Our house is empty, our things are packed. In the flurry of these last few weeks I have, multiple times, shoved all of my belongings into various cabinets, boxes and suitcases. Needless to say, I’m ready to take a little break as Andrew and I travel to see family before jetting off to our new home. In my absence here I’ll be breaking in a new journal and wearing out an old pair of shoes, and I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.
When faced with an impending challenge, my favorite way to tackle it is through preparation. Call me a Boy Scout if you will, but I will research and list-make and conduct dry-runs until I have conquered the situation. Moving is no different.
With a military move overseas, we will be sending two separate shipments — one is called the “unaccompanied baggage,” and it is smaller, arrives earlier and travels by air. The final shipment is referred to as “household goods,” and it includes larger items like furniture. This shipment usually arrives one or two months after the physical move, and travels on a barge, often going through the Panama Canal.
Trying to decide what items go in which shipment has been the most complicated process of the move so far. I haven’t wanted to send anything too early that we will need in the weeks after shipping, but I certainly don’t want to be burdened by tons of luggage on our trip to Hawaii. Take into account the changing seasons and a week of cross-country travel to see family at the end of October before flying to a tropical island and you have one complicated situation.
So, to cope, I do what I do best: I made a list. A list for unaccompanied baggages, a list for household goods, a list of things to give away, a list of things to send home to my parents, a list of items to pack with us in our traveling luggage. Knowing exactly what we would need in each stage of this process was the first step to feeling more in control.
Last week Andrew had the brilliant idea to stage a practice run of our packing process, and this was the second step to arriving at a fine-tuned moving plan. With list in hand, I gathered everything I wanted to pack in check and carry-on luggage — including clothes for fall in the States and active living in Hawaii, a few kitchen items we will be using up until our move, an air mattress and bedding for when our household goods are shipped — and spread it all out on our bed. Various open suitcases were strewn about, and once all items were gathered we set about the arduous task of packing.
It was handy to have one person manage the list while another gathered items, and I recommend having a hard copy of the list available for note-making and the checking off of items. We had several instances where we realized we wouldn’t need something, or that an item would not fit or be useful; in that case, we simply made a note on the list and altered the other lists accordingly.
Now, this may sound a little extreme, but trust me when I say that it is a valuable exercise.
We undertook this mission one free afternoon the week before our first round of movers came, and it did wonders to soothe my worry and relax my tangled mind. No more concern over whether clothes will fit or what kind of bag we’ll have to put our files and important documents in — that puzzle has been solved.
After documenting what we packed and where we packed it, we set about un-packing — but this was the best part. Before unloading the clothes we had just packed (two weeks worth of transitional items for warm weather or as layers for cool weather), we took all remaining hanging and folded clothes and stacked them in a giant plastic bin. This left us with plenty of drawer and closet space in which to store the clothes we knew we would need for traveling and living until our goods arrived, and with no need to separate them from superflous items.
Not only is it a relief not to have to worry about sorting clothes, but it is a breeze to get dressed in the morning. Andrew and I share a tiny closet and it is always crammed full — although this speaks more to the miniscule size of our closet than the amount of clothes we have — but now, all of my favorite, most useful items are hanging, unimpeded, in my closet, and it is a relief.
For your reference, I’m including my abbreviated packing list. No matter if you’re moving overseas, PCS-ing with the military, or just hopping over to a new house across town, this list can be helpful.
1 set beach towels, 1 set Turkish bath towels
laundry soap, dryer ball + sheets
shower curtain + rings
clothing for 2 weeks
shoes + jackets
jewelry in travel case
air mattress + pump
bedding + pillows
important files + documents
sm. cutting board + knives
pour-over coffee maker + filters
travel mugs + water bottles
cookbooks: Well Fed, Quick & Easy Paleo Comfort Foods
laptops + cords
cameras + cords
travel chess set
snacks: EPIC bars, activated nuts, homemade trail mix, fruit…
* * * * *
photo by katiekatt via flickr
// SEPTEMBER //
Get back into running. — I have so enjoyed leisurely jogs in the cool mornings or in the afternoon rain, and I have determined that those runs are more my speed than any kind of race. But I’m so glad I tried out a race — see my post-5K photo here. Finish out the Whole30. — Read my recap here. Teach a Pilates class. — Eight classes down and going strong! Finish those refinishing projects. — I finally finished painting and staining a couple tables and a dresser, and now I’m ready to put away the sander for a while. Celebrate. — A craft beer-tasting party and lots of brownies were the stuff of celebration for Andrew’s birthday, and I’m looking forward to doing a little belated-birthday celebration when my parents visit.
// OCTOBER //
Keep running. These short, relaxed runs make me feel great.
Soak up fall before heading to the Land of Eternal Summer. This means picking apples, wearing boots and sitting by a fire. And enjoying plenty of autumnal baked goods, like the pumpkin cinnamon-sugar muffins from Health Bent and chocolate zucchini bread from The Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook pictured above.
Curtail spending. I did well on my last spending hiatus, and after reassessing the month’s budget and re-reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I’m recommitted to purchasing only the essentials (groceries, toiletries, etc). Not to mention the fact that soon our household goods will be in a crate on their way to Hawaii and we’re limited to a what we can carry in a few suitcases, so accumulating more is simply not an option.
Relax. This is the month in which everything comes together, and at the end of it we’ll move. I’m going to do my best to chill out through it all and enjoy the ride!
What’s going on with you this month? I love October, and I’m looking forward to soaking it all in without any pressure to achieve big things.
I mentioned in last week’s DIY post that it’s a good idea not to save all of those crafty projects for the last month or so leading up to a big move. That was just one of many moving tips I’ve been collecting over the summer, and I’m thinking I’m going to start sharing them as a part of a series. There are just so many little details that many of us never think of until it’s too late, and I’d like to bring a little more thoughtfulness and awareness to the process, for myself and for you.
We’re currently doing a daily online search of real estate listings in Hawaii and it’s thrilling. Seeing all of the condos, the cottages, the houses in suburbia that could actually be ours, just a few minutes from the beach and all the busy city-glory that is Honolulu. Our goals is to rent something big enough to stretch out a little in, big enough to host friends and family, but not so big that we get lost in it. I saw an affordable four-bedroom property last week and dreamed for a minute about furnishing two whole guestrooms before I realized how ridiculous that would actually be. Two small people in a four-bedroom house? We’d jangle around in it like so much loose change in a pocket.
I’ve also seen the most amazing condo in a high-rise in downtown Honolulu, with an entire wall of sliding glass doors leading out onto the lanai — a Hawaiian term for an outdoor living space, like a porch or a deck — and a travertine shower and a bright kitchen with maple cupboards and granite countertops. Wowza. It was also small — with two bedrooms and less square footage than we have in our little home now. I got a little distracted from that important fact of space, and can you blame me for letting the glitter of cosmopolitan living get in my eyes?
This brings me to my point: don’t overestimate the square footage of your new home, and don’t underestimate the sheer volume of stuff that you have.
When we first moved into our current home there was stuff everywhere and hardly any space to move. The movers kept unloading cardboard box after cardboard box until I felt like I was going to be swallowed up by cardboard and never found again. I had made the mistake of overestimating the size of our place — which is plenty large enough for us and our furniture, a little under 1,000 square feet — and the bigger mistake of not getting rid of enough superflous stuff before shipping it all across the country.
So I went to work, purging and making piles to give away and piles to throw away and piles of recycling…it was liberating but it was hard, and a project I wished I had undertaken while we were still at our first apartment.
This time around I’m being a little more ruthless with our things. All of the objects that made the cut in the last round, but still haven’t been touched in the eight months that we’ve been here, are going to the charity shop. Someone else will get plenty of use out of my spare yoga mat (who has a spare yoga mat??), all of those t-shirts from college, the junky Christmas decor I scrounged for secondhand.
Ideologically I prefer minimalism. It’s frustrating when my actual needs don’t match up with what I believe to be the best; i.e., when I want to live with less but in reality need to keep those winter parkas and gloves for our next move. (Or, more truthfully, when I want to live with less but just can’t bear to give away any more books or shoes.) I’m coming to peace with the fact that I won’t be like those people who pare their belongings down to the bare minimum of 100 things. And that’s a good thing, because for me and my life that would not be a truthful existence but rather a weird, self-imposed challenge for sake of the challenge. Instead I’ll take each move as an opportunity to gladly and gradually shave down our load, to pursue a simpler, less wasteful life, one full of beautiful, useful things.
All this to say: be realistic. Be ruthless. Live with less and carry a tape measure, always.
My mind has been going every-which-way for the past few days. I’ll start making a to do list and then remember that I need to switch the calendar over to July in the kitchen, and on my way there I pick up some shoes to put away and decide I’m thirsty, so I’ll stop for some water at the fridge. Then I’ll remember to take my vitamins, and before I know it I’m at the table cutting up an apple for a snack. Sometime later I’ll remember my original task — lately, I’m in more of a “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” mood than anything else.
You see, the reality of this life as a military spouse has finally hit me. Last week we found out our next assignment will be in Hawaii, and we’ll move there — from Texas, across the ocean, with all our belongings — in the fall. Isn’t that crazy? Isn’t that amazing? How is it even possible?? Those are some of the things my mind has been turning over and over. Moving to Hawaii is not “normal” or “common,” but hell if I want that kind of life anyway (see this beautiful reminder of the possibility that life affords). Right now I’m probably a little too focused on the little things, like how to even begin this process of shipping a car, storing our winter coats, scheduling a move and a flight or two. Sure, I’ve done a move before, but never like this. It all becomes a bit overwhelming once the details and the big picture intermingle.
A little over a year ago my husband and I were in Hawaii for our honeymoon. We visited Volcano National Park, toured Pearl Harbor on Memorial Day, cruised Waikiki beach with fruity cocktails and wore nothing but bathing suits and sandals. Had you asked me then to think about returning to live on the islands I would have brushed the suggestion off as an inconceivable dream.
But it’s here — it is my new reality. And it’s fitting that the Equals Record published this essay of mine this week, even though I submitted it months ago. As with all things, the timing is perfect.
In the midst of all of this thinking and wondering and questioning, I’ve let go of my original sense of euphoria. I’m here to bring back the dreaming and keep the excitement for this next adventure alive, starting with a cocktail and a list — my two favorite forms of celebration.
Here are some things I’m looking forward to about island life:
learning to surf and paddleboard
hiking every weekend, to waterfalls and through rainforests and along towering cliffs overlooking the ocean
learning about a traditional culture and the amazing foods that go along with it
eating fresh coconut and pineapple
perfecting beach hair
hosting family vacations
running on the sand
making new friends
settling into a new house
dancing the hula and playing the ukelele
I’m excited to soak up every new flavor and texture, to embrace this new reality with an attitude of adventure and celebration. Another aspect of military life is what I like to call reinvention — every few years I get to pick up my roots with my family, clean out our belongings and start afresh somewhere new. I can inject a fresh perspective into myself, my home, my work, my experience.
So instead of getting bogged down in the minutiae of my to do lists, I’m trying to remember that although small accomplishments like organizing one closet or taking a load to the thrift store can make me feel like I have control, truthfully I am not one step closer to controlling things than I was a few months ago. But, thankfully, what has turned into my reality is better than any dream I’ve had yet. Keep it coming, world.
Watermelon Mint Mojito
flesh of half a small watermelon, seeds removed
handful of fresh mint, washed
4-8 oz. dark rum
6 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender and combine until smooth and frothy. Serve with a watermelon wedge and a sprig of fresh mint to garnish.
I used a small “personal watermelon” but any kind will do. Play with the proportions to make a stronger drink or to increase the volume.This makes enough for 2 delicious drinks. I’m planning on triple-ing the recipe to make enough for the weekend — this will be perfect for watching fireworks with friends.
P.S. Happy Independence Day!
I’m back at my Texas home from a whirlwind trip to my Arkansas home. It was a perfect birthday gift of family and friends and four days’ worth of cake, all tied up in the most beautiful ribbon of green grass and balmy temperatures. These are just a few snapshots of pretty details — from a trip to the creek, scenes from around the garden, a lavish breakfast with my grandparents that has become our favorite tradition.
As grateful as I am to be unpacked and home with my husband, I already miss it there.
The span of events between this day last year and this day this year have been immense. Last year’s birthday was a pretty wonderful one. Andrew and I had just returned from our honeymoon in Hawaii, and I got to spend a few blissful days with him and my family at the farm in Arkansas, soaking up the lush, rolling gold of the hay fields, gin & tonics and cookouts. We had a birthday cake and ice cream, we watched movies and languished in the summer heat, and it was all very quiet and small, we four together.
My parents gave me a beautiful antique locket with my new-last-name initials engraved on the back — purchased at the vintage store that way, mind you — and blurry photos of someone else’s beloved inside. I treasure it.
Now, birthday gifts aren’t near as important as the one-on-one time spent with my parents, the pets, my grandparents, my great-grandfather, and a few choice friends from back home. This year I flew back to Arkansas alone to revel in a few days of my favorite things and people — sangria by the pool with college roommates and childhood besties, cooking dinner for my family, falling asleep with the windows open to the sound of peepers and cicadas by the pond. A run along the gravel backroads, past grazing cattle and ponds. Immense sunrises filtered through the tangle of tomato plants. Chickens pecking at the flower beds, cats curling around my ankles, my parents just within hugging distance. This, this is what I treasure. This is the best birthday gift I could have asked for.
Twenty-three marks and entirely new set of challenges than did twenty-two. I will live somewhere else, I will possible go back to school and start a new career, I will write and run and struggle and strive, I will try my best to love and be loved. Somehow, it feels a little more important than the year before, as if all of those past experiences are building up with more pressure to create something bigger, more powerful, in this upcoming 365 days.
And what have I learned in twenty-three years on this earth? Oh, the same things I seem to learn and re-learn every year. To think before I speak. To put on mascara before I leave the house. To pay attention to people and details, to listen, to give abundantly despite my best efforts at selfishness. To enjoy a homemade chocolate cake but not too much or too often. To move and pray every day. To let go of regret and focus on making tomorrow a better day. To speak kindness and love or nothing at all. To think twice before making a purchase, to save rather than spend. To fight like hell for those I love. To loosen up. To eat more vegetables. To send a handwritten note or make a quick phone call.
So, happy birthday to me. Cheers to twenty-three years of lessons learned, good and bad, the hard way and the easy way. Cheers to family and friends, to a home that is steadfast and welcomes me no matter where I come from. Cheers to homemade cake and loyal pups and birthday presents that can’t come from any store. I’ll toast to that.