By Susan Roberts
Today I browsed through my previous posts on this blog, reading snippets from the last two years, re-living the traumatic build up to my relocation from South Africa to Australia. Sometimes I can’t believe how much has happened in the last two years, yet at other times I wonder what on earth I have been doing since I got here nineteen months ago, and wondering why I haven’t done so much more than I have.
I started planning for this journey from the time my sister started planning her move – more than six years ago – but I only kicked the machinery into fast gear two years ago when my bridging visa was granted, and my medical was passed.
It’s hard moving from one country to another. Let’s just get that out of my head and onto the table. There are degrees of difficulty and everyone faces different challenges, but no ex-pat I’ve ever met looks back and says, “Gosh, that was easy!”
As I write this, I am still applying for jobs and trying not to squander my last few hard-earned South African rands that I converted to Aussie dollars at vast cost less than two years ago. I am ever hopeful that soon I will be able to start earning a steady stream of actual Australian dollars. I need to build up a tiny nest egg and find my own place to move into; a place where I can spread my wings a little, unpack my boxes of sentimental stuff, buy a few kitchen appliances and start to live the Australian life in my own way.
Sometimes I wonder what my emotions will be like when I finally unpack the boxes I haven’t touched since packing them back in Durban in early 2015. Will I rejoice at finding things I thought I had left behind? Will I feel sad when I realise just how much I did leave behind? Will I act like a spoiled child as I look around my few paltry belongings and wail “Is that all there is?” Only time will tell.
In the frenzy of packing two years ago I forced myself to cull my collection of… well, everything. I suppose I should say I decimated it, because I had to cut down everything to about a tenth of what it had been. At the time, I took inspiration from articles about Marie Kondo. I grasped every single item I owned and asked myself that all-important question, “Does this spark joy?” and then I ditched the least joyful nine out of every ten of them.
It naturally follows that I am soon going to face the problem of building up a new collection of goodies – everything from mundane necessities to desirable luxuries, and I’m not yet sure how that’s going to affect me. Not that I haven’t already started gathering things. Some would say too many things, but such is my optimism about finding a job that I didn’t want to lose out on bargains when I saw them. To date I have acquired a portable CD player (so I can listen to the CDs I brought with me), a sewing cabinet (because I had to leave my mother’s bulky wooden one behind), a small 2-drawer filing unit, a wok and a few other kitchen utensils, and – inevitably – more books and DVDs…
I found an interesting article the other day, by Anna Monette Roberts, in which she listed four important lessons she has learned from KonMari-ing her house.
How did these four things resonate with me? First, she experienced the enjoyment of liberating herself from many of her lesser-loved possessions. I too found it liberating to reduce the contents of my house. I also managed to get rid of some odd things which I hadn’t really wanted but had felt obliged to hang onto for so long. Liquidating bits of the family silver and turning antique crockery into hard cash was easier than I’d thought, and I had a good excuse so I didn’t have to feel guilty. It also helped me to acknowledge the quirky assortment of things I really couldn’t bear to part with.
Second, she found it easier to move house. I think I will find the same. I couldn’t keep as much as I’d wanted to, but what I did keep I managed to fit into a very tiny Move Cube which sailed across the sea all the way to Australia. Once you’ve moved countries – nay, continents – I imagine that a shorter trip with less stuff will be less daunting.
Third, she discovered her own sense of design – and it wasn’t the same as her interior designer mother’s. While I had to leave behind many beloved pieces of wooden cottage furniture and other items I had gathered slowly over more than thirty years, I am still the same person inside, drawn to the same type of things, and already I have gathered a few irresistible items around which to build my new life.
Fourth, and it is this final point which excites me the most, Anna Monette Roberts feels that her house is no longer “a dark, heavy place filled to the brim with stuff from my past.” I too want a place with no regrets, to break free from the past. Some of those lovely old pieces of furniture were strongly linked to ex-boyfriends and others were reminders of less-than-pleasant times in my life, so this is the part I am looking forward to the most. To be able to make a fresh start with new trappings around me, things which are symbolic of a new start in life, mixed in with a select, eclectic mix of treasured pieces which I hand-picked from my old life.