The Move – Slate-Cleaning

Torridon, Scotland.

Torridon, Scotland.

 It seems to be falling into place quite steadily. I’ve received confirmation of my housing application this week: the first 12 months of grad school will be spent in a 2-person flat that’s right on campus (sharing with another grad student). My Hep B immunisation course has been completed and the accompanying paperwork dealt with. A brief hunt back home turned up my essential visa paperwork from the last time I moved to the States (passing through US Immigration & Customs I might be asked about my previous J1 visa status, so it’s rather useful if I can show the border guards the appropriate forms!).

Last week I also had a major clean-out of the stuff that’s accumulated in my family bedrooms from university. I was in an unsentimental mood – whole boxes of clothes and household items were taken out of my wardrobe and immediately set in the “Donate To Charity” corner. Notes from my secondary school and undergraduates classes were unceremoniously dumped in the paper recycling bin. Elderly makeup was chucked.

Part of the motivation is brutal necessity. I’m permitted 2 items of hold luggage for my flight to New York JFK. I also have to haul said belongings around Edinburgh, London, New York and New Jersey to get between accommodations and transportation. The process of moving puts me under a lot of stress to begin with: tugged at overweight suitcases with broken wheels only exacerbates the condition.

The other aspect of the motivation is my urge for reinvention and change. As Rian (“The Cost Of Clutter”) and Cecile (“Get out of my way, clutter!”) have written about already, physical clutter and emotional clutter are inter-linked, usually within the same object!


Back in May 2013 I attended an interview for a PhD position in Switzerland. Regular readers will recall the impressive fall-out that resulted. The fact I’m packing my bags in 2013 for a PhD position in the USA is the most direct (positive) consequence.

In preparation for this interview, I went out and bought myself a new suit. I was unsure of the etiquette surrounding PhD interviews in this particular country…but decided to err on the side of caution and dress as formally as I could (no one can fault you for wearing a suit, after all). It was a rather nice grey suit jacket & trousers that I selected – it cost me something in the region of 200€ and my ass looked damn good in it.

The interview came and went. The upsetting emotional aftermath of the interview came and went. I can still feel the scorching sunshine on my back as I walked over white gravel towards the interview site, fretting about how the pale dust would look on my clean black shoes. It doesn’t matter that I’ve come to terms with the consequences of that day – the memories still hurt me.

That lovely grey suit I bought? Its got itself tangled up in those unhappy memories: I’ve never worn it since. Months later when I met up with other faculty and attended other PhD interviews, I stuck with the ordinary “business casual” clothing that I always wear. Sitting beside the other male interviewees in their suits & ties, and the ladies in their monochrome “formal wear” I did look a shade under-dressed…but at the same time it felt like I was fitting in better with the professors and host grad students, and I didn’t have the same degree of “big day nerves” when I was wearing my everyday clothes.

That is why the suit was tossed into the charity bag without as much as a second glance. If there comes a time when I need a formal/interview outfit I’ll go ahead and shell out another 200€ (or equivalent sums in an alternative currency) on a new suit, because I know a piece of unhelpful emotional clutter when I see it.

On the other hand…

At the bottom of my wardrobe sit two sizeable crates that are filled with the books that lined my university flats. These remain 100% untouched. Books are far too important to me and my identity to just…get rid of. The same with my photographs.


The de-cluttering process did feel therapeutic. The dust clouds generated as I dug out pre-university objects from the deepest recesses of my cupboards made me sneeze incessantly.

I ended up with 2 black bins of junk, half a wheelie bin of recycled paper, 6-8 boxes of items to be handed to charity.

Overweight luggage at the airport isn’t going to be a problem for me.

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