Friday, July 8, 2011

Homeless Vagabonds

I expected to feel sad when we sold our home of nine years, and yes, the waves of melancholy come and go. But the sense of calm relief came out of the blue. As we walked out of the settlement office with the sale proceeds already wired to our bank, I definitely felt rootless – a sense of having been untethered – but I also experienced the elation of having no mortgage, no fixed address and not a drop of debt. We paid off our old gray mare of a Chrysler long ago and if we can just add another two months to her useful life on top of the 212,000 miles she’s already given us, we can donate her to Purple Heart and leave the country car-less.

We’re temporarily camping out in the home of dear friends who are away for most of the summer and our U.S. mailing address will be our daughter’s DC apartment. As George Clooney’s character so aptly expressed in the movie, Up in the Air, there’s a palpable feeling of relief and freedom that goes along with emptying one’s “backpack” of worldly possessions and monthly bills. Traveling light can be liberating. We all have to relocate at one time or another, and along with the move goes inventorying everything you own. You really never know how much physical “stuff” you’ve accumulated over the years until you go through this daunting exercise. Far from being hoarding squirrels, we diligently cleaned out our closets, drawers and cabinets every spring, giving away whatever we could to diminish our home’s clutter factor. However, for the past two months I’ve spent more time and energy than I could ever have imagined donating clothes, selling electronics and dropping off books at the library. While I’ve always used Craig’s List as a wonderful means for getting a few bucks for things no longer needed, my recent selling experiences have astonished me in terms of what people will buy. That old antique chair with the missing seat cushion, the distressed copper planters from the front stoop, the oversized cork board that displayed our children’s artwork, the prehistoric laptops missing hard drives and the stereo cabinet designed for a record player: all found new homes with happy new owners through Craig’s List. Slowly but surely, we emptied the attic and guest room, got rid of everything on the patio and in the garage and shifted all we owned into just a few rooms of the house.

When moving from one residence to a new one, lugging along things you may not really need or end up keeping may not be a huge blunder. But when moving all our worldly possessions into pay-by-the-pound storage, we wanted to avoid taking an extra paper clip. No use storing (and paying for) what we don’t need and may never care to see again. Thus, it was a time-consuming and tedious job of meticulously sorting all our belongings, making multiple piles and deciding what to do with every single thing in the house. Books had always been the hardest to relinquish with previous moves, but this time, even the books went without much regret.

So, here we are, camping out in our temporary accommodations with only what we’ll need for the summer and next year in tow. Everything else is shrink-wrapped, crated and stored, not to be seen until we’re back in the U.S., some 14 months from now. Our backpacks are now quite light indeed. While the sadness about being homeless vagabonds and saying goodbye to our home comes in waves, it does feel good to be living so nimbly and with so few financial demands. We’d purposefully and steadily reduced our financial footprint over the past year and a half in preparation for our departure and now the process is almost complete. As soon as we say goodbye to the ever-steadfast Chrysler, we’ll be on our way, with no pesky possessions to weigh us down.

1 comment:

  1. How exciting! I wish I could do that just because of the relief of not having that huge debt and all that STUFF. We're thinking of relocating to New England within 5 years (less hopefully) and I dread the selling of the house and then ultimately the packing and moving of our possessions.