I see it, it brings me joy...I'll keep it! | Travelling Storyteller Photographer
Big places not big things
We have had a financial planner for years. I love the meetings. Despite my penchance for numbers, I find those meetings a chance to dream about the future - a past time that if measured by my rose coloured glasses, is something I am both rather fond of and excel at. Despite the magic moments in the dreamer’s office, it was dear friend on her way to such a meeting with our personal numbers wizard who coined the phrase that has since stuck and guided our own life path. As she yelled back over her shoulder to us about the tag line for her meeting I’ll never forget “It’s about Big Places, Karin…not big things”. True to her word, this is a woman who could for most of her life pack everything into her car at the drop of a hat and has successfully moved countries one carry on suitcase at a time. She is also effortlessly chic, her seemingly bottomless capsule wardrobe continually reinvented, she knows where she wants to go, has travelled extensively, has a smile that could light up a room, manages to get herself both into and equally out of dramatic situations that people normally just dream about, creating a life she dreams about and shows us how to get from thought to action, all while loving both my husband and I like family so really…her way of living has had an impact on us clearly.
We took it to heart
Moving several times through university, owning our first home and then 2nd and finally moving to our third, we saw the waistline of our consumption both increase and decrease with our last move in Calgary. Downsizing despite our growing family we moved into a home that forced us to live by the creed we had been dying to adopt. Live with what you love. Far before Marie Kondo came into our lives showing us how shoeboxes could make our lives fulfilled and happy, we lightened the load off our shoulders by moving into our 3rd and newly renovated house while simultaneously seeing 32 moving boxes worth of earthly belongings move onto hopefully other deserving families. I would be lying if I said that our lives did not get decidedly easier with that transition. Less stuff = less hassle/stress/work. I promised myself then and there that what was going to come into the house was going to have a purpose or Out. It. Would. Go. Out with the thing, in with the job of living.
Live with what you love
The tag line as we saw it, was to live with what we loved. The biggest reason was we had downsized by 1000sq ft and had less storage space so to sell this way of life to my family unit and all their worldly and amazing things - we had to come up with something creative. Marie Kondo has been sweeping the nation(s) with her petite frame, impenetrable cuteness and her ability to help others see the joy in those material things that we undoubetdly surround ourselves with. Personally, I see her tapping and thanking those items that are now on the ‘must go’ pile and imagining them vanishing into thin air. Enter our time in Europe with less than 5% of all our belonging, and my kids, on the other hand, are aghast as to what this wondrous pixie of a woman is extolling and are quite certain that despite my need to thank the IKEA cardboard that was once so utilitarian and must now move to another world, can not bare to let go of the same thing that they now call a castle.
I hate it when my creativity works so well…
Moving countries, putting 95% of all your worldly belongings into storage and moving with 1 bike box and 8 suitcases can be both incredibly freeing and in the words of our kids who - unlike us - saw their oversized Beeny boos as essential items - “the worst thing EVER”. In comes the need to get creative with what you have. Those free card games you got on the plane - best time filler in the world. Never have you ever seen a game of airplane memory last for as many hours as we have!
Those free crayons you almost always forget on the table when you leave the restaurant, yep…well I won’t fess up to asking the kids to scrounge for the extras they might find on the or around the tables to augment the stash at home. IKEA cardboard boxes…Golden! You too can pay an exorberant of Swiss francs for 4 rolls of tape and cringe at your kids welding knives while they create their brown paper version of heaven in a 1 story castle under the stairs while equally praising yourself with having come up with the idea in the first place. And to think that was someone’s trash. HA!
To bring it back to centre…moving with what amounted to very little we still managed to bring too many clothes that we consistently don’t wear. That cute pair of shoes that caused me blisters in Canada…despite them being Europe fashion, my feet don’t give a damn about where we are living and my heels still hurt in them. BUT…we have much less than what we have had before and by virtue of a life choice we have had to adapt.
Less has allowed us to..
Already in Canada, I hated moving piles of stuff from one place or another. Martha the laundry pile often showed up mid week and seemed to grow until she was a permanent fixture in our home - never a great idea. Don’t get me wrong, living in Switzerland doesn’t mean that we don’t have stuff. In fact I could say that being here with so little, the things that we have accumulated likely point to a garage sale obsession as we have beyond graciously accepted any and all things that people are donating as those around us helped us to get onto our feet. Without them I am pretty sure we’d still be living in a cardboard box somewhere! Doubly so with the 5CHF deal you make with your kids desperate to keep them happy with your dream decision and they pick up the ‘must have’ Wednesday market toy of the week only to bring it home and add it to the stash of stuff that you regularly question its importance.
We read…a lot more. Netflix is a thing in our house - a good wifi connection is like gold - but we don’t have cable TV. We have 1 television that we managed to pick up with a warranty from a gentleman who gave us a written receipt - we are in Switzerland after all..
Our apartment doesn’t have closets except for at the front door - and it is small so the kids have 3 drawers under their beds each complete with shoe boxes that allow us to see where things are because nothing sets off a Swiss morning off more than not being ready for school on time. Tony and I share a wardrobe that is about 1/4 the size of a Canadian closet. We have a storage locker in the basement that scares me so despite my knowing it is filled with things, I don’t ever venture into it - Tony is the ski guy so I let him sort that monster out. European fridges are tiny and the freezers would have Marie Kondo grinning ear to ear in their shoebox appearance.
We are on a first name basis with the people who work in the grocery store as we shop and haul our stash home in Suzette, our backpack or random bags 2-3 times a week. We can be packed and ready for a weekend getaway in less than 30 minutes knowing exactly what to bring and how to fit 4 people’s belongings into two carry-on suitcases with room to spare. Tony and I have managed to quell the best 10 and 7 year old arguments on why this was the worst/best/funnest/most horrible/awesome move ever because XYZ ‘thing’ isn’t here with us when we desperately need it.
We can be desperately upset at the fact that the one plug in the kitchen that is horribly situated right beside the sink doesn’t allow for any electric gadgets in the kitchen only to be reminded that with the lack of counter space you couldn’t use it even if you figured you wanted to, so when it comes to home made soup - lumpy is the new creamy.
Transportation here requires regular bandaids and stretching - no car means no stops to the gas station, no time spent at the mechanic, nor any designated drivers, it does require new shoes…and more often, which lends itself to awkward shopping trips with a family of 4 on bikes and bickering over which style of shoe they want that can’t look anything like their sister’s and mom still wants it on sale.
It does, however slow us down, force us to talk and despite that sounding like bliss, I can assure you that our version of crazy at times has us spread out over 3 different train cars while we keep our own dagger eyes away from one another. We spend more time talking about ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ rather than ‘have not’ and the stress of having to move the afore mentioned piles is considerably less. The obsession with things is replaced with places and adventure - a thirst that seems to quench itself only when we are on a train or a plane going somewhere new.
If my plugs for IKEA aren’t enough, I can’t highlight their modular bedroom furniture enough that has turned into a cave, a Swiss Castle, a halloween grotto, a restaurant and my personal favourite - an airport (complete with fully working screening machines, which after the Geneva to Scotland fiasco, I am no longer permitted to enter with a scarf).
Overall, adjustments take time, less is most definitely more and if Marie Kondo were here, I would beg and plead her to infuse my kitchen counter appliances with energy to save us the ever scary dilemma of plugging them into the one plug we have directly over the kitchen sink.
It’s a process
The IG, FB, email letter social media highlight reel is…real. Showing off the amazing, the quintessential and the dream appearance of what life with less can look like, one is hard pressed to find the resentful faces photographed when you have to wear the same jacket over and over since you have no others and another bike ride to the only grocery store/clothing store in town is just too much to ask for in the rain even that cute scarf looks amazing…but where oh where would it live at home? …or the though of dragging everyone along to the next town over and having to battle the kids for their electronics makes you question why….WHY!!!???
Not wanting to come across as ungrateful as this was a calculated choice, though I have to admit, at times fuzzy on the details, we have our fair share of struggles and the tug of home is at times too much to bear. Though that too is getting easier.
The lessons we are learning
Time. We have more time. With less to manage we have slowed down considerably. With less to sort out, clean, tidy, put away or figure out what to do with, we have realized that our eyes are lifted, we are more aware of our surroundings and finally with it…feel more centred on what we want to do with it all. Don’t get me wrong - cute shoes are my weakness and I have to walk swiftly by those aisles…spring fashions is starting to show itself and my personal brand involving me a scooter, cute shoes in a skirt on my way through our village is at times too much to bear! The currency we all seem to want so much of …time…. we feel that the tank has slowly been filling itself up again. Creativity…despite much cursing when things are just not working as we need or want them, our need for resourcefulness has been in overdrive. Thinking outside the box is now a family mantra. With this comes our ability to see things from different perspectives, seeing more good where typically there was anger or resentment…and a sense of closeness.
That was a surprise. Just as with team building, which was not unlike what our family has experienced with this move, we too have moved through the various stages of a group coming together, norming, forming, storming and finally….performing. It’s often a daily struggle, and not always what we hope it to be…but the shift is perceptible and the results outstanding.
Less means more
Mary Kondo already knows this. The spirit is freed when the incumbrance of the things are taken away. We do feel a little lighter despite my feet begging for those new cute heels, the kids their market wear and Tony another flying contraption. Focusing on experiences we are aware that we are living more in the now, eager for the awkward because that gives us another story and finally pulls us a little closer together. That is, for us, the hope anyway. xo