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Insight, wisdom, lessons learned and everything in between to help you find the information you need for smoother transition between diplomatic assignments.

Purging With/For Others

Updated: May 16, 2022

Many of us that live a nomadic lifestyle as we call it, dream of the days when we can get all of our items packed into a small air freight shipment plus a few suitcases. To be nimble, on the go, and living with only the most important items seems magical. The reality and the dream are far from being in sync (no 90’s boy band reference intended).

So how do we go about purging for or with others in our lives? It can be quite emotional for some. In fact, my youngest told me, wait for it, that when I “make” them give things away, she feels “like she is giving away her childhood.” She’s good, isn’t she? Perhaps we should steer her towards a career in litigation or politics. We try to include our kids in the decision making process. We know that there is so much that they don’t have a say in, that we feel this is one way they can feel in control of their own lives. Hopefully as they become teens that innate human need to feel in control won’t manifest itself in other ways. But that doesn’t mean they get to keep EVERYTHING. Some things they have to purge include: broken toys, clothes that don’t fit or are falling apart, toys the dogs nibbled on, toys that came in a fast food meal of any kind, random sticks or things from nature that could have hidden travelers, books they won’t touch anymore, and certain toys we identified well in advance that would need a new home such as a monster sized dollhouse they brought home from a trip to the pool weeks before we PCS’d.

I have plenty of friends that take another approach – out of sight, out of mind. The kids are offered a chance to pick the most important items in their lives, and then when they aren’t home, everything else gets gradually sold, gifted or disposed of. Sometimes I envy their bravery to make those bold decisions. If they can do it, why can’t I? I, like many people, attach emotions to stuff.

Because I can attach emotion to stuff, I sometimes let myself go down the rabbit hole of finding the perfect home for something I am gifting rather than doing myself a favor and just getting it out. When I help clients with purging, it is so much easier to see what does and doesn’t have a use but I avoid pushing a client that seems to have added emotional value to an item. That plastic cup from a race you ran 5 years ago in Kigali means something to you, so who am I to say that it doesn’t have value?

It’s easy to want to get into keeping things that mean something or making sure the right people receive what you are giving. But remember you need to focus on you. Start with the easy stuff: clothes that don’t fit, or are broken; electronics that have been plugged into transformers for several years, anything expired, or books you will never read again. If there are a few items that remind you of a certain time or mean something to you, set those aside. Should you bring your kids into the process? That’s up to you. Just know that kids can’t process it the way an adult can, at least that’s what I have learned from personal experience.

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