From the time we decided to move overseas, my husband and I fantasized about owning nothing more than we could carry with us. We were determined to get rid of all of our possessions, and pare down our lives to a single suitcase each.
We almost achieved our goal. But in our final week of purging, we were weakened by the uncertainty of our plans. My husband had a job offer in the UK, but it was contingent upon us receiving our visas—which, given strict new immigration laws, was not guaranteed. (We did finally receive them, two weeks after moving out of our house.)
Furthermore, we had no idea how long we’d stay. What if we didn’t like England? What if my husband wasn’t happy with his job? What if he was transferred after 6 months or a year?
So that’s how we ended up with our dirty little secret: a 5 foot by 5 foot storage unit.
Though no bigger than a small closet, it may as well be an entire warehouse for the grief it causes me. Just the fact that it exists makes me feel like I’m not as minimalist as I could be.
The contents of that closet are things we deemed irreplaceable, or too expensive to re-purchase: an Eames chair, a Danish design sofa (now discontinued), a few boxes of books and paperwork, and a couple of items from our travels. We also included our bikes, since we had the space.
If we decide to stay in the UK, we’ll have them shipped over here. If we return to the US, we’ll bring them back into our lives. But for now they sit in limbo, things without a home.
The day we moved our stuff was the first time I’d ever been in a public storage building. What an eerie place! It was unnervingly quiet, with nothing but the sound of our footsteps echoing through the halls. Lights would turn on automatically as we approached each section, and go dark again after we passed by.
The hallways were completely empty, but we knew that behind the blank, uniform doors sat thousands upon thousands of things—silent, waiting, and in some cases, probably forgotten. The air was heavy with their presence. It reminded me of a jail—a prison for people’s stuff. I felt sorry for our things as we turned the key and locked them away.
We don’t speak of it very often, and the monthly charge is debited automatically from our bank account. It’s easy to pretend it doesn’t exist, but in the back of our minds, we know we’ll have to deal with the contents on our next trip back to the States—whether to dispose of them, or accept the expense of shipping them over.
So, the question is, how little must one have to be truly “minimalist?” Only what you can carry on your back? In your car? In a van? Should the items be such that you could dispose of them without regret each time you move? Should you have no attachment to individual things, no matter how irreplaceable or costly they may be? Or is there room for a few, well-loved pieces that follow (or wait for) you wherever you go?
These are the issues I’m considering now, as we “rebuild” our lives in the UK—because, above all, we don’t want to be burdened by another set of things when (and if) we decide to move on.