the stuff we forgot we had


Neither Farrell nor I knows whose shoes these are. This is just one item we forgot we had stored.

I have a thing with things. Maybe it’s a side-effect of moving so often, from being forced to constantly evaluate the value of my belongings, judging what’s worth keeping and paring down to a more easily transportable load. I have many deep thoughts on the stuff I have, want and need, and I go through cycles of wanting lots of stuff and wanting absolutely none of it.

While we’ve been back in the US, we decided to once and for all go through all of the stuff we had stored at my parents’ house and either ship it to Belgium, trash it, donate it, sell it, or continue to store it. We ended up getting rid of a fair amount of stuff after organizing two yard sales and then dropping off seven (!!!) boxes of clothing and other assorted things at a church donation center. Going through all of these boxes was an enlightening experience, but mostly made me scratch my head and mutter, “Why did I ever think it was important to keep this for this long?”

Some things we found? A half-used roll of aluminum foil, several lightbulbs in their original packaging, a $100 Amazon gift card (score! maybe I’ll finally buy this book I’ve been eyeing?), the entire contents of my former bathroom (bottles of nail polish remover, shampoo, lotion, razors, hairbrushes that I apparently assumed I wouldn’t need in Bishkek), a worksheet from a gemology workshop I took in Baghdad (true story), pictures of somebody’s ex-wife (ooo, scandalous!), a large (and heavy!) collection of foreign coins (if anybody needs to buy a sandwich in Iceland, Thailand, Jordan, Romania, Brazil [side side note: I’ve never been to Brazil], or many other countries, I have you covered), floppy discs, DVDs (are those even relevant anymore?), and so much more.

Looking back through all of this stuff, we should have sold or given away the vast majority of it before we left DC. Things like dishes, silverware, and glasses would have been useful in Bishkek, then we wouldn’t have needed to purchase a whole new set there, but it would’ve been completely impractical to ship in the first place. All that stuff should’ve been unloaded from the start. By the looks of what we did pack, we must have assumed we’d be back within a year anyway. “I mean, we will need toothpicks when we come back, might as well keep this small bundle of them rather than purchase new ones.”

Then there was the furniture we kept, like the mirrored side table I bought from a Zara display window (I carried that thing on foot all the way back to my dorm room). This is stuff I still wanted to keep if there was a convenient way to do so, but it’s too expensive to ship and with no clear plan of when we might move back to the US, it seemed like a better idea to sell them.


And our couch! Sure, after years of reading design blogs, it looks a bit boring now, but this was our first big furniture purchase as a couple and we searched high and low for a comfortable couch within our price range that didn’t look terrible. We’re currently using Craigslist to attempt to part with it. On a different note: how much does it suck to interact with people through Craigslist?


A Playstation One? What did we ever think we would do with this?

We couldn’t part with everything that couldn’t be shipped. There are several (heavy) boxes of books in my dad’s shed that will patiently await our return to the US, plus some other mementos that seemed silly to ship, but too sentimental to trash. And of course, since I married Farrell, there’s a stack of musical equipment of some sort everywhere we go.

I’m slowly inching closer to my version of paradise, a house of my own with all of my belongings in one location.

What about you guys, I know there are some other travelers and expats that read this blog, have you ever had to make big decisions about your stuff? What did you do?

3 replies on “the stuff we forgot we had”

  1. I sold everything and gave the rest to goodwill. Best decision ever! I regret nothing! I can’t even remember most of the stuff. When we got back after being gone for a year we opened up the 4 boxes of stuff we had left. No clue why we decided to keep that stuff, so we threw most of it away. Now we only have some pictures, a few books and a few souvenirs. Feels good.
    Good luck with selling all of your stuff! It’s hard to let go, but it’s worth it 🙂

  2. We only moved 30 boxes over with no furniture. I gave away and sold stuff, I sent things back to my mum’s house and I shipped stuff over. There’s also a “thing” in the Arctic (maybe not all communities but certainly the one I lived in) where previous tenants would just leave stuff when they moved (mostly in private accommodation rentals, not apartment buildings). It was good if you were just starting out and didn’t have a lot of stuff but hell if you came with a full apartment of stuff because you had to figure out how to dispose of the other person’s stuff or make it work with the stuff you already had.
    The stuff I brought to Australia was largely “necessities” (craft stuff, books, christmas decorations, sentimental dishes, photos), I have some sentimental stuff that I moved here and some at my mum’s. I basically abandoned everything else I couldn’t sell or didn’t give away (so my old apartment came with shelving, couches, dishes, baking stuff, even some food). I regret not packing more kitchen stuff but otherwise I’m not sad about any of the other stuff I’ve left behind.

  3. I love the disparity between these two comments, Angela kept four boxes and Megan shipped 30. I also like how everybody has a different view of what’s a necessity. Megan, I know my mom would agree with you that Christmas decorations are a necessity! I think I may have packed up a few Christmas stockings to ship from the US because I knew otherwise she would send more anyway 😉 Souvenirs, photographs, art and decorations definitely made up a big part of what we’re shipping to Belgium. I figure, we’re going to be here for a while and I want to display stuff and put my personal touch on this place. Other than that, a ton of kitchen stuff. Our new place, surprisingly, is fully stocked but I’m already glad we have our own cookware and silverware, etc, on the way.

    In other news, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to get rid of stuff in the Arctic.

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