For wanderers like me, impermanence is a way of life.
I recently graduated from a Master’s program, and the three years I was rooted to the University of Northern Iowa were the longest I have lived in one place since I was in seventh grade.
During high school, I attended three different schools.
After my first year of college, I moved back to Iowa. However, since returning, I have lived in seven different places in the state. Throughout college, I attended four different schools. In graduate school alone, I lived in four different homes.
After graduation, I thought my first job might be the tether that grounded me. However, five months into my career, I made the biggest moving decision yet—I am moving to Australia.
Over the years, I have become an expert at moving.
I find that moving is a time of release, and it can also be grounding.
There is something spiritual about sorting through my belongings. Each item holds a story that can be relived simply by holding it and meditating on its purpose. Moving also allows me to release the memories that no longer serve me. There is magic, along with clouds of uncertainty and hopefulness, in picking up the pieces of my life and transporting it all somewhere new.
Each new city holds mysteries to be uncovered. To visit a new place with fresh eyes unlocks secrets I never knew I held. Each new face offers fresh perspective and experiences. Each new place unlocks hidden stories and unwritten memories.
In order to gain the most from our transitions in life, I suggest that we must also move spiritually in order to make the most out of our physical relocation.
When we let go spiritually, we should also let go physically.
What does this item mean to me? An undetermined amount of time from now, when and if I return to America, will finding this item bring me joy? Will it be useful? Can it be replaced?
These are the questions I asked myself.
As I held individual items in my hands, they told stories of my past. I realized that I had been holding on to items no longer meant for me.
The beautiful candle holder my ex-boyfriend gave to me should have been let go the day I let go of him. If I had the strength to let go of a once-beautiful relationship, why could I not do the same with the candle holder, which held far less meaning than the man who gave it to me?
The ugly pajamas given to me by someone I love serve no purpose in my life. I realized holding on to things I dislike simply for the sake of honoring the person who gifted them to me does nothing positive for the relationship. I thought of the more beloved things gifted to me by that person, and I realized that freeing up space to cherish those items will allow me to reap the most physical and spiritual benefits.
When we let go of energy that no longer serves us and release it into the universe, we do so knowing that it may serve a purpose in the lives of others.
I have made a great deal of money selling items that no longer serve me to many grateful people. It has been cathartic to exchange unnecessary-to-me items with people who receive my gifts with joy and share the story each item will serve in their lives. My old writing desk will be painted pink and serve as an end table for a little girl. The candle holder from my former boyfriend is now a kitchen table centerpiece, bringing joy and warmth to a woman’s home. Countless other items will go on to tell stories in the lives of others and my stories within them will evolve.
I have found that the hardest part of this process has been sorting the items—there is a reason I’ve held on to each of these things.
The benefit of moving as often as I do is that at least yearly, I must sort through my belongings and get rid of items that are not useful or meaningful. In the past, I have been able to keep enough items to fill a home. However, moving to a different continent, my items must now be condensed to what can fit inside of my suitcase or my father’s basement.
I do not know how long I will be gone. In fact, I do not have a single plan after the day I arrive in Australia. I know that I have a work visa and a place to stay with my dear aunt. I want to enter the country open to new experiences and possibilities. My hope is that when and if I arrive back in the United States, I will not be the same person I am today.
Look around your home. Take a moment to see what catches your eye.
Why is it there? What story does it tell? Does that story bring you joy? Does it represent the person you are today, or is it a remnant of your past? Pick it up or touch it. What sort of feelings does it represent for you? Imagine letting it go. Is there a gripping sensation or a release? If there is a gripping, what is it that you cannot let go of?
Many people stay stuck within their lives, not because they have found contentment, but because they have become rooted in physical and spiritual stories that have become comfortable and ingrained within them.
In the midst of a catastrophic relationship, I had reorganized my entire home. After the break up, I became stuck. I could not process the termination of the relationship. One night, I once again began moving items around in my home. My sister came to visit and assisted me in moving my heavy items. The next day, I arrived home from work and the second I walked in the door, I fell to my knees in tears. It was not until I slept in my bed, on my own, in the position it had been in before the relationship began, that I was able to gain a new perspective on the loss.
I realize that my situation is unique and not everyone has an aunt in another continent willing to open her home, offering a new perspective and opportunity. However, I do believe that we all have the capacity to take a mindful look around the space that we hold and ask ourselves what purpose it serves.
Even eliminating a few items that go unused or tell stories of relationships that no longer serve a purpose in our lives can be therapeutic.
I write this story as a break from sorting through my belongings—staring at piles of things to be shared, sold, donated, and kept. Even now, there is a chain of emotions and memories strewn across the floors of the space where I’ve resided for the past nine months. It is also important to note, especially for wanderers like me, that there is purpose in the stillness, in the stuck-ness, and in the process.
As crucial as it is to let go, there is no benefit in it if we do not take time to meditate upon the story each item tells, to take from it what we learned, hold that dear, and to let go of what no longer benefits us.
I do not know what awaits me in Australia but I do know that when I arrive, there will be space in my life to hold whatever my journey presents. I will have a suitcase full of things with purpose or meaning. Hopefully my father’s basement will only hold items that, if stumbled upon by my future self or another individual, tell a story that I want my life to reflect.
To the wanderers and to the rooted alike, there is a journey in your space.
Our homes tell stories to us each day. I write as a reminder to myself and as a testament to the best versions of each and every one of us that there is freedom in letting go. Whether your journey is spiritual, physical, or a little bit of both, start with the space you hold before venturing out into the world.
Author: Olivia Lynn Schnur
Image: Caitlin Childs/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman