I Am Moving With Only 3 Duffel Bags of Stuff: How I Got Rid of Almost Everything I Own

I can't tote clutter to paradise.
Publish date:
May 14, 2013
moving, hoarding, cleaning, life changes

I am moving to Hawaii in three weeks, and I plan on boarding a plane to my new place with exactly three duffel bags and a box of kitchen toys.

To prep for the move, I am doing an major possession cleanse; I am getting rid of my furniture, my car, and 75 percent of my clothes. This has been insanely difficult because I like my shit.

Shedding all of my possessions is unnerving and exciting both at the same time. With each bag of things I get rid of, I feel more and more liberated. Naked, yes, but definitely liberated.

In order to figure out what goes and what stays, I have developed a tiered method of moving things in and out of piles like a crazy person.

This de-hoarding strategy has taken the form of a Yes, No, Maybe routine. I go through all of my things -- from clothes to dishware to creepy old love letters that I hang on to in the name of narcissism -- and put them in their appropriate piles.

Yes is for keeps. No is for donate, consign, or throw away. And Maybe is for the things I don't really like enough to commit to lugging on a plane, but can't handle getting rid of yet.

I make these piles, and then I take all of the No items and put them in trash bags. I've had a “two bags a week” rule for the past two months. Twice a week, I take a large garbage bag into my bedroom, attic, or basement, and begin purging. I am not allowed to stop until I have filled the bag. Haven't filled the bag, but out of Nos? Well then I begin moving Maybes to Nos, and Yeses to Maybes. Eventually I aim to be left with only Yeses.

The most amazing thing about this method is how quickly the Yes items evolve into Maybes and then Nos. It's all about comparison.

When I was a teenager I used to spend my summers at a co-ed sleep away camp with a small group of equally awkward peers. In the woods of upstate New York, we would kayak, practice survival skills and tongue each other under the guise of searching for firewood.

Each summer, I witnessed something I dubbed “desert island syndrome.” By the end of my camp session, I would find myself hunkered down in the underbrush licking the braces of someone I perhaps never would have been attracted to in other circumstances, but who looked extremely appealing after two weeks with no contact from the outside.

Packing and purging has been desert island syndrome in reverse. The things I couldn't bear to lose two weeks ago become less appealing in comparison to others. If I can only take three bags with me, all of my possessions need to vie for their rightful place. They are fighting for my approval! (See above: Narcissism.)

Here are a few of my rules:

Love it or leave it. When it comes to clothes, if I don't love it, then I leave it. This is way easier said than done. I have been hoarding dozens of graphic tees I bought from Urban Outfitters in the 10th grade. I have dresses I keep meaning to get fitted, pants that have needed hemming for the past four years, and things that are unflattering but sentimental. Out they go. If I can't remember that last time I wore it? Out it goes. If I don't feel great in it, then it goes. Stains? Get out of me.

No take backs. Once I move something to No, there is no moving it back. I can easily talk myself back into that Sublime tank I bought from Hot Topic in 2001. What if I want to work out in it? What if I want it to sleep in? What if I get separation anxiety knowing it no longer takes up real estate in my shitty tee drawer? On that note, I got rid of just about everything in my shitty tee drawer.

ANKK. That stands for Absolutely No Knick-Knacks. If it doesn't have a purpose, then it goes. Sure, it now looks like I share a bedroom with Patrick Batemen. But I can't tote clutter to paradise, so if purging makes me look like a sociopath, so be it.

The books have been the hardest part. Not only do I enjoy them, but they are the one thing I hoard that make me look intelligent.

In my possession purge, I got rid of an entire box of erotica and books about exploring your sexuality. I donated the box to the Good Will. I piled several innocent looking cookbooks on top, handed it to the nice gentleman collecting goods at the back door of the store, got in my car and drove away real hard. I have no idea why I can tell the Internet about that time I thought an ingrown hair was herpes, but handing a stranger a box of (gently) used sex books gives me the shakes.

Alright, who has made a move that involved a major purge? Any tips for getting rid of my shit?

Follow me on Twitter for updates on my move and evidence of my impending nervous breakdown.