By Gabrielle.

We are home!

It doesn’t quite feel like home yet, but it’s getting there. And we love this house!

I feel like I’m still recovering from last week. We knew clearing out the storage unit wouldn’t be the most fun thing we’ve ever done, but I didn’t understand exactly how challenging it would be. I think I’m still processing the whole thing.

Would you indulge me if I vent for a bit?

silver bed

As a recap for those who are just now following along: When we moved to France, since the house we were renting was completely furnished, all we brought with us was clothes (plus some books and a few holiday items). So the rest of our belongings — the furniture, the plates, the bikes, the bedding, etc. — went into storage.

And because we had a young baby at the time, we decided it would be simplest and easiest to hire out the storage unit packing. So a moving team came for a day and packed up the whole house and put everything in a storage unit. And we didn’t have to deal with it at all. Which was so nice! There was no purging. No figuring out what we should store, and what we should donate. No clearing out armoire shelves and dresser drawers. Everything was simply wrapped up and put into storage as is. We essentially paid for our problem to go away. It felt like a luxury at the time. And it still does when I remember it!

We were only planning on being gone for one year, then we would find a house in Denver and transfer our storage to the new home, and settle in. Easy peasy.

But it didn’t work that way. : )

Instead, one year grew to 2 1/2 years. We moved from France to Oakland, to a semi-furnished house. And when we faced our storage unit last week, we knew that many of our belongings no longer made sense. For example, ski gear and sleds that were perfect for Colorado don’t make as much sense in the bay area. Matching toddler beds? No longer necessary.

So, we rented a smallish truck, and we reduced our belongings by 75%.

Seventy five percent. That is a lot!

green table

And it was shockingly emotional. Like going through the history of our life and marriage in a really condensed amount of time. We said goodbye to the little red cabinet I designed for our first nursery. We said goodbye to the armoire I found in New York — it housed our toys then, and my fabric stash in Colorado. We painted it twice. We said goodbye to treasures I’d found at tag sales. We said goodbye to every piece of furniture in the Napoleon Dynamite room. We said goodbye to furniture we’d saved up for as newlyweds. And not just furniture. We purged files from college. We donated books and books and books we no longer need (yet somehow we still have so many books!). We got rid of my old graphic design portfolio samples. Outdated business cards. So much stuff!

And because we didn’t pack the boxes, we didn’t know what was in the boxes, so we had to open each one and figure out if there was anything in there we needed to save. It was one of those situations where a box from the office might have our tax files (essential!), and also a half used cube of Kleenex (sigh!). Essentials had to be repacked and put on the truck. Everything else had to be donated or sent to the dump. Load after load after load went to Good Will.

A thousand decisions (donate, repack, sell, trash, decide later) every hour. One minute, I would be showing the kids the sequined glove I wore when I did a Michael Jackson lip sync in high school and we would all be laughing, and the next I would be snapping at everybody to keep-working-or-we’ll-never-get-all-this-done! And then I would have to hide behind some boxes so I could cry for a minute and pull myself together. There’s no question, I was a total wreck.

pelmet box

Of course, it ultimately feels good to get rid of so much stuff. We could feel the weight lift from our shoulders as the storage unit emptied out. But I think the amount of reduction, plus the time limits because of the truck rental (we had 3 days to get it done), combined with the actual physical work of moving boxes and furniture, left me feeling traumatized. Like I said, I think I’m still recovering. I know that technically, we didn’t have to purge, we could have rented a bigger truck and brought more stuff to California. But really, if I had done that, I would have just been putting off the work for a future date.

We finished packing up late Wednesday night, and the very next morning, we jumped in the car and started on the long drive back to Oakland. 18 hours total. Ben Blair and I could barely manage to talk about the storage unit. I think we were still processing. Though the packing and purging had to be done ourselves, we did hire out a driver for the truck. What a blessing! It was so nice to be together during that long drive home.

Our truck driver will arrive either today or tomorrow. We’ll drop him off at the airport, and then we’ll start the big task of unloading and unpacking.

Doesn’t it feel like this is the move that never ends? Hah!

When I get overwhelmed (which is often at the moment), I keep imagining our life a month in the future, when the boxes will mostly be gone, the kids will be in school, and we’ll have some sort of schedule going on. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Tell me, Friends, have you ever had to do a major purge like this? Could you get rid of 75% of your belongings? Would you find it freeing? I remember talking with Wendy of Blue Lily before they left on their first world tour — they got rid of everything but one box!