Cleaning Out My Life and Letting Go

I am surrounded by things. My things. Nearly everything in this apartment I sit in while writing this was bought by me or for me with the purpose of filling up my life and shaping my home. There are things for comfort (the sofa I sit on), utility (a litany of kitchen equipment), or amusement (my prodigious book collection). And while they've all served a purpose and helped define a chapter of my life, many of them now seem superfluous.

When I decided to move to London, my first thought was for the friends I would leave behind. My second was for the sheer volume of stuff that would have to be sold, donated, and junked. It was staggering and almost crippling though despite my living in a home that is likely smaller than most of the people reading this.

I'm proud to say that my 320-square-foot studio has suited me well, in part because after nearly nine years of New York apartment living I've become an expert a bringing things into my home that serve multiple functions. No storage opportunity is overlooked. No kitchen gadget can have just one purpose. (Note the ice cream maker that I want so desperately but have been loath to buy because of giving up precious kitchen storage space.)

I realize the privilege it is to have stuff. I'm a woman who, through working both as a writer and as a journalist, has been able to make a comfortable living for herself. Fretting about what to do with excess things is a privilege of people who can afford to have an excess of things. Clutter is very much a first world problem and, at the moment, it's a problem I'm facing.

I read Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up when it was in vogue a couple years ago. Everyone I knew seemed to be Kondo-ing their lives, so I took a shot at it. I emptied my closets into the center of my room and sorted clothes, putting back only those things that I truly loved. (I did not hold every item and ask myself if it brought me joy and thank it for serving its purpose when I relegated it to the donation bin because that felt too woo woo for me, but if it works for you, more power to you.) I did the same exercise with my books, culling through things I loved and getting rid of things I knew I'd never read again.

However, despite this Kondo-inspired clean out a year ago I still found myself surrounded by things. I wasn't brutal in my purging because I wasn't going anywhere. My day job was solid and my mind was mostly occupied with writing books. I've also never found myself resentful of things. I've never felt the urge to seek out the freedom people write about in article urging us to eliminate material possessions and live out of one suitcase. As anyone who has perused my closet can tell, I derive too pleasure from clothes. I like being surrounded by books. There's satisfaction in finding the exact right set of wine glasses to go in my cupboard with the perfect water glasses and champagne flutes which sit next to the Moscow Mule copper mugs. (Yes, I do own those. Yes, I do use them. I enjoy cocktails immensely.)

All of my preciousness about my things changed when I decided to move. I'm now in the midst of the third or fourth round of clothing purges. I'm selling the majority of my wardrobe on Poshmark and ThredUp to see what I can get money for and what will be donated. Old technology has gone off to Decluttr as well as DVDs because I can't remember the last time I turned my BluRay player on. Some of my furniture and barware will go to my best friend who has already claimed it. The rest of my furniture will be sold in a Craigslist fire sale or placed out on the curb to be scavenged, a time-honored tradition NYC tradition. Bags and bags of books have already been taken to my local library's used bookstore for donation, and I still have many bags to go. (The people there are starting to recognize me.) Friends are also getting surprise boxes of books sent via media mail to fill up their shelves.

It's not as though I'll be traveling to London with nothing. A box of winter things is already winding it way there. Research books (some difficult to replace as they're out of print) are going via M-bags, a form of international shipping I didn't even know existed before this move. My sister and her boyfriend will be in New York the week before I leave by happy coincidence and will take a pair of suitcases back with them. I, a woman who travels light and hates to check luggage, will attempt not to break out in hives at the idea of checking a second pair of suitcases when I board my one-way flight.

When I arrive in London, I'll still have things, but they'll be highly curated — the best parts of who I've been in New York through my 20s and who I want to be in London.