“I purge compulsively. I’m constantly shedding things.” -Andrew Sullivan

Following my “goodbyes” post from Friday, I figured I can write about a huge part of this whole China adventure, which has been weighing on my mind a lot lately. (Also it’s a quick way to write a post.) So today’s subject is the process of packing.

As you may or may not be able to imagine, packing to go live in another country for an extended period of time is not the easiest process. Having done this sort of thing before, I know that I have to be careful as to what and how much I take with me. I’m allowed one 50 lb. suitcase and a carry on. Anything additional will probably cost me $200.

On top of the prospect of packing exactly what I need for a year on the other side of the planet, there’s a good chance that my folks are moving out of my childhood home before I come back. So I can’t just leave everything else behind, I have to single out what is important so that they don’t throw it away when they move.

I have two things going for me: I have done a few purging processes over the past few years (so my closet is only full of fairly recent junk), and I love getting rid of things I don’t need. If I was a psychology major I could probably find some sort of reasoning behind the relief I feel when cleaning out my old junk, but as an English major I’ll just put it down to an Ernest Hemingway-esque minimalism, except without all the inherent misogyny.

However, even though I like the feeling of watching clothes I don’t wear and junk I’ve accumulated just disappear, it’s not always that easy. There’s always stages of packing just like there’s stages of grief. This applies to any time you’re moving out of a place you’ve been living in.

Anyway, without further ado, here are Samwise’s quick-and-dirty stages of purging:

Stage 1: Procrastination

Stage one can last anywhere from a few days to a few months (anything more should be considered preprocrastination, which isn’t covered in this how-to guide) and starts exactly when you say to yourself, “Yes, I am officially moving.” You don’t have to believe yourself, but it’s important to know when you actually start putting off the things you need to do to make it happen.

This stage is a pretty easy concept and I won’t spend much time on it. Basically you know what you need to do, but you’d rather watch Netflix.

Stage 2: Denial

Stage two lasts anywhere from ten minutes to a half hour. In this stage the packer still has yet to address the reality that they are purging their possessions, and usually spends this time laying out their items and just looking at them. They refuse to admit that they are getting rid of anything, but they feel like they’re making progress by pulling things out into the open.

Stage 3: Nostalgia

Stage three generally lasts anywhere from a half-hour to several hours, and in case you’re not sure; you do actually have to start the purging process to reach the Nostalgia phase. You may experience some nostalgic feelings during your Procrastination period, but that’s just a side effect of you ignoring your anxieties.

During the Nostalgia stage, packers find themselves pouring over each and every item they uncover, reminiscing about where it came from. Nostalgia is an important phase, because it allows the packer to fully consider the object’s value. It is also a dangerous phase, because it’s really easy to feel attached to the items that you’re pulling out of storage and haven’t even looked at since you moved it from your last residence. (There are two technical categories these items fall into; heirlooms and junk.)

Stage 4: Apathy

Stage four begins as soon as the packer realizes they’ve lost most of the day in the nostalgia phase. Typically the Apathy mindset is accompanied by a lot of trash bags and phrases like “Yeah, but I don’t really need it,” or, “I haven’t used this in years,” followed by trips to Goodwill. The Apathy phase can be dangerous because packers might accidentally throw something useful or valuable away. This stage can also be important because, honestly, no one gets anything done in the Nostalgia stage.

Important: What is interesting about the Apathy stage is how it changes when there are multiple packers. Stages 3 and 4 may occur at different times for each packer, and usually not simultaneously. In a situation where two packers are at work, such as a married couple, generally one partner is in the Nostalgia stage while the other has reached Apathy. Even more significant are situations with more than 2 packers, where two or three packers may be engrossed in Nostalgia while there is still only one Apathetic packer, who generally wishes the other packers would just **** off.

Stages 3 and 4 also have a tendency to repeat themselves, and should not be taken as a rule.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Stage five begins when a packer has completed stages 3 and 4, potentially multiple times, and the packer stops for a breather. At this point the packer will look around the room and realize they have mostly just made a huge mess. They will then look at the trashbags full of clothes, count the number of times they have visited goodwill, and decide enough is enough. A packer in the Acceptance phase decides to put the remaining heirlooms/junk back in the storage area and resign themselves to starting the whole process over again tomorrow. They inevitably will not follow through with their promise, starting back at Stage One.

It is recommended that the Acceptance stage be followed by a cold beer, or treat of the packer’s choice.

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