a week, the following week we head to San Francisco for a few days and throughout this time we also have to sort everything out to move. Fun times.
Still I can’t complain, I’m feeling better, things *are* happening and slowly but surely we’ll get there, one way or another. As a wise friend said recently you have to eat an elephant one bite at a time.
With the move is coming a lot of change. We’ve done this before, admittedly only once, but this time although the same some things are slightly different. As much as change is exciting it is also unsettling. I’m mixed, one day excited the next mildly panicked. Work, housing, friendships, finances all of these things are whirling around and around. I know it will work out in the end somehow and things are falling into place slowly. Things will work out. I’m learning again that I need to bite piece by piece and work on things a little bit at a time. I’m also learning again how important it is to talk about everything. Poor J is having his ear chewed far too much. I process by talking, it helps me work out what I do or don’t want, even if it means I go round and round in circles far too often. Lots to write about once I organise my thoughts.
The time has come for us to return to London. We move back in January. Two months. In total we will have lived in the US for 27 months, during which we have experienced some of our toughest times and some absolutely wonderful times, we’ve met many amazing people who I hope will be lasting friends. It was absolutely the right decision to move here and experience this and now it feels like the right time to do the return journey.
There’s a lot to think about of course. Moving country is not easy, as we have learnt, even if you’ve lived there before. We’re going through another period of pretty big change and trying to work it all out again. We’re going back to something which is so familiar and yet viewed through a new perspective and I imagine possibly also so changed from what we left. I’m excited though, the new opportunities this brings, the friendships we can re-kindle, the city I love I get to live in again. London here we come…
It was my birthday a week and a half ago. Normally I am like a small child, telling everyone, organising a party and generally being excitable. This year it was a much quieter affair. Just J and I, no big celebration, which was rather lovely.
It gave me time to reflect, time to think about how I really do feel more grown-up, that the last year has changed me. Changed us. Moving to America has been wonderful in many ways, the experience of doing something tough together has bought us closer. We have met many kind and lovely new people and had some great opportunities which we wouldn’t have otherwise had.
We are also another year on, having to make big decisions about things in the future. We have spent many an hour trying to plan for uncertainty, which is of course nigh on impossible.
All of this has moved me towards feeling more ready to do some of the big things. Investing in our joint venture has never made more sense and each being more willing to make compromises to enable good things to come in the future.
I hope this next year will be good. If nothing else it will be together with J and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt is that that very fact is so important to me.
As much as going home made me realise what I missed even more it also made me think about changing the way I think about and approach being here. I loved my time back in England but I also realised that right now that’s not where life is. My life is here in Washington, DC and I can either try and make the most of being here or I can let it pass me by wishing for something else.
Things are good, mostly, but things are generally only mostly good, that’s just balance right? Plus there are opportunities, my job is good, it’s interesting and challenging. Learning about America is still intriguing me and I think growing me as a person. The opportunities we have here (like going to California for 2 nights) are ones we wouldn’t have in the UK.
I was sad to leave, so sad sat on the plane, but glad to be back, glad to really know what I have at home, how much I treasure it and more aware of being in the moment here and making the most of it so I don’t regret it when we come back.
One of the things I have struggled with most being here has been making friends. The close friends who you can cry to, who will accept your drunken ramblings and laugh about them later, the friends who you share with, good, bad, inbetween and everything else, those ones. I have met lots of lovely people who are wonderful but it is the leap between acquaintance and friendship which I’m finding really tough right now.
J is a great support, the move has made us closer but sometimes I don’t want to moan to him, or sometimes he’s not quite the right ear for what I want to say, I need a sounding board, someone who is different, gives me different perspectives. I also need female company and women to talk to.
I feel like as a child becoming friends was easier, you naturally met more people, were possibly less set in your ways and you would just ask ‘can I be your friend’. Whereas as an adult I feel like I have been dating friends, to see if they like me and if I like them. There seem to be more mines to avoid, more veneers to crack*.
I think the biggest leap is who to phone. Emailing is fine, meeting for a drink is lovely, a quick text not a problem but having a shit day at work and wanting to tell someone, that I haven’t got (yet, hopefully). So how do I do it?
Probably, I should just take the plunge and call someone. Dive right in and see what happens. So we’ll see, hopefully time will have its part to play in this whole merry-go-round.
*I feel like Americans tend to put on more of a veneer than Brits. They’re friendly, welcoming, sweet and kind, but then beneath that, who knows. I feel like it’s been a hard job cracking through those veneers. But then this is probably a whole other post.
I am a planner, I like knowing what will happen, when and how. I like organising things and being in control. I don’t therefore like when things are beyond my control and I can’t plan. Hence when we were waiting for the visa decision it distressed me not to be able to plan things and have my life being decided by someone else.
I came to terms with it though, even managed to roll with it a little and after however many months of having it hanging over me, relaxed.
The thing is we’re going to get to that point again soon. We have to reapply for visas and so therefore have to try and make decisions now about things we cannot confirm and with variables we have no control over. The truth is that we don’t *have* to make the decisions now, more that I would *like* to feel like I am able to make the decisions now. So I am struggling, struggling to let go again and relax instead of trying to plan the unplannable.
I think perhaps the best plan for now is to focus on the closer things, the new job, a visit from a wonderful friend soon and not being so damn cranky because I can’t plan things, oh and toning up for summer. Now to plan for all of those…