The Expat Cycle of Stuff

I hate stuff. Every time we move home I throw it out and yet it comes back to haunt me in all its dusty, sun bleached, cobwebby horror. I’m currently averaging a move every six months and you’d think by the rate I’m chucking stuff out that I’d be surviving on a capsule wardrobe, a corkscrew and my passport.

suitcase photo
All packed darling!

Stuff follows me around the globe. I’m ashamed to write that friends’ homes worldwide, from Brussels to Damascus, from Yorkshire to Shanghai have become self storage solutions for my clutter. Generally after a few months the kindest friends get in touch and politely hint that I might want to collect my wares. Wiser friends crack open anything drinkable and send the rest to the skip.

I’ve lost track of my stuff. I’m worse than a MyHermes delivery guy on a bad day. I don’t even know which country my wedding dress is in.

lost luggage photo
I think my dress is in the one at the bottom. Photo by spencer341b

One very organised Expater buddy records a basic inventory of her wardrobe and follows a strict regime of ‘chuck before you buy’. It forces her to buy less in the first place, as she has to love the item enough to be prepared to chuck out anything similar in her wardrobe beforehand.

Tidying Consultant Marie Kondo created the KonMari Method™, preaching that ‘belongings [should be] acknowledged for their service and thanked before being discarded, if they no longer spark joy’. Perhaps I should welcome a little decluttering, a little KonMari in my life? Trouble is, I can’t even find my belongings. Kondo, the most organised person in the world would have to visit half of the world to get to grips with my mess.

wardrobe photo

Alas it seems that my hatred of stuff is second only to my love of shopping. And since the dawn of online sales, the launch of The Outnet, and my discovery of Barcelona auction houses things have only got worse.

I tell myself that as my stuff is in storage, has been lost in transit or is stranded at a friend’s place, then it’s acceptable to double, triple and quadruple buy replacements. One day I might collect all my stuff together and found the Museum of Black Handbags.bags photo

My moves abroad are also accompanied by the joy of reconnecting with long lost wardrobe friends. The hat I wore to Ascot, my favourite vintage watch, my warmest woolen Sunday afternoon jumper. And then follows the disappointment of finding it’s all rubbish. The hat is crumpled, the watch has stopped and the jumper is moth eaten. And then, to my shame I discover all the duplicates.

So the throw away cycle begins again.

After years of practise I’ve become better at letting go. I’m good at recycling. I’m happy to donate. Lock up the kids when I’m on a throw away session because I’m on a roll…

In a few weeks time a 40ft container of stuff will be arriving from Nigeria. Now we have to decide whether to rent a bigger temporary house, find a safe storage lock up or move to a more permanent larger home abroad. Advice and tips from fellow Expaters is very welcome. I’ve been calling around for storage quotes, but have been a little sidetracked… Net a Porter has a sale on.

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