Despite the barely bearable stress that it creates
It is said that wisdom comes with age.
I am still waiting, not so very patiently anymore, but I haven’t given up hope.
I am moving house. If you read my article Moving House In The South Of France you’ll know that it is no easy endeavour. Bien au contraire.
I am at the packing stage. I hate packing. I have been packing now for thirteen days. I spend from 3-5 hours a day packing depending on how much time I have available. The most time-consuming part, as everyone knows who have ever moved house, is not the packing itself, it is deciding what to keep and what to let go.
Trying to make move less stressful, I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. According to a survey from a moving company, it takes 182 days for the average person to unpack every box after a move, and some boxes never get unpacked at all. When I started packing, I had several boxes in the attic that I have not unpacked since the last move. I was very tempted to send these straight to the dechetterie (waste disposal unit,) but I could not. So I started packing by clearing out the attic. It was a tedious process. Reading the book did help, without Marie’s guidelines, it would have taken twice as long and would have been much more painful.
My Personal Packing Strategy
My version of the sorting and packing process looks a bit like this:
Have I used this in the past two years? If yes, and I am sure I would continue to use it, I keep it.
If no, I ask myself if owning it makes me happy. If it does, for whatever reason, I pack it.
If I have more than one item, exactly the same, I try to determine why this was the case. I have two microwaves, two irons, two ironing boards etc. because my current house includes a self-catering apartment. I am moving to a house without self-catering accommodation, so I gave some of these items to friends and sold the rest online.
For some or other reason, I also had, for example, four hairdryers. I had kept all four, just in case, one day, my current hairdryer breaks. Handling this one was difficult. I decided to give the current one to the charity shop, keep the newest model, give one to a friend and sell the remaining one.
If I wasn’t sure if something still makes me happy or whether I would continue to use it, I ask myself if it was time to pass it on to someone else who might find owning it a pleasure, or just plain useful. If the answer was yes, it went to a friend (as did one of my horses) or the Emmaus (a charity shop.)
If no, I ask myself if it can be recycled. Recycling things make me feel virtuous, so a lot of things went off to the recycle bin, including an Audi that was no longer roadworthy.
How My Packing Strategy Benefits Others
So. Who benefits from my updated packing strategy?
- A few of my friends who now own my precious pre-loved and in many cases, still-loved possessions.
- I got rid of at least 30% of our possessions so far, which means we have much less to move. The move will be less stressful, and my immediate family benefits significantly from my lowered stress levels.
- One of my horses has found a new home with one of my friends, where he will be dearly loved, spoiled rotten and will live out the rest of his life in luxury.
- The Emmaus Community benefited from my donations, which they will resell and so maintain their independent status.
- The environment benefited from my attempts to recycle as many of our possessions that we no longer need. It is easier to part with stuff when you know it is going to be used to produce useful items and will not end in a landfill.
- I did. Although I did not make much money selling things, but this did not matter, at least I made an effort. I also met some interesting people on and off-line.
I benefitted in several further unexpected ways:
Decluttering lifted a burden from my shoulders. I intended to get rid of our unwanted, no-longer-used and no-longer loved possessions for a long time. Moving forced me to stop procrastinating and to get to it. My motto these days is: Collect experiences, not possessions.
I make a point to hold everything I no longer wanted in my hands for a moment and to thank it for what it had bought to my life. This has been an empowering experience that I highly recommend. If you are familiar with my writing, you will know that gratitude and generosity are two of my favourite subjects. The sorting, sharing and packing process give me yet another opportunity to be grateful and generous. The short- and long-term benefits of this practice are extensive, as I explain in my book Embracing Change – in 10 minutes a day.
Finally, I recently read that being grateful is a potent anti-ageing activity. We are already more likely to pause and reflect on what we have to be thankful for as we grow older than we were in our 20’s and 30’s. In the video below, Dr Wendy Mendes of the University of California, San Francisco, discusses the anti-ageing effect of gratitude in more detail:
Knowing that I am benefiting from packing in these various ways, helps me to deal with the stress of moving house. On balance, I would say that the stress of packing is just about balanced by the benefits of packing. But only just.
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