Part 2, Our Slow Move Towards Minimalism: A Move Abroad…

{ For the first installment, here’s Part One   }

The next step in our journey from the chaos of our sloppy, messy, ‘pile-filled’ home to a more minimalist approach came in early 2009.

In late 2008 Mitch came home from work after a conversation with some of his work mates and asked me, ‘Hey Jen, what do you think about moving to London?’.  He went on to tell me about I.T contracting work in London.  One of his work mates had worked in London a few years earlier and was considering going back.  This was a decade ago so I’m not sure of my exact words but the general gist of my response was a big fat whopping, ‘LET’S DO IT!’.

Never ones to make long-term plans and work towards them, we jumped head first into planning our move abroad.  We applied for passports for the 5 of us and began the long process of applying for working visas in the U.K.  Whilst waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn we started overhauling all of our junk.  Whilst we were 100% committed to making our lives in the UK work, we also had 3 small children to consider so we made the decision to leave our home empty (it was in no state to be rented out anyway) and wait and see how our relocation turned out before listing our house for sale.

There was very little we owned that was actually worth attempting to sell (in fact I don’t remember listing anything for sale).  Even our beat up 13-year-old Holden Commodore was traded for a carton of beer in the weeks leading up to us leaving.  We listed a huge amount of ‘stuff’ on Freecycle and had a big open day one Saturday where people poured into our driveway to pick through our free possessions.  We were really fortunate when a Mum of 7 that lived locally turned up with a mate and his ute and took a lot of what was left.  She was even keen on the fridge we had left switched on but untouched in our garage for 2 years.  At that point said fridge was just one big solid block of ice.  We had no memory of what had been in there before it iced over!

My only regret about that Freecycle garage day was that I didn’t offer the Mum of 7 MORE.  I had sentimental attachments to certain items (like the cradle all 3 of our babies had used) and wanted to carefully find good homes for certain items (most items I didn’t find the ‘right’ home for before we left).  I was having difficulty letting go of things and was emotionally overwhelmed by the sudden bleeding of ‘stuff’.  We took car load after car load of kids clothes, linens and anything else our local charity shop would accept.  Even on the day we left there were still things left behind at our house (trampoline, cubby house, barbecue, furniture etc.).  On one hand some of those items would be invaluable if we had to return home to Australia with our tails between our legs, on the other hand we had left a lot of ‘unfinished’ purging.  There just wasn’t enough time or willpower for us to clear it all out properly.

Instead it was my Mother-in-law who a year into our time in the UK had the awful task of listing our home for sale for us.  The house had sat empty for a year and nothing had been clean, tidy and organised when we had left (I honestly can’t even remember exactly what was left, it was such a blur in those final days).  I remember a large filing cabinet full of unsorted paperwork and photos.

From ‘bright idea’ to actually stepping onto the plane bound for London it was 8 months, and goodness was it a blur of go-go-go!

I feel like we definitely learned a few things de-cluttering and purging before our International move.  At the same time we robbed ourselves of the experience of finishing and seeing the process through.  Instead with us on the other side of the world it was left to my poor Mother-in-law to clear the rest of our possessions away.  She with the help of a family friend and his truck took everything that had no sentimental value to the local ‘ garbage dump’.  Unfortunately that wasn’t everything.  We had left a lot of things that she couldn’t just throw out (paperwork, family photos, clothing, kids toys and books) and so began 2 years of renting a storage shed to store our junk out of our sight, and for the most part (other than the monthly rental fee we were paying) out of our minds.


Whilst our ‘Australian junk’ sat in a storage shed meanwhile in the U.K we were accumulating new crap.  We had moved with only one large suitcase of clothing each and a few toys and books.  I thought my logic was sound that we needed ‘stuff’ to fill in all the gaps left by the move.  I went on a several-year-long mission to try to heal my children’s ‘loss’ of the toys, clothes and books they’d been forced to leave behind.

By the end of the first year in the U.K when we moved rental houses (between cities too!) and we had gone from one suitcase each to enough crap to fill 2 carloads and two moving van loads.  Brilliant.

Apparently we had learned nothing from our purging.  All I felt was a NEED to make amends for what was lost and replace it with better stuff.  I didn’t understand how lucky we had been in those first few months abroad to have had so little to clean, move around and think about in day to day life.  I was yet to make a connection between too much stuff and how stressful each house move was.


My Declutter Challenge Video Playlist:


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