Watch my first vlog on YouTube documenting my last month in CA, emptying our family home that we sold, packing, saying goodbye, and setting off on an indefinite road trip with Valentine:
We moved into our house in 1994 (when I was in 4th grade!) and 29 years later, it was ready for a new family. September was our last month there as we spent hours sorting, organizing, and packing. (A little backstory if you're new here: our family decided to sell our home that we grew up in and I decided to take this opportunity to explore outside of California where I have lived all my life. You can read more about how I decided where to go first in this post.)
WHAT A PROCESS!
50+ bags of donations, several truckloads of trash, so many belongings passing through my hands, and 8 storage bins later, it's all done!
While it was overwhelming because not until the last 3 days did the house start looking empty, it was also a trip down memory lane, of thinking about what’s important to me, and of letting go and moving a step closer to living the minimalistic life I want.
Here’s how it all panned out:
- 6 storage bins that are currently living in friends garages (thank you!) mostly sentimental items, surplus of art supplies/cards, off season clothes.
- I packed my car with 4 storage bins of various sizes and an assortment of bags. I had to leave some things behind last minute because it wouldn’t all fit! :( Then when I thought I was done, I realized I hadn’t put Val’s stroller in yet!
- It was a struggle but there is something very empowering to me of knowing what all you have!
- I’ve realized I took WAY too much art supplies and products, but now I know and hopefully the load will lighten as I use things & ship out orders! This is also something to keep in mind as I consider what’s next for me and Atiliay.
- We donated over 50 bags & boxes of items. I hope they will find new homes and go to good use. PickupPlease.org / Veterans’ Voice of America was the best donation option I found. It was easy to schedule and the guidelines were clear on what they could & couldn’t take. (A lot of places had many restrictions.)
- I also drove to our local Salvation Army because we still had bags after the last scheduled pick up came.
- Facebook Marketplace was the main place I sold things (I also used good ol' Craigslist as well!) If you have the time, list everything! You never know what people will buy and the things that I thought wouldn't sell were the things that went quickly!
- I sold art supplies, jewelry boxes, kitchen appliances, small furniture (stools, bookshelves), picture frames, tools, paint, and so much more! I want to do a separate post honoring all these items that have served me well throughout the years and document the stories behind them!
- Some things were just not in the condition to be sold or donated so they had to be trashed. We also ran out of time / there was too much junk that needed to go (remember this is our family home we've lived in for almost 30 years so a lot of things have accumulated!) so we used a house clearing service. I never knew this existed but they will come in and clear the rooms you need and trash the items for you--it's a huge help!
- If you're in Southern CA, we used and highly recommend Hussle Hard Services! We actually used their services several times, for trash pick up and house clearing. They also provide moving and demolition services as well. The gentlemen work so quickly and efficiently and are polite and professional. They seriously helped us so much and were so great!
- It is sad to have to throw away so much--I'd much rather find new homes for everything but at the end we just needed to clear it out. But my hope is that this will never have to happen again in the future!
A FEW THINGS I'VE LEARNED...
Don't save things, use it!
I ended up having to let go of a bunch of arts and crafts supplies, stationery, stickers, etc. A lot of the items were things that were my favorites and I was saving them for...I don't know when! At the end I didn't get to use them at all! (Although I was able to find new homes which makes me less sad! Also, some times don't keep well in time--washi tape can get stuck to itself, stickers can lose adhesive, papers can turn brown, etc. So don't save things or wait to use them, enjoy using them instead!
Don't hold onto things, resale or give away ASAP
If you have something that's been lying around for months, get real with yourself--will you REALLY use it / wear it / etc.? Usually the answer is no. And the quicker you can find it a new home the better--for several reasons: clothing can go out of style and things can lose their relevancy, you have more time for people to discover and find it, you make space more quickly and some money if you decide to sell!
In my experience, everything I listed did end up selling or getting interest however, it can take time! If you aren't moving there is less pressure, but if you know you are moving in 6 months or sooner, start listing things NOW! It's never too early!
Also if you can get in the habit of taking inventory every quarter and listing things, you can make sure all the things you have around you are things you use and add to you life.
Everything will end up somewhere.
I know this sounds so obvious but I think when we have storage space, we might forget this. And we imagine we will always be there to take care of it. But one day we might not be and someone else will have to figure out where it all needs to go.
Whenever I make a purchase now, I ask myself, where will this end up? If I no longer need it, can I give it away or sell it? Can it be recycled? Or will it end up in trash (which is what I am trying to prevent!)
Although I hope I never have to do this again lol, I do wish I had more time during this process to enjoy it--there is something special about getting to go through everything because of all the memories that are tied to all these things. At the end of the day, that's why we hold onto a lot of things--for the memories and emotions they evoke.
After going through this, I do feel everyone should do this whether you're moving or not! Learning more about Swedish Death Cleaning is a great place to start. At the end of the day there is something freeing and empowering about sorting through all your things, determining what is important, revisiting memories, and making way more new ones.
In between the cleaning and decluttering, I was trying to spend as much time as possible with my friends who I would be saying goodbye to! They really are like my second family and I am grateful to have such caring, thoughtful, dependable, fun, kind, and understanding people in my life! I am sure I will see everyone again and with the way our lives are now (mostly texting vs face to face hangouts) it doesn't feel like it will be such an abrupt change. But I'm not sure when we will meet next so I really wanted to enjoy my time with them.
My mom and dad also came from Taiwan during the end of September! I haven't seen them in around 8 or so years so I'm glad they finally got to come see me, Valentine, and also the house one last time.
Saying goodbye to my neighbors, neighborhood, and house was much harder than I expected! Since I moved back during the pandemic, I've gotten to know many neighbors while walking Valentine. They were part of my daily routine, saying hello, stopping for a chat. I did make thank you cards for my neighbors, dentist, and groomers with my contact info in case anyone wanted to stay in touch.
While I know I will see my friends again, that can't be said for this place and these people who I would see every day and many of whom I grew up with! I felt like I was on the verge of tears during my last few days. On the day before last I saw one of my neighbors and the second we made eye contact we both started tearing up! I do know I will keep in touch with many of them and that makes me feel a little better :) It's very bittersweet.
One important reminder I've taken away is to not take time for granted, especially with the people you see everyday and think oh I'll talk to them next time. You never know when you'll get another chance and when that next time will be. This also really applies to traveling--you may never see a certain person again so if you have something to say, say it. If you have a question, ask. Otherwise the moment will pass and you won't get another chance.
The night before last was the hardest but something that helped is having a little ritual to say goodbye. I used Flying Wish Paper to make one last wish in this house. It was really lovely and I also happened to discover the song Bigger Than The Whole Sky by Taylor Swift which was sad and perfect. Then after a long day, Valentine and I went to sleep in our bedroom for the last time.
OUR LAST DAY
The last day was very busy with last minute cleaning and getting the house ready for its new family. And even though I did a test pack of my car, I somehow had so much more than I had accounted for! I ended up having to leave a lot behind and just when I thought I was done I realized I did not pack Valentine's stroller!! I hoped for the best and stuffed it in there and magically, it fit! I also had to cut Valentine's foam bed down to fit in the passenger seat. After all that was done and I made sure I had a hole to see out the back window, I said some final goodbyes to my neighbors, left some cards on the way out of my neighborhood, and we were finally off!
I ended up leaving 2 hours later than I had planned and I was so lucky that my friend Erin stopped by with her husband Ryan and baby girl Maddie to drop off lunch while I was packing! It was very helpful since I was hungry and this allowed me to drive instead of having to stop to get lunch. She was also so thoughtful and got me inari and cucumber rolls so that I could share the cucumbers with Valentine :)
I can't believe it but we were finally on the road, headed for our first destination--Aptos, CA. Here we go!
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