Cleaning House

There was a period where I was moving around quite a bit. In nine years, I had eight different addresses that spanned five cities on three continents. The logistics of all of that, of course, meant I couldn't possibly keep a mass of possessions. 

With each move, I would evaluate which things I needed to take with me and which I could give away. In particular, that meant clothing. It seemed with each move I would donate piles of clothes. In Korea, that also meant dozens of shoes that I had bought for 10 000 Korean won (about $10) and were so uncomfortable they hid in my wardrobe.

But I also had hopes for one day settling into my own place, and I liked to pick up some items for my future apartment. Like: paintings from Thailand and Vietnam, batiks from Ghana, a nargile (hookah) from Turkey, wall maps from Korea and Zambia, pottery from New Mexico, a rug from Egypt, a hammock from Mexico.

I've been in my Vancouver apartment for four years now, and these things have all been unpacked. My paintings have been framed and are hanging on walls throughout my one-bedroom apartment. In the living room, the pottery and statues are on the bookshelves. The rugwhich I bought at an oasis in the Egyptian desert and carried for ten days on my backpackanchors the living room furniture. My bright yellow hammock hangs in the corner. 

A painting from Ghana, on the wall behind the hammock 

A painting from Ghana, on the wall behind the hammock 

And as it happens over the years, I've accumulated some other stuff. I haven't had to move in a while to necessitate a re-evaluation of my possessions. Even though I'm not on the road anymore, I want to live as if I was; I want to pare down my possessions and live a more modest lifestyle.

I recently borrowed Marie Kondo's bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up from the local library. In it, Kondo details how to declutter one's house and live a more organized life. Her twist is that I should declutter category by category, not room by room. I just finished the first category: clothes. Once again I found myself donating bags of clothing, this time to the local thrift store.

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Up next: books. I have a tendency to buy books on my trips, which I love to do because I believe local books are a great way to immerse myself in a culture. I frequented a local bookstore the summer I was volunteering in Lusaka and bought half a dozen books about Zambia and Africa, including Dead Aid by the Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo. In Turkey, I bought two of Orhan Pamuk's books, Snow and Istanbul. One of my favourite books I picked up in Korea is Simon Winchester's Korea, in which he walks across the country. It inspired me to spend my last five days in the country walking across Seoul from east to west to north to south. Luckily, as per Kondo's rules, I get to keep the ones that "spark joy". 

Cleaning house means I choose experiences over possessionsa traveller's lifestyle, even when I'm home.