When did my life become so full of stuff? It did not happen in a day, week, or year. Like Midlife, it snuck up on me.
In order to rent out my house, I had to deal with it all. We emptied out closets, drawers, and cabinets. We had two garage sales. What did not sell, we donated. Then we went back in for more emptying.
Some of this felt great. It was liberating to see how nice, clean and fresh the house looked. There was a brightness and energy that was missing under all that clutter.
Some of this emptying was really difficult. Without realizing it, I have held emotional attachments to a lot of that stuff. Getting rid of it involved dealing with those attachments.
Closets, drawers, shelving, basement storage. Desks, cabinetry, and the garage. Wow.
We never considered ourselves hoarders but we were clearly in denial. We just had ample space to spread it out and storage space to hide it away.
After moving out of our home, we lived in an Airbnb for 4 weeks before leaving for Spain. Since I was still working and the kids were in school, we needed the work-and-school stuff with us. I was tasked with sorting it all and making decisions about what to leave behind versus bring with us to Spain. Unfortunately, I was so busy working and getting everything else organized, that I procrastinated. That proved to be an expensive mistake.
The day before we left Kansas, I made another suitcase purchase. The musical instruments took up a lot of space and I realized we needed more room for our clothing and shoes. I didn’t want to spend money on that in Spain or be bothered with figuring out where to buy stuff right away. We might as well take what we already have.
The next morning, we were not on the road, as planned. We were still struggling to sort and pack, and our luggage was over the weight limit. I grabbed a tall garbage bag and stuffed it full of items that had to stay in Olathe.
By late afternoon, we were out of time for another trip back to our house, so I left the garbage bag with some friends on the way out of town. I’ll deal with it when we get back. I also handed off 3-4 bags of grocery items. I didn’t want to waste food. This was after leaving bottles of shampoo, hand lotion, coffee, condiments, etc. in the Airbnb for the host and her guests. I also made a final Costco run to return recently purchased items I had intended to take with us. There was simply no room.
I was shedding “stuff” everywhere I went. To move forward, I had to let it go.
We finally got out of town and headed towards Des Moines. I had rented a minivan to carry the three of us, 2 pets and all that luggage. I usually drive a Prius so the minivan felt like a semi-truck to me. The physical and emotional weight of the last few months and lack of sleep was catching up with me. I bought a coffee to caffeinate. Stay awake!
We made it to La Quinta in Des Moines, unloaded the luggage and hauled it up to the hotel room. I re-evaluated the pile and reminded the kids of the weight limit on the carry-ons and backpacks. I soon realized (shocker) that we were still overweight.
Why did we buy 3 medium-sized suitcases instead of large suitcases? Stuffed to the gills, they each weighed only 35 pounds. We were thinking about how we could stack the small and medium suitcases inside of the larger ones for storage in a small European apartment. Good thinking, but en route to Chicago, we needed more space.
I called the airline to tell them we would have one extra suitcase and learned that it would cost $200 because we hadn’t paid in advance. If I buy a 2nd “extra” suitcase because we’re still overweight, it will be another $200? Yep.
I went to the front desk and asked for empty printer paper boxes. They didn’t have any. I drove to HyVee and asked for a free apple box in the produce section. We can mail a bunch of stuff to my parents in Omaha. I went online and did an estimate for what that would cost. It would cost over $200 to truck 50 pounds 2 hours down the road to Mom and Dad. Surely there are better options, but I didn’t have time to figure it out. We had a plane to catch.
The next morning, I made a Target run for another $80 suitcase (in addition to the $80 Wal-Mart suitcase I had already purchased). We then paid $400 for the 2 extra suitcases on TAP Airlines.
More crap = more headache = more expense. This isn’t hard math. All-in, the excess baggage fiasco cost almost $600. Gonzalo’s gonna blow his stack.
I justify this fiscal and organizational failure by reminding myself that there are 4 musical instruments packed and they take up a lot of space. I also remember, through a twilight-zone-like haze, my mental state at the time. I was exhausted. Gonzalo is the supply chief. He is ruthless about packing, weighing and purging. I was on detail duty handling a million other things before we left Kansas and he was in Spain. I was not as hands-on with teenager inventory management as I should have been.
Also worth mentioning is the Costco coffee run. My Colombian husband considers it a national emergency to live without good coffee. After 2 weeks of drinking a gritty, bitter, ink-like substance they call coffee in Spain, it was non-negotiable that I bring good coffee from the US. Being a nice wife, I dutifully made a Costco run and purchased 4 large bags of black gold to make him happy. Did that contribute to the $600 excess baggage fiasco? Yep. That’s some pretty expensive arabica.
Oh, and I forgot about the yellow teddy bear. Daughter # 1 insisted on bringing the big yellow teddy bear that sat on her rocking chair when she was a baby. But it won’t fit!
She was determined that it would and left space (somehow) in her carry-on. She stuffed it in. Daughter # 2 sat on the suitcase lid in the La Quinta hotel room to smoosh it down, while Daughter # 1 fought with the zipper to close it. Teddy made it to Spain but looks like a Teddy panini. If you are the parent of teenage girls, you understand the drama of which I speak.
I had one frazzled nerve left and it had to get us to Chicago O’Hare.
While loading the mini-van (again), all 60 inches in height of me had to wrestle 11 suitcases, 3 backpacks, and a pet carrier.
In the process of trying to pull a large suitcase all the way into the van, I reached over a seat, gave a hard pull, and the suitcase wheels locked. It didn’t budge. I, however, body-slammed my right pec and shoulder into the headrest. Ouch. That took 2 weeks of pain, suffering, hot packs, rest, and ibuprofen to deal with.
Have I mentioned that we have too much stuff and that the excess creates suffering? Yes, I believe that is the theme here. Excess baggage creates suffering. I am discussing my luggage, but of course, the allegory goes much deeper. I will unpack that on sabbatical over a nice paella on the beach.
Miraculously, we arrived at Chicago O’Hare on time. It took another burst of adrenaline, slow, deep breathing, and centering prayer to get me through my traffic anxiety in big cities. Remind me never to drive in Chicago. Ever. Again.
We paid for 2 luggage carts and made 2 trips from the rental car garage down to the shuttle pick-up area. Then we loaded all the stuff onto the shuttle. Then we unloaded it all at the terminal. Then we found more carts at the terminal, loaded those up, and made two trips through a crowded terminal, and up the elevator to the international departure area. Then we handed off all this baggage at the check-in desk. What a relief!
It was time to say bye-bye to the doggies. I had screwed the cage lid on but didn’t know I also needed zip ties. Apparently, dogs have been known to escape their carriers and go for a jog on the tarmac. Airlines prefer that not happen, so they provided zip ties.
We went to the gate, boarded the plane, and found our seats. We will fly to Lisbon, make a quick plane change, and take a one-hour 15-minute flight to Madrid. In roughly 10 hours, we should be landing in Madrid where Gonzalo will be waiting. He has already pitched a fit over the $600 luggage snafu and upgraded his rental vehicle to a cargo van.
This was the travel plan, but of course, things did not go as planned. The flight was delayed for one hour in Chicago. We missed the connecting flight in Lisbon and had to wait 9 hours for the next flight out that had room for the dogs.
Once in Lisbon, we jumped through various hoops to collect the dogs and located the veterinarian for document review and approval. Thankfully, the microchips, rabies shots, final vet visit, and trip to Topeka had paid off and our paperwork was in good order. We were able to walk the dogs and take potty breaks. Several hours later, we hopped another plane and were quickly in Madrid.
Once we arrived in Madrid, we left the plane and followed the signs to Baggage Claim. It seemed like a long walk. A really long walk. It was. We ended up in another terminal and had to go back. So much for my Spanish language skills.
Gonzalo was waiting for us outside of the Baggage Claim area. He simultaneously hugged us and vented about us being late because we were lost in the airport in Madrid.
Airport Security would not let him enter the baggage claim area, so I went back in with the girls. More carts, more luggage. The dogs were there and eager to get out of the carrier. We asked for scissors to cut a zip tie, then let them out of jail and onto their leashes. After months of anxiety over checking my dogs in cargo, they were happy, with tails wagging, as if nothing had happened.
Here we go again. Count the suitcases. Does it add up to 11? Yes. Add in 3 backpacks and a pet carrier. Fifteen. Four humans and two canines. Twenty-one. All accounted for.
As luck would have it, the cargo van was parked near the other terminal we had just left. We hiked all the way back with multiple carts piled high. It would be the wee hours of the morning before making it to our apartment near Valencia, but we were together, excess baggage and all. Thanks be to God.