While I’m certainly not the first person who has had to do it, packing up your whole house and moving to a different country in six weeks is a daunting task.
It’s more complicated than just moving, which we’ve done a few times. We have more layers of planning this time — instead of just packing everything and putting it on a truck, we have to first determine what we’re even taking with us and what we’re storing. But since we’re still using all our stuff — even the stuff we’re not going to take with us — we can’t just start sticking things in a storage unit.
I’m more than a little overwhelmed when I think of the whole task. I’m trying to manage my anxiety and take this project one day, one room, one closet-full-of-crap at a time. I thought I was hiding my stress reasonably well.
I’ve been going through each room one at a time, starting with the kids’ rooms last week, just purging and sorting. As I sat on the floor in B’s room one night, sorting through a pile of books and deciding what to take and what to store, she suddenly she burst out with “We can’t do it. We’ll never get it all done!”
She went on, pointing to a small jar of paper clips, all the pictures on the walls, a bag of paperwork we still had to sort out. She had realized, suddenly, the magnitude of the task in front of us: we would have to touch every, single, solitary item in this house — every scrap of paper, every thumb tack and random screw in the junk drawer, every toy in the play room — and decide what to do with each and every one. We’d have to pack things, throw things out, store things, ship things, give things away. And she freaked out — crying and really panicking.
I don’t know if she fed off my stress and that made her stressed. I don’t know if she’s just mature enough and smart enough to comprehend the extent of what needs to get done. I don’t know what made her suddenly see the whole task in front of us. But I do know that the point of taking on this adventure — the core of what I want this experience of moving abroad to be for her — is NOT based on anxiety or fear.
I’m also pretty sure she’s the only other person in this family who actually understands the enormity of what we have to do (ahem). But I don’t want a ten year old carrying that stress or allowing it to bother her.
Not her burden to bear.
I agreed that it was a huge task; there’s no point in down playing it — we’ve got a crap ton of work to do in the next few weeks. But I pointed out that her room was almost done. And the boys’ room was done already. And I’d finished several closets and cabinets and taken things to good will and storage…little by little, we were making progress.
We talked about breaking the giant task into smaller tasks. We talked about not freaking out because it doesn’t help us get things done. We talked about maybe not accumulating quite so much crap going on from here.
She calmed down. She agreed that she could already see we’d gotten a lot done. We moved on and packed up some books and got rid of some clothes she’d outgrown.
It’s my job to set the tone for this move. And I have to be positive about it — because this is the beginning of our grand adventure. The packing and storing and cleaning out this house is the first step.
No matter how I feel inside (There’s SO, SO MUCH left to do. Oh my God, so much.) I have to intentionally remain calm.
And maybe I’ll be so outwardly calm, my insides will be forced to match. (Probably not. But at least I can fake it for the sake of the children.)