What’s In The Bag?

Heathrow Airport Arrival 2013

Coming home is particularly sweet after an extended time away.

There’s the obvious happiness of seeing my husband John waiting for me, and the ahhh feeling I get when the plane lands safely and I make it through customs and immigration, but this time has been different and I have been trying to figure out why.

I recently returned from a ten-week stay in the US and have been a bit overwhelmed since my arrival a little over a week ago.

I hear you thinking, What do you mean overwhelmed … how long can it take to unpack your bags and settle back into your routine?

Sometimes, it’s not about the stuff in the bags.

As you can see I am pushing a very full luggage cart and it’s not the first time I have arrived from an international flight looking like a smiling beast of burden. This collection of suitcases is fairly light compared some of my past Heathrow and Gatwick arrivals. Due to decreasing weight allowances, but increasing checked baggage costs, I tend to travel lighter on my trips between what I think of as my two homes.

Except this time.

This time the extra bag I checked carried some favorite product brands I can’t get in the UK along with some new clothes and other things I have needed for a while.

Needed might be questionable, but …

I tend to be a big charity store shopper with Salvation Army, Goodwill, and second-hand shops being my ‘go to’ places. This does not mean I don’t buy new, but when I do I tend stick to the sale section. Thrifty shopping can be just as bad as spending too much on new, a lesson my normally bulging closet would illustrate had its contents not been recently whittled down.

Thursday, John and I took seven huge garbage bags filled with clothing to a local charity shop along with several bags of barely worn shoes and two big boxes of books. I think I struggled more deciding which books to give away than I did with clothes and now after looking at my bookshelves and wardrobe more critically, I have decided to go back through and do another purge.

Remember when I said it’s not always about the stuff earlier …

I have been working on multiple parts of the house since I got home, clearing away clutter and organizing what is left. I have even been in the attic going through boxes and throwing out or giving away things while doing a total overhaul of what is allowed to stay. I’ve emptied a wardrobe and a too-full dresser in the guest room and I’ve reorganized other parts of the house as well even giving away loads of my books that were cluttering John’s study, but what I haven’t done is finish tidying up my studio space.

Studio sounds a bit grand for what I do there, but it is my creative get-away space and where I do most of my writing and photography work. It also doubles as my dressing room and has an en suite bathroom attached to it both of which have been an absolute tip (trash site) since I arrived ten days ago. I left it very tidy when I flew to the US in early July, but with the big clear out over the last week things have fallen into a bit of state.

Looking at it feels overwhelming and I have been finding ways to avoid slogging through what’s left to finish it off.

I decided to take a look at how my need for perfection keeps me from getting more done creatively after reading this post by Nadia Eghbal titled  Why I Wore The Same Outfit Everyday For A Year.  As good writers and bloggers will often do, she got me thinking.

Sure I can clean like I’m still in the Army getting ready for an inspection, or make a time-consuming special something _________ insert what ever suits you here, but be sure it’s something that could use a bit more of this, or a touch of that because that’s what my rarely satisfied self would do with something I make.

I could say I’m only nesting with all this clearing and decluttering, making room for the birth of some semi-new blog or book idea, or even some business daydream that can travel with us when John and I pack up and go and some of that would be true, but I have to wonder if there’s not something bigger underlying my need to restrict and control disorder in my environment to the extent that it distracts me from other parts of my life needing attention.

I’m not going to spend any more time mulling that one over as I do better when I make a decision and move on. With that in mind, I am committing to tossing a few extra things into my partially full give-away bag.

I am willing to begin by dropping in my perfectionist tendencies along with a too tight sweater and a dress that’s really a little young for me. Then there’s that old comparison rag where I tend to judge my work against that of others. Yep, that’s going too.

That will do for me for now, but what about you?

If you’ve got something you want to get rid of, something that’s keeping you stuck or distracting you from your next best thing, feel free to leave it behind in a comment.

Go ahead, I’ll bag it up and dispose of it for you.

Because you know I do like a tidy work space, and I’m already going that way.

10 thoughts on “What’s In The Bag?

  1. I spent a month in Canada and the US recently and was introduced to the wonders of Value Village by a new friend. I quickly wished that I had suitcases which were half empty too! I’ve also come back and got straight on with decluttering, including my youngest daughter’s room. My goal for decluttering is to enable us to move house next year so, at the moment, am easily motivated. Your blog, and the comment about perfectionist tendencies, resonated with me.

    • Thanks, Pam for taking time to comment, I’ve been in decluttering mode for the last few months while I was in the US. I spent a fair amount of time in the basement helping my stepmom get rid of loads of stuff as she gets ready to downsize to a smaller home. Additionally, and I think part of the reason for my anxiety is that the last 200 cubic feet of my stuff from the US will be arriving at our doorstep in about six weeks. It’s mostly furniture, but there are six or seven boxes that need to find a place in our home somewhere too.

      Good luck with your big clear out.

  2. It seems to be easier when it’s not yours to start with … like your stepmother’s downsizing exercise. I think it’s easier to declutter when you have been away from your own environment for a while, and come back to see it with fresh eyes.

  3. We’re on the verge of ditching our dining table and a big armchair, which I scored at a NH consignment shop in 1988 for $300, so it hardly owes me a living. We also plan to spend as many hours as it takes (I figure at least 20 hours between two of us) to clear out two small storage lockers and our garage. I am allergic to dust and dread the tedium of all that decision-making. But I loathe not knowing EXACTLY where everything is.

    Renovating the kitchen prompted us to repaint a fresh coat on the small dining room adjoining it and making some major visual changes there as well. It feels good.

    • I imagine that it might be easier to give a few big things the heave ho since you’ve been making such major changes in your kitchen. I’ve enjoyed the snippets you’ve posted so far and I am really looking forward to your big reveal. In fact, I would love to see your whole space. That photo your husband took of you at the table working in the morning light left me trying to imagine the rest of your space. Perhaps I could do an interview, a sort of ” At Home with Author, Caitlin Kelly ” and Jose could supply the photographs. ( Sneaky, huh? )

      As for your storage lockers and garage, having spent more time than I had imagined it might take to properly sort through the things in my stepmom’s basement, I would double the time you think it will take. I could be wrong, but even my decluttering here in Cornwall is taking longer than I’d planned. That said, I’m getting loads of small things (distractions) done along the way and the guest bathroom is super clean now.

      • I’d be hono(u)red to have our space photographed and do an interview! It’s far from perfect or opulent, but I think it might give readers some fun ideas for their own homes, esp. smaller spaces. I don’t even have an office, though….I sit at the dining table. Not very glamorous, but honest.

        It took us three entire eight-hour days just to winnow our older storage locker into something smaller and more affordable. I dread the time this garage clear-out will take, but it’s got to happen. I got a bunch of my mother’s beautiful antique/ethnic textiles when she went into the nursing home, and I have to decide whether or not (and to whom) to sell them.

        The decision making is wearying, as you know.

        But the kitchen is so different and it’s been a great jump-start visually to rethink everything else. But we also have to work off our budget over-run (shriek) before we can afford to do anything else major.

  4. Oh, I´m so struggling with this right now! Perfectionist tendencies and a desire to be creative in new ways, paired with frugality and a hoarding husband – I sometimes can´t sleep for feeling the gravity of all the layers of archeology around me. It feels like the stuff has eyes and stares me out, I kid you not! Thank you for the link to Eghbal, a good role model is just what I need.

    • ” A hoarding husband ” sent shivers down my spine when I read it.

      I come from folks who lived with ” the want ” of the depression years woven into their makeup like an extra strand of DNA. My grandmother had a huge ball of string in a kitchen drawer when she died that I had watched her tie one piece to another for years without ever seeing her take any off. When it came time to clear out her house it was hard for me to toss her ” just in case ” multi-colored lump of mixed fibers.

      I usually feel as you so perfectly put it, ” the layers of archeology ” all around me too and it is frequently difficult for me to let go. If you knew the things I’ve saved, (my daughter’s baby teeth) you would have a laugh. At least my grandmother was saving useful things. I think that tells you all you need to know about me. 🙂

  5. ahhh, I love this! Sometimes habits that we think are good for us end up turning into Trojan horses. Very astute of you to notice this in yourself and then share it with us.

    I fell into this with DIY culture. I firmly believe in self-reliance and not buying what I need as a first resort, but DIY can get so addictive that it becomes just as materialistic as buying things off the bat.

    Thanks so much for sharing my post 🙂 I really appreciate it.

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