In February 2018, Rocky and I decided to put our house up for sale and start the downsizing process so we could eventually move out of the country. At that point, we were not sure if we would end up in Ecuador or Spain but knew we wanted to travel more and become ex-pats when Rocky retired. We had been taking care of my mom for 13 years and dreamed of a more spontaneous life in the future.
We sold our house in ten days and moved to a two bedroom apartment in Tacoma. This quick sale necessitated hiring an estate sale company that helped us get rid of at least half of the stuff we had accumulated over three decades. We did not have much time to decide what was essential, we just had to get out. Sadly, once we got settled in our new apartment, our house sale fell through. It ended up taking another eight months to really sell our house and we took a loss. Not exactly what we had planned.
We didn’t let that deter us from our goal though. Even without making any profit on our house, we found that we started to save money, just by not having any surprise home repairs. We have rarely been lucky in real estate, often choosing to buy houses that have lots of character (in other words, need more repairs.)
We rented two storage units for the treasures we couldn’t part with immediately and made the intention to empty those over the next three years. This week, we accomplished our goal. We have finally scanned, shredded, sold, given away, or trashed everything except the clothes and shoes that fit in five suitcases and two carry-ons.
No more binders, file folders, birthday cards, diaries from high school (why was I saving those???), dog collars, kid’s toys, hard back or paperback books. No computer (just 2 laptops). No furniture. No car. Not even a spatula.
Admittedly, we kept a small amount of our art work that we could not part with in storage. When we locked the unit for the last time, we wondered if we would be the ones to open it next? We have no idea if we will return or when. We did not leave a note for our kids inside the unit although we thought about it later. It felt like we were closing up a time capsule.
We had planned to fly out on Friday, Feb. 12th, but our visas did not arrive from the Spanish Consulate in time. Instead, we moved out of our apartment to make room for the new couple moving in and relocated to a furnished corporate apartment in the same building so we can wait for our visas.
Curious about what we thought was essential to include in those 5 suitcases? What would be important to you? I’m not much of a shoe person or a fashionista so a few pairs of yoga pants, jeans and one pair each of tennis shoes, dress shoes, hiking boots and dress boots works for me. I did pack quite a few scarves though! They travel well.
What I knew I couldn’t part with was our 50th Anniversary Deluxe Scrabble board! We bought it 23 years ago when the twins were born as an alternative to going out. We’ve enjoyed countless Scrabble date nights since then. Rocky wins so often that I call him Lucy. You know how Lucy holds the football for Charlie Brown and encourages him to keep trying to kick it? Then, wickedly, she takes the football away at the last minute and Charlie Brown misses? I’m that Charlie Brown.
Rocky bought us a light-weight, compact travel version this year in preparation for our trip but I never warmed up to it, preferring my old friend Deluxe. I ended up giving the new one to Goodwill. I made room in my suitcase for this giant Scrabble board and definitely have no regrets.
Rocky wanted to take all of his favorite kitchen utensils until he got an inventory list from the new landlord in Spain. Looks like the only thing we will need to buy there is a coffee maker! Instead he packed his 35 mm camera, half of his extensive shoe collection and more outerwear than he’ll ever need. After much contemplation, he chose to leave his treasured panama hat, most of his favorite cookbooks and his well- seasoned, but very heavy, cast iron pan behind.
Wilma has not decided which of her toys she can’t live without. Probably the hedgehog and the elephant, if they still have any stuffing left when we are ready to go.
In 2011, as we were about to launch our first yoga teacher training program, one of my business partner’s, Karen, gave me a large coffee mug inscribed with a quote by Mary Anne Radmacher: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
I love the weight, the feel and size of the coffee cup and have had my morning coffee in it every day since. I have also been inspired by the saying which has completely worn off over the years but will forever be etched in my heart.
This dream of moving to Spain has had plenty of challenges along the way. Even now, as we wait for the visas to arrive, it is sometimes difficult to have faith that we will get there. Every morning though, I get up and remind myself to have courage. To keep walking towards our dream. To believe that all of the steps we have taken so far will eventually lead us to the life we have dreamed of. A life with more adventure, travel and spontaneity. A life where we are not weighed down by what we own, but instead, inspired by who we love and where we go. A life that doesn’t include a lot of things that we used to think were essential.
I am taking my coffee cup. I plan to stuff it with socks and put it in my carry-on. It will remind me to be courageous, especially after we get to Spain and start this new life we’ve been dreaming about for so long.