The Frustrating Zen of Unloading Your Baggage

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Becoming an expat necessarily means getting rid of all the extra clutter we accumulate. Over the years, I definitely managed to amass a never ending mountain of books, clothes, papers, and various other odds and ends including everything from my childhood sticker book to the penis-shaped whistle I got as a joke in undergrad. Why on earth do I need these things?

I don’t. As I looked around my cluttered New York apartment and contemplated my move home to Miami, I was depressed. I didn’t want to do it. I knew moving to Norway was a risk, but also that it would mean getting rid of all the things I was looking at around me. “Fuck this,” I thought. None of these objects were making me happy.

Actually getting rid of all the things turned out to be much more difficult than the actual decision to do so. It was such a daunting task that I often found myself paralyzed not knowing where to start. I sold a few books on Half.com, but this route is ultimately only worth it if you have some that are in great condition and in high demand. Ebay.com can be useful for collectibles, but it also has to be worth a bit to be worth the time and energy. Amazon.com will buy things from you, but usually for barely anything.

The real answer to unloading your crap in the United States has to be Craigslist.org. This was especially true since I was going to be selling all of my furniture and Craigslist allows for the local element. Of course the caveat to this is that selling your stuff can turn into another part-time job. Responding to emails, arranging meetings, etc. can be quite the pain in the ass. However, I needed both the money and the convenience of having other people move my things for me, so I did it.

Here are some of the Craigslist photos of items I sold:

Just a small fraction of them. They were tough to sell since apparently no one reads real books anymore, but thank god this one woman came and bought like 120 of them.
These chairs were so popular on Craigslist that I realized I must’ve priced them way too low, so I ended up asking for a little more.

As the last few days approached and my apartment continued to look like a cluttered disaster area, I started to seriously panic. What was I going to do with all of this stuff? I packed up my two suitcases with the clothes and shoes I planned to bring to Norway, but quickly realized that it wouldn’t be enough. Two suitcases turned into two suitcases plus my backpacker backpack, which turned into two suitcases, my backpacker backpack, and my vintage Amelia Earheart suitcase, which I wasn’t even sure could withstand a transatlantic trip (it barely did).

And yet, there were still so many things I couldn’t take with me that I also couldn’t chuck such as photos, scrapbooks, journals, writing notes, teaching stuff, etc. What did I do with these? Send them home!

A few days before I left, my life was still a mess. Luckily my friend Katie came over and helped get me a bit organized. On my last night in my apartment, I still had a lot of things that had to go so Katie, Biff, and Jesse each walked off with a boatload of my things. The rest ended up here:

Everything that isn’t claimed or sold goes here. Hard to see my good games and books go here, but alas…

When all was said and done I made just over $600 selling my stuff, the price of a beer in Oslo. Considering it was costing me more to lug all this stuff around, I feel happy to let it go. Had I started sooner, I probably could’ve sold more and made more money, but some charities are ending up with some nice Lacoste shirts and Seven jeans.

My advice to you, should you decide to follow my path: do not procrastinate! I was so stressed out this past week that I barely slept. I would wake up at 5am thinking about all the things I had to do, unable to let my mind rest. As my plane touched down in Oslo yesterday, I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open.

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