We have a lot of stuff. I'm not quite sure how we got all of the stuff, but I imagine my Target and Amazon order histories would give a reasonably accurate picture of how all of this stuff ended up in my house. Regardless of how it got here, however, it is a lot of stuff. I suppose that's what happens when you couple eight people with homeschooling, a reasonable amount of disposable income, and being in a place where online shopping is a viable form of self-therapy. There's no bad day that can't be made a little better by some retail therapy that brings a happy box of America to you. Don't judge until you've been here.
Almost all of the time I like this stuff. I love it when I sit down in my living room and it looks so pretty, I enjoy it when I'm cooking dinner and I have all the right tools, I appreciate it when I feed thirty-five people and everyone has real plates, silverware, and cloth napkins, I am grateful for it when the children spend hours playing with their toys instead of bothering me, and I like it when I can have a pretty dress to wear to a party. All of these things I have accumulated help me out in some way or another.
But there are two times when I do not like everything I have accumulated: 1. When I have to have it packed up and weighed, and 2. When Brandon reminds me that this will happen.
When we first joined State, we packed out with 2,500 pounds of household goods. We had two children and not much disposable income. After Baku, we had more income and more children (working on five) and more than double the weight. If the trend line continues, either multiplicatively or additively, we are going to be in trouble. This is something I get reminded of at least once a week.
And so, I have started getting down to work. Usually I like to do things in the bare minimum amount of allowable time. If the plane leaves at 9 am, I like to stroll up to the gate at 8:40. Then I have time to get other stuff done. Also true with packing. When Brandon starts talking about suitcases two weeks before leaving, I look at him like he's insane. Why pack everything when you're just going to take it out and use it all again before you leave? I don't like duplicating efforts. It's not very efficient.
Usually Brandon and I spend a week or so of agony-inducing sorting the month before we pack out. If you've never considered sorting agony-inducing, you've never sorted enough things. According to the LA Times, the average American has about 300,000 household items in their homes. Now imagine looking at every single one of those items (yes, every single one. Even the crayons. Because it makes no sense to move little bitty crayon stumps. I have sorted our crayons multiple times) and deciding whether to toss or keep that item. Times 300,000.
The first several hundred aren't too bad. It's kind of fun, when you've got someone to do it with. Brandon and I will closet ourselves in some room and the children will quickly grow bored with us and wander off to their toys (approximately 10,000 of the total number of items). Then Brandon and I can spend hours talking and sorting. It's very companionable. But by about the third hour, you start getting tired. The talk becomes less cerebral and more commentary on what is being sorted. By the sixth hour you're just grunting, having used up all the words, and the children have started eating each other. By the ninth, you never want to make another decision again in your entire life. Then you eventually give up, chase the children into bed (or pick up the ones that have fallen asleep where they played), and crawl into bed yourselves. Then you wake up and do it again.
And so this time, I've decided to wise up and start early. Brandon and I have a long-standing disagreement about how much stuff we have. He thinks that we are at least a thousand pounds overweight (which adds up when you pay overweight fees by the pound) and I think we still have about five hundred pounds left in our allowance. Last time we thought we were overweight, sold off a lot of our consumables, and then ended up with a thousand extra pounds in our shipment. Then we just had to buy everything all over again before we came to Dushanbe.
One of us (I'm not sure who) came up with the brilliant idea of making a spreadsheet of everything we own and then weighing it. Both of us like the idea of definitively proving the other person wrong and then keeping/purging (depending on the results) what is necessary to be kept/purged.
A few Saturdays ago, the house was struck down with sickness (it is summer and that means norovirus season). Brandon had to take Sophia in to the embassy for IV fluids and so I decided, after being irritated about spending my Saturday at home, that I might as well do something useful with my time. Because I'm responsible occasionally. Four or five hours later my nightstand was cleaned out, the top of my dresser was cleaned off, my wardrobe was organized, and I had cleaned out and weighed one half of our upstairs storage room. My spreadsheet had the weights of most of our household linens recorded (queen sheets sets, 3, 3.5 kilos) and there was a pile of things for my housekeeper to distribute.
The girls have Friday chores that I assign each week based on what I need done, so last week I started them weighing the items in my living room. They each weighed forty or fifty items, and a hundred items and a hundred kilos were added to my list, named The List to Rule Them All. I figure if everyone does that for nine or ten months more, we should have everything cleared out and weighed. Then Brandon and I don't lose all will to live in another long, horrible week of sorting.
But we'll have to see. Sometimes I think I'm clever and it works out really well and I make sure that everyone knows how clever I am. Sometime I think I'm clever and it works out horribly. Like that time we took a rest stop in Frankfurt. But you never know which idea is a good clever idea or a bad clever idea until you try them both out. I'll let you know which kind this is next year when we pack out.