This is what over organized looks like

I’ve been reading FSO blogs for months on packing tips. I compiled all my favorite tips and developed some ideas on my own. What happened today during my packout was unbelievable. It was stress-free! The movers were done in a few hours and I ended up with fewer boxes than I was expecting.

So first things first. I started packing weeks ago. I did a little bit at a time. The main part was sorting through what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to donate. A lot of stuff ended up in the donation pile and now in my sister’s closet. I probably chucked 500+ lbs of stuff.

I kept everything boxed up and organized by room, so that when it came to set up for the movers it would be easy. Once a box was finished it ended up in the garage in a corner. Tuesday morning I claimed the garage and cordoned it off, declaring it packing land.

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I then separated the boxes by room on the floor. After I had everything laid out, I packed my suitcases. During that process, I took a few more things out and put them either in air or in storage. Then I took a day off, did absolutely nothing but enjoy time with a friend. I really appreciated having a relaxing day, with zero thinking about packing. My move was Thursday and I was completely ready to go Tuesday.

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My two movers, who were quite the characters, arrived around 10am Thursday and did my air shipment first. Surprisingly enough that little narrow corridor of air shipment just barely fit into the box. It was quite the jigsaw puzzle trying to get it all to fit. My fingers are crossed that I’m not overweight. I only had to move a few things over to household effects: the clothing hangers because they simply wouldn’t fit. But I’ve got my spices, crockpot, food storage containers, shower curtain, Ghana basket, bath towels and rug, winter coats, toiletries, Ghana blanket and comforter, and plunger in that box. (Yes plunger, why? Because you never want it, but when you need it, you need it…) My air shipment is an odd collection of things I might need in DC if I’m there for multiple seasons and things I want to have handy for my UAB shipment to post. I have no idea how much my nifty little box weighs, but the movers said it shouldn’t be over 250lbs.

After they did my air shipment, they started tackling my household goods. The only thing I was truly nervous about was my air. The rest didn’t matter as much to me, save for a few key items. I came into this move with spreadsheets in hand, ready to organize the hell out of this pack.

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And that I did. Here’s a look at the sheets I created. I numbered each box as the movers were finished packing it. I listed on my sheet all the contents and the value of each item. I listed if the items were seasonal and which room they should go into. So now I have a record of each box, should I decide to keep anything in storage. Each box is labeled on at least 3 sides, so when it comes to head to post I just have to rattle off the numbers I want to transportation. Even my floor lamps and bookcases got numbered. The movers would tell me what they were putting into each box as they did it and I just sat in the garage watching. Since all my stuff was already boxed, they just reboxed everything into new boxes and wrapped the items that needed cushion.

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The whole process was efficient, quick, and painless. I even had time to watch the World Cup games during our lunch break. I grilled up some hot dogs for the movers and accidentally ate a taco for lunch, when I knew we are going for tacos for dinner.

They got there at 10am, took a 20 minute break around 11. I fed them a little after noon, and they took an hour break then. They were finished by 2pm.

I had heard so many horror stories about packing and moving, that I guess my expectations were really low. That and I knew I needed to be organized and mentally ready for this move.

The few things I think really made a difference were:

1. Tackling everything a bit at a time over the course of a few weeks
2. Having an entire day of rest before the movers came
3. My spreadsheets!
4. Knowing what I wanted to have from my UAB when I get to post, thanks to reading blogs
5. Getting rid of the stuff I no longer wanted or used
6. Having everything neatly organized in one space for the movers (the first thing they said to me was “fantastic, you did all the work for us! Do you need a job as a mover?”

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The last thing they packed was my Darth Vader mask, which they wrote on the box as “Dark Vader.” Overall, I’d say:

Pack, Pack, Rest

Pack two days. Rest one. Repeat. It’s really not that bad. I’m spacing the whole process out, mainly because I want to do it all now, and because I’ll get to do this every two years! Why not try out a variety of techniques.

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My collection of papers, which I consolidated into one folder, instead of 15.

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The boxes, thus far. All that’s left is in my room. I’m guessing it’s another 5-10 boxes, depending on what I decide to save. Really, this isn’t bad considering I had an entire Budget truck that hauled my stuff from Tulsa to my dad’s house. This is what remains of the probably 50 boxes that left Tulsa. I gave a lot of things away. Because they were just things. Does anyone really need to keep 3 boxes of free college t-shirts? No. Most of the stuff I gave away earlier in the year.

Three boxes on top of the dresser (not mine) are just books. I had a hard time going through that pile. I know it is just added weight, but they are my books! Plus, half of the box below on the left is in German. So I will keep them, because some things are just worth the weight.

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Looks like I’ll finally get to use the two books on the right!

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Before and after. The piles on the left are for storage. The piles on the right are to donate/garage sale/give to relatives who might want them. Many things moved from the left pile into the right one. It was hard to part with some of my Ghana clothes, but I knew it was time to say goodbye. I still feel like I have too many clothes hanging in my closet. How will they all fit in my suitcases! I’ll make it work. I just need to remember to pack my suitcases before the movers show up, so that if it doesn’t fit I can still put it in storage.

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Pack, pack, rest. I helped my dad take the pool cover off last Friday, which is our family’s official start to summer. We haven’t been able to get in the pool yet, mainly because of rain, but I peeked outside this afternoon to see how the pool looked. It rained heavily last night and the water is pretty high, but the sun came out and a few freeloaders decided to go for a dip. I just hope they realize their little mating dance is going to end tragically when my dad pours the chemicals in the pool and all their little eggs they are currently producing won’t make it. Interestingly enough, a spider was actually hitching a ride on top of the male toad on top. I’m pretty sure there is a fable in there.

And now to go enjoy the Oklahoma sunshine while I still can.

A Few Years Apart, but Still the Same

I found myself randomly looking back on old blog entries from my time waiting for my Peace Corps invitation. A found a few hidden gems that I thought were worth resharing:

February 2011:
NEVER, ever let anyone get in the way of your dreams. Especially not a guy. If you have the opportunity to fulfill a life goal or dream, do it. Don’t let anything stand in the way of your happiness. People are important, but remember it’s your life. The best people will be there for you always, no matter where you are.

March 2011 – after I passed the FSOT for the first time:
Passing the FSOT has been a life-long dream of mine. I can still remember the very conversation that made me want to be a FSO. I remember what room it was in, what chair I was sitting in, everything. It was so many years ago…This is my year. This is the year that I accomplish my goals, that I establish that I am a strong, independent woman who never lets go of her dreams. This is the year that I prove success comes from hard work, dedication, ambition, and independence. Further proof that I don’t need a man to define me. I am who I am and I am damn proud of it.

August 2011 – right after I was invited to join Peace Corps, but before I knew which country I was going to:
The crazy emotions of the invite stage are starting to hit me.
Anxious for my actual Big Blue Envelope.
Nervous about my assignment.
Excited for everything that’s in store.
Overwhelmed with all the things I have to take care of.
Penny pinched for having to buy quite a few things – namely skirts, hiking backpack, and certain things I feel necessary for 2 years. aka shit I can’t live without. Plus a new laptop coming soon.
Sad about only having a few more weeks with my friends and my dog.
Really sad that I might never see some of my best friends again for many many years (even after I come back).
Terrible for leaving my dog (he is going to live with my dad).
Guilty for leaving my friends.
Nauseous because of the above.
Fat because I have taken it above myself to eat everything I love, multiple times a day.
Happy about the opportunity I have been given.
Hopeful about the difference I can make.
Grateful for showers, electricity, and flushing toilets.

 


A few years later and the same thoughts are racing through my head. This month, I will begin training in DC for my dream job. Just like my lead-up to Peace Corps, I’m nervous, excited, overwhelmed, and grateful all at the same time. I’ve worked tirelessly to achieve my goals. Now that I have made it over the hump, I am enjoying the experience of preparing for the future. I know I sound like a broken record, but Peace Corps taught me many important lessons, including: enjoy the moment. Packing can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. We all have a choice when it comes to how we frame our experiences. I am spending equal time packing and getting stuff together with reading FSO blogs. Everyday I wake up so excited to be alive and to be one day closer to DC. I can’t wait to meet my classmates. I can’t wait to learn. I can’t wait to be so exhausted from training that I pass out cold every night. I can’t wait to explore my new neighborhood. But until I get on that plane to DC, I am going to enjoy every moment I have left in Oklahoma. (Except for the terrible earthquakes – including the one that literally just hit right after I typed Oklahoma. The one two days ago originated 4 miles from the house and felt like being on a ride at Disney World.)

I feel like the luckiest person alive.

Suddenly the clock starts ticking

All the projects I’ve had saved for a rainy day or when I felt like it, are now at Defcon 1. Why? Because ain’t nobody got time for that in approximately 4-12 months when I am at post and finally get my shipment. Everything suddenly feels urgent. But I’m also that person. You know, the one that likes to get stuff done early, that way I have more free time afterwards. I’m the person that likes to have everything set and ready to go before I start something. Like packing. And I feel like I am finally there. I have everything I wanted to get now. The weird living essentials that I didn’t have, but needed. You know like the plates and spices I bought. Or the blank notebook for my A-100 class. The details. Because when I freak out about something major happening in my life I focus on the details.

And there are so many to keep up with. Which documents do I mail in prior to class starting versus bringing the day of? Did I fill out all the paperwork right? What will I put in my suitcases and what will I put in storage? What am I going to eat for the next month? I will not gain back the weight I lost working for Whole Foods. No way. Even if I don’t have a paycheck for the next month or two, I will still find a way to eat healthy, because it was amazing. Okay, back to my main point. The details. This is what happens. I think of something else I need to remember, write it down and add it to the list. I’ve been good about adding things to the list and marking them off quickly. Let’s do this. Let’s get this done. Because things aren’t going to stop piling up. This is a life changing event. My to do list should be long. Once I leave, I’m not coming back. It’s not like Peace Corps, this is my new forever life.

In the past week, I’ve been very productive. I picked out the car I want to buy if I need to buy one at some point, because yeah. I’m just going to say that’s being prepared and not I’ve got the itch for my own wheels. I got a haircut, and the first thing I thought when I got home was: “oh no, it’s not at cute as my last one! I’m not going to look anywhere near as good in my government ID picture!” But that’s why I did it a month before, so it would have time to grow out just a little. It’s not terrible, it’s just not my style, nor what I asked for. Plus it is a little shorter than I would have liked. Okay, I’ll say it. It makes me look old. I said conservative, but not Mary Fallin or Sarah Palin. I meant, I don’t want hair spikes. Just another shining example of why communication is key.

And to cap off my productive week, since the past three days were my Memorial Day weekend (I’m working Saturday and Sunday), I finally finished a project I’ve been meaning to do since I got back to America.

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I turned my fabric scraps into wall art! When I get to post, whenever that may be I will have 9 lovely pieces of fabric art to hang on my walls. Just a lovely reminder of where I came from and my second home.

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Preparations Have Begun

Everything is moving so fast now. Well, sort of. Tasks are moving along quickly, but it is as if time has come to a stand still. Luckily, I experienced this phenomenon many times during my Peace Corps service. Sunday will be my last day working at Whole Foods. I decided to spend my last month before I join the Foreign Service with friends, family, and relaxing. Let’s be honest, when am I going to have that chance again? I’m going to take the time to pack at my own pace and go into my A-100 class stress-free. As far as that’s possible.

I still can’t believe this is happening. I realized the other day that I feel lighter. Simply lighter. Not only has this great weight been lifted off my shoulders, but my heart just feels whole. Like I was missing something for so long and now it beats at full strength. Like I just leveled up and achieved all the max hit and talent points. I’m adding this as a major gold star in my achievement list. But I thought about it a bit and realized, now what? What’s my next dream going to be? What’s going to push me for the next 10 years? I think I’ll use the A-100 class and training to help develop that goal further. Because you know, never stop aiming for the top, a dream is a wish your heart makes, hold fast to dreams, the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, and all that jazz. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

And back to preparations…

I’ve started collecting a few things that I know I’ll need to make my future government-provided, fully furnished house a home. I know two things are for certain: I like to feel comfortable in my space and I want to entertain. There are little comforts that make a huge difference when it comes to making your space feel like yours. For me that includes my Ghana collections and scents. Alright let me explain. Everything I brought back from Ghana has a story. And many of those stories instantly whisk me away to an experience that either makes me cry tears of happiness or swell with smiles of crazy memories. These are my artifacts. And then scents. For me, I remember the smell of places. My aunt’s house always smelled like what a house should smell like, welcoming, inviting, and friendly. So I bought some candles, just a few that smell like home to me: beets and honeysuckle. Not together. Beets sounds weird, but I grew up eating pickled herring and eel on a stick. The smell of beets just smells like a kitchen to me. And if I’m posted in some far off land that looks and feels as far from home as possible, at least I’ll have a few things that will make me feel like my house truly is my home.

That’s how I romantically justify my trip to Anthropolgie.

Additionally, I made use of my Whole Foods Team Member discount to stock up on spices. The elusive little ingredients that make all things better.

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And to add to my kitchen, I finally bought plates. Real plates. Plates that are not made from plastic and found in the dollar section at Target. I’m officially an adult now.

 

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So basically, the summarize this post: I’m obsessing over the small details of this big move, because that’s what I do. Details are my thing. And I’m sure next year when I am having colleagues over for wine and cheese they will appreciate the fact that I have 12 salad plates. I aim to please.