+Note: By “tips” I mean “my personal actions,” and by “successfully” I mean “without dying.” (Some people may think, “That’s not particularly noteworthy,” and to that, I ask, “Oh, really? Since when is not dying even one time in my entire life so far not a big deal?”)
Every year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is don’t hit people, and every year, without fail, I regret putting it on my list. It’s a stretch goal, but I aim for difficult targets because I’m brave. And also because not bringing a shitload of shame to my family is important to me. I want to honour the only stable life I have ever known.
I didn’t grow up with stability in my childhood home, and it eluded me still after becoming a mother, but in this life I now share with Harv, it’s become a familiar and welcome presence. When stability was only a vague concept, I thought it meant being rooted in one place, both physically and psychically.
I’ve learned that home is wherever your people are and that being a stable person isn’t about remaining unchanged. It’s more about not allowing temporary but intense emotions and thoughts to dictate actions; or seeking the destruction of yourself, others, and property as a release; and learning to carry the extra weight of grief or sadness or disappointment without letting it define you. Basically, psychic stability is about not losing your motherfucking shit.
Since marrying Harv eight years ago, I’ve moved across the country twice (Los Angeles to Miami, then back to Los Angeles) and halfway across the country once (Los Angeles to Austin). Although I have not been rooted in one place physically, I am always at home because of Harv and Cal. I am with my people.
So, greetings from Texas. My fam and I moved to Austin in July. My maxim for this transition has been (and still is):
If you’re lost in the woods, burn it down.
Packing is one of my only skills. I know I’ve said “one of my only skills” about eight or nine times in the past. Humility aside, eight and nine are very high numbers so, yes, I’m a person of many talents, but I still like to be chill about it.
Two months before our move date, I spent a week buying packing supplies- hundreds of boxes, cartons of tape, professional-grade tape dispensers, foam peanuts, bubble wrap, colour-coded stickers, stacks of packing paper, and ten rolls of Necco wafers. It’s my candy of choice when I’m doing hard labour.
As the mountain of packing materials grew, Harv campaigned for professional packers. Each time he suggested it, I reminded him that sorting and packing were my passion. He never said, “Yes, yes, you’re right. Of course, you should do it all.” Instead, he gave me a lot of hard stares and said some bullshit about our previous moves and how I always ended up on the floor begging Jesus to please take me because I’m fucking done with this fucking shit.
I didn’t bother explaining that this time, things would be different. I knew he would be sorry when he saw my fastidious progress- the rows of neatly labelled boxes in each room, separated by size and weight, special notations for “fragile” and “unpack me first!”
At first, I mindfully sorted what would stay behind and what would make the move with us to Austin. After a week, every time I tried to tackle an area, I became mentally and physically exhausted, pain clamping my jaw shut and radiating through my arms.
Fifteen days before the move, I woke up still feeling unmotivated and lazy, but I forced myself out of bed to go to the gym. That simple act filled me with pride as I gloated about my newfound agility and strength since exercising on the reg.
In the midst of those congratulatory thoughts, I fell down the stairs. Luckily, the cup of water I was holding hit my face as I tumbled forward, so I felt awake and refreshed as I lay on the floor. My vision wavered and I felt dizzy as Cal helped me up. By the next day, I figured out that I could prevent the whirling sensation by keeping my head straight. As long as I didn’t turn left, turn right, look up, look down, or tilt my head even the slightest, I felt totally normal.
The vertigo proved burdensome because I still had a lot of packing to do. And by “a lot,” I mean that I hadn’t really started. Oftentimes, I got so dizzy that I would have to sit down or lean against a wall until the world stopped spinning. Then, one second later (like, literally, one second after I got my vision in check), I turned to mull over an item and swooned all over again.
When the movers arrived, I still hadn’t finished, so I continued packing as a team of men carted away boxes. When the moving van pulled away, I was standing in the midst of yet-to-be-packed items. Shit, I wanted. Shit I should have tucked away first but left out instead because, idk, it made sense at the time. They were too big or heavy to take onto the plane or leave with my brother.
I sat on the kitchen island trying to sort out my next steps. I felt boxed in, lost in all of the material baggage I had accumulated to fill the empty spaces in my heart.
If you’re lost in the woods, burn it down.
Instead of looking for ways to save everything, I left all of it behind. I set up another donation pick-up, and bagged up the items that were only valuable to me but to no one else for the garbage pile.
What I learned: Decluttering an entire life and home requires more than a handful of days. Because it’s not just a physical clearing. No matter how much I wanted it to be anything but, the process was a double-edged emotional purge. Freedom and loss. That loss brought grief, but I try not to stay mired in desire for what no longer remains in my life.
Also, next time, I’m for sure gonna hire some goddamn professional packers.
I did not tell my mother we were moving away. Before heading to the airport, Harv snapped one last picture, but I waited to post this picture and a moving announcement until the three of us were at the airport, through security, and waiting at our gate.