"Have you started packing?" My mother asked me very excitedly during a Skype call last weekend. "Ummmm, nope," I answered. "It's nowhere near that time yet."
But, after this conversation I realized it is indeed that time. I have less than two months until I board a flight back to Canada. Don't start to panic, I reassured myself. It's not as if you haven't done this whole pack-up-your-life-thing before.
When I arrived in Australia (more than four years ago in fact) I had a medium-sized suitcase and a large hiking pack. That was it. I managed to cram what I thought I'd need for the next six months into those bags.
But, those short six months have multiplied into a much longer four years. My belongings have multiplied too. Everything from clothing to personalized paintings, notebooks and actual books, even coffee mugs I now treasure. I've accumulated lots of things.
Keep, toss, giveaway
There's a TV show in North America where real people with real (read: messy) homes invite an organizational expert to help them de-clutter their lives. The main thing I remember from the show was the three categories used to help the homeowners pare-down their belongings: keep, toss, giveaway.
I figure this seems like a good place to start as I attempt to pack up my life. It's a bit daunting to sit in my bedroom and mentally categorize what to take and what to leave behind. So, with boxes, bin liners and a duffle bag set up...
I have to remind myself I actually do have quite a few belongings left in storage when I return to Canada. I clearly had no need for winter coats and boots when I made the journey to Australia. It's more the sentimental items I want to bring with me: four years' worth of journal entries, three small floral prints a friend hand-painted for my birthday, and a coffee mug that reminds me of a good day out searching a second-hand store with a friend. These are just some of the things I don't want to leave behind.
Why did I keep that (insert useless item) just in case? Or the shirt that never really looked good on me anyway? Or how about those receipts in the bottom of my junk drawer, did I honestly think I'd need them again?
This category is almost a no-brainer. If it's broken, a scrap piece of paper, or actual rubbish: toss it or recycle it. There's no way I'm wasting precious kilos of my checked baggage with things I, let alone nobody else, would want!
This one's actually relatively easy. There are always people in my YWAM community who will gladly accept used clothing or other items. On tight budgets, second-hand is a way of life. Plus, with much of my closet consisting of second-hand finds it's easier for me to part with these items. I don't need my Aussie-plug hair dryer either. It's pretty useless once I get back to Canada. Anyone need it?
I've realized that this categorizing strategy is helping me with more than just my material belongings. The good times, challenges, and personal changes I've experienced over the past four years fall into these categories too.
Take only memories
There's a tip I remember from visiting a protected forest: "leave only footprints, take only memories." I feel like it applies to the transition I'm about to undertake. There's not much I can really take with me, other than my memories.
There are some I'd like to forget if possible. Then still, there are those memories I'd like to remind others of, while many I want to personally cherish and hold on to.
I'd like to toss out and leave behind a couple bad habits and thought patterns. I sometimes (read: often) take life a little too seriously. I'd like to leave this behind so I can enjoy life more fully. Even my tendency to make decisions to please other people isn't something I want to carry with me once I leave Australia.
I want to give away memories I shared with some amazing friends, and remind them of those moments. Harder still for me, is telling certain people how much they really mean to me. I want to remind them of the value of our shared experiences and relationships.
Finally, there are the memories and character-building moments (read: struggles) I want to take with me no matter where I go. Four years is long enough to have accumulated many of these, and thankfully, my suitcases aren't big enough for all of them.
Lisa Goetze is a 30-something-woman trying to love Jesus and love people with reckless abandon. She's on a journey to find how to do this best through her love for turning ordinary spaces into welcoming ones, encouraging women of all ages to recognize their value and whenever possible including coffee and good food.
Lisa Goetze's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/lisa-goetze.html