This is the U-Haul that I drove across Ontario last summer with the last of my belongings to ship to Barbados.

In the future, when someone asks me for advice on how to store things while going overseas, I will say: Get rid of EVERYTHING!  End of blog post.

This is how I found my storage unit when I returned to Ottawa - FULL!This is how I found my storage unit when I returned to Ottawa - FULL!

Over the last two weeks I have been obsessed with reducing my personal belongings in Canada to the absolute minimum.  This started a year and a half ago when I sold my three-bedroom house and began the task of selling my furniture.  I reached my goal of fitting what remained into a 5 x 10-foot storage locker.

While on this current trip to Canada, I tried to find a shipper who would take the contents of the storage locker from Ottawa to Toronto and onwards to Barbados.  I received two quotes for $4,000 US and decided that it was time to think bigger and get even smaller.  I started selling again.

The big things were sold on-line.  First went the leather furniture; it doesn’t fair well in the tropical heat.  Then went the golf clubs (when is the last time that I played?) and side tables (there are ones already in my new condo, even though I loved the ones I had).  Onwards to more difficult decisions, like the barbecue; I had a tinge of regret as the new owners loaded that into their vehicle.

Yard sales are a lot of work but you can move a serious amount of merchandise!

Two garage sales helped me sell the multitude of small items that I decided I didn’t need.  There is a big difference between need and want.  Many of these items I had carried with me for decades, and through multiple moves.  I loved the leather bag that I bought in the Grand Bazaar in Turkey and the overnight bag from Italy that I bought in Rome.  I never used them, I just adored them.

Those of you who collect will understand my anguish in getting rid of the thimble collection that I created as a child and the picture books from Australia, Norway, Malaysia, and Britain. I never looked at them any longer, but they were beautiful.

There was something in me that needed to give these belongings to someone who also loved them.  It wasn’t about the money; it was about the handover.  I couldn’t bear to drop them off at the Goodwill, where there wouldn’t be someone look me in the eye and say, I am going to give this a good home.

I was able to the get the items down to approximately 8 x 4 x 4 feet, the size of two shipping crates.  When the frustration of arranging a mover was too much to bear, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I rented a Uhaul truck and drove the stuff to Toronto myself!

Instead of a crate, my things were piled onto a pallet and shrink-wrapped.

What would you have done?  Paid the extra and had shippers move it?  Or endure the stress and adventure and do it yourself?

A bit of context on this epic journey:

  • It is a minimum four-hour drive from Ottawa to Toronto, and closer to five in a Uhaul.
  • I have been living on an island where we rarely drive further than a half hour, and we do it on the other side of the road.
  • Never have I driven anything bigger than a cargo van.
  • You do not want to drive a truck when the price of gas is almost $2/litre.

I was feeling badass when I rolled into Laparkan shipping in Toronto, yet not too proud to ask the man to back up the truck into the loading dock.  I had made it from Ottawa to Toronto without putting the truck into reverse once.

There was some fun in Ottawa with beach volleyball and beautiful sunsets - even if I had to enjoy them with a sweater on.

Some will feel that I spent too much time on this venture and should have just burned everything or took it to the Salvation Army.  For me, it was a process.  First, I had to remind myself of where I came from to build a new life with intention. I realized the fortress of things that I had built around me in Ottawa.  I said goodbye to my things and my life in Ottawa, where I lived for 13 years prior.  I am welcoming a new way of life – simple and uncluttered.  This life has brought me peace for a year and a half, and I hope will for many years to come.