The Zen of Pack-Out & A Love Letter to Atlanta

I am a minimalist.

The burden of stuff weighs me down.  The clutter of things makes me feel claustrophobic.  If it’s not being used, I get rid of it.  I only spend if it makes sense.  I form very few sentimental attachments.  And It’s generally easy for me to let go.  Cold hearted?  Absolutely not, thankyouverymuch. 😉  I simply make space and time for what really matters to me: people with whom I share a true connection, items that serve as reminders of heightened experiences, books that fed my mind and soul and occasionally call me back for a visit, and items that speak to my interests, passions, and hobbies.  

I’ve been told that my preference for a minimalist existence will serve me well as I marry into foreign service: it will help make pack-out less of a hassle and will make adapting to new places easier.  

I was recently reading another blog called I’m Here for the Cookies by a fellow foreign service trailing spouse.  In his blog, he wrote a series of posts about his own pack-out as he and his wife prepared for their move.  Reading through these posts brought me a sense of calm as I envisioned the process unfolding for myself.

Moving somewhere new has always been one of my favorite times because it brings to mind the whole “If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you want with you?” question.  I sort through my belongings and judge the necessity of each item.  I consider how many boxes I will have to carry, how much weight I want to carry with me, and if I will care to find a new place for an item in my new home.  Objects that don’t pass these questions get donated, tossed, sold, or given away.  And with each item that leaves my possession, I feel a little lighter, more free, and more centered.  

Last summer, I moved into my apartment with very few possessions.  I was splitting time with my son with my ex-husband, and my son’s home base was still at his dad’s house.  So, I really only needed bare essentials at my place.  In fact, for the first month, I slept on a memory foam pad on the floor.  When I would mention to my friends about my temporary sleeping arrangement, their response was consistently the same: a look of pity, followed by an “Aww, Bobbie”, and then questions about when I would get a real bed and if I needed help with anything.  In truth, I was actually quite happy with my “sleep mat,” as I called it.  I’ve always preferred an extra firm mattress anyhow, so I was getting sufficient sleep on the floor.  

My best friend likened my situation to Henry David Thoreau’s experience at Walden Pond when the poet and philosopher chose to give up many of civilization’s comforts for an “experiment in simplicity.”   My eyes smiled at this comment.  I laughed and then pointed to one of the few books I had on my bookshelf: my annotated copy of Walden, spine leaning to the right against my extremely well-loved copy of The Great Gatsby.  

“Of course,” my friend chuckled.

My own pack-out won’t be as extensive as my friend’s at I’m Here for the Cookies.  In fact,

Wedding pic in front of City Hall in Atlanta

I won’t even been there when the movers come.  My husband and I were married last week (huzzah! 🙂 ), and it’s going to take some time for my paperwork to go through the proper channels and to schedule/organize the movers.  However, we left immediately for our honeymoon (more on that in my next post), so I had to pack into two suitcases everything I thought I’d need for the next couple of months.  The rest was left in the apartment for UAB/HHE packing.

In fact, my first pack-out ended up being quite different from what I had envisioned: within about an hour and a half, I had stuffed as much as I could into my checked luggage (within the 50lb airline limit) and my carry-on.  We would be traveling to San Francisco, California; Washington, D.C.; and various parts of France over the next two weeks for our honeymoon, so I tried to account for those locations as well as Liberia as I tore dresses, tank tops, and cardigans off hangers; rifled through restroom cabinets to decide which toiletries I could not do without; and weighed the form and function of each pair of shoes as I determined which pairs would make the luggage cut.

IMG_6335My UAB (unaccompanied baggage that will be flown to Liberia) will include the rest of my clothing, toiletries, books, and art.  I am really hoping they will also be able to fit my bike into the container, too.  My HHE (household effects) will only include my writing desk and chair, possibly my bike, our telescope, an outdoor bistro table and chairs, and our digital piano.


These are the things that will bring a sense of my own space to my new home with my husband in Liberia, but I’ll have to wait a while until they arrive.

A week ago, I filled my new luggage with as much as I could, made piles of what would be packed later in each room of the apartment, turned off the air in the place, left post-it notes in some places for my sister who will be there with the movers, and made the drive down I-85 toward the airport to leave Atlanta, Georgia, the area I’ve called home for 20 years.  

Some of my favorite memories of the metro area include:

  • Going on outings with my best friends that took us all over the city (especially the more colorful parts!) and allowed us to explore a myriad of cultures (read here about our world-famous Buford Highway)
  • Taking my son to places like Zoo Atlanta, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, the dozens of parks we have near our home, and to various cultural events to feed his curiosity about the world
  • Meeting my best friends and my husband at Georgia State University, the school that provided the setting for the foundation of my personal and professional life
  • Going on bike rides on the various greenways and the Silver Comet Trail in the metro area
  • Meeting hundreds of amazing young people in the schools where I worked who helped shape me as a teacher and an individual
  • Eating lunches and dinners of ethnic food ranging from Indian to Peruvian, Honduran to Thai, Soul to Szechuan, Columbian to Korean, Mexican to Chinese, Vietnamese to Jamaican (and so many others!) often with dear friends and great groups of people
  • Enjoying kickball, picnics, and walks in Piedmont Park
  • Becoming a confident driver in Atlanta traffic and mastering the epic journey of traversing I-85


Last pic of my license plate before I turned it in.  We had some good times.

It was here that I became a grown up, here that I found my people, and here that I realized my calling to help others and empower individuals through education.

I became me in Atlanta.

So, similar to how it would be to part ways with someone who has played a significant role in my life for any length of time, there is a certain sadness that comes along with the knowledge that the relationship between Atlanta and me is about to change forever.  She will no longer be my home, but will instead become a place I come back to visit from time to time.  She will no longer be the setting of my story, but will instead be a place I speak of in past tense.

This city, like a traditional Southern lady, is manicured with obvious care, is accepting of all people who come to visit or stay a while, and is all confidence and charm no matter what season she may be in or what challenges she may be facing.

Atlanta — her people, her buildings, and her qualities — makes her unique to the rest of Georgia.  When those of us who live in the city or the metro-Atlanta area travel and are asked “Where are you from?” or “Where is home?”, Georgia is never our answer.  

We are from Atlanta: ATL, the Empire City of the South.


As I walked next to Andrew from the car rental return kiosk toward the sliding doors to the departures terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, I turned to him just before entering the building and said, “My laaaaast breath of Atlanta air,” and laughed.  (“The last one” has been a running theme with my friends during the past few months as we all prepared for my life’s next chapter to begin.)

“You’ll be back for a visit in a couple of months, babe.  It’s not your last of anything in Atlanta,” he replied.

I turned my head to face him and smiled.  “Well, it’s my last as an Atlanta resident.”

He smiled back, and we entered the airport to board an airplane together for the first time — my mind racing with memories, my heart filled with emotions, and my hands full of all I would carry into the next chapter of my life.

4 thoughts on “The Zen of Pack-Out & A Love Letter to Atlanta”

  1. Every time I read your latest post I think ‘this is the best one so far,’ and of course that was my thought as I read this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and journeys. Can’t wait for next week.


    1. Thank you so much! 🙂 I am definitely enjoying the challenge of describing and elaborating on these experiences. I look forward to it each week, and I’m excited that I will soon have such unique experiences to write about very soon!


  2. Congratulations!! I love to read ur blogs and I feel like u inspire me each time I read ur blogs..I hope ur joyful journey with ur husband brings all the happiness that you never got in the past…


  3. It’s weird — when I left ATL for NYC, I had a blast. There is no place like NYC. But whenever I flew back to ATL, something happened to me when I’d see the city skyline. I was home. Leaving ATL formally never means leaving ATL.


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