One year ago at this time, I did something noone prepared me for: I reduced everything that I own to the size of a suitcase.

Why?

My wife and I had decided to move to a foreign country which was almost 3,000 kilometers away.

Shipping the contents of our apartment (furniture, dishes, my homestudio equipment etc.) around the world would cost a fortune, or at least a lot more than just renewing everything once we would arrive.

So a decision was made: We would get rid of everything and take with us only what we could carry.

Easier said than done.

The apartment we were living in at the time contained numerous galaxies of stuff from times and places ranging more than 20 years back. There were shoe boxes full of linguistic textbooks (who knew when I’d need them again, right?), a carefully assembled CD collection and even original drawings from my kindergarten self.

In case you’ll ever find yourself in a similar situation, I hope the following will be helpful:

Week 1: Auctioning Off The Heavy Weights

First of all we decided to sell as much of it as possible. Among these items were: A Technics Sl-1200 (bought second hand in Thailand and shipped once around the world), a four channel mixer, a studio-microphone + stand, a four-octave MIDI keyboard, a CD player, an amplifier, two heavy loudspeakers, a desktop tower, a screen and a printer/scanner/fax thing.

We put all of it on ebay and told the people: “pick it up yourself.” – This resulted in a bit of fast cash and meeting lots of interesting people right at my doorstep. Except the printer/scanner/fax thing we sold everything. And all of the people were really nice, if sometimes a bit peculiar. (I remember one of them bringing a sort of hand-made harness which he fastened to the desktop tower and lugged off with it.) Virtually all of them gave me weird looks when I told them that we were dismantling the apartment. But for politeness’ sake, I guess, they didn’t say anything but paid and carried off the goods.

Once all of that stuff was gone, unfortunately, the apartment didn’t look fuller. The opposite was the case: The more we got rid of these things, the more we became aware of how much was still left.

Week 2: Throwing Out Hard Storage Mediums

But at least it was a bit easier now. Without a CD player there was no need for CDs, and without a record player, what do you need records for? So, off they went. I started auctioning the CDs off, one by one, first, but it was a stupid idea. It took too long and gave me a headache. So I sold them as a bundle. The owner of a 2nd hand music store eventually picked them up and gave me a juicy tip, complimenting me on my taste of music.

A bit more problematic was the fact that one of my favorite media didn’t need any special playback device but was firmly lodged between my shoulders: Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about books!

I had collected many of them over many many years. Again, I started out by auctioning them off, one by one (I loved them too much to just dump them on the street) but it quickly drained my energies and focus. So, after a while I decided to pay the local 2nd hand bookshops a visit and see who was buying what.

First stop was a very German shop that insisted on scanning the books’ barcodes, one by one, compare them with their database and accept them only if they fitted a certain (to me incomprehensible) pattern. Apparently, the staff didn’t have anything else to do than to just lazily swivel on their chairs and interrogate me about the books: “Why did you buy this? Is this good? If you didn’t like it why should we buy it?” and so on and so forth –  it took an eternity and half of my goods didn’t conform to their pattern. So I had to change my strategy.

My wife found a tiny book store a few blocks away in which an old man with a grey beard sat among thousands of old books. It was hard to see anything in there, not to mention walk! But the man was very friendly, obviously a hopeless collector, and we were eager to feed his addiction. We agreed on some kind of euro per kilo offer or something and from then on it was stuffing books into backpacks, going to the store, cashing in and returning home to repeat the procedure.

This, to use the modern speech, unlocked another achievement: Empty shelves!

Week 3: Breaking Down Furniture And Trashing The Unsalvageable

Once the shelves were empty it became relatively easy to dispose of them. A few were old and useless so I just bent them until they splintered, threw them out of my ground-floor window while my wife carried them off to the trash.

Those that were still good we lugged around to the entrance gate of the house and mostly after ten minutes they had disappeared. Among these items were: two wooden bookshelves, a metal/glass desk, two office chairs and a sofa which quickly disappeared from the street only to reappear a few days later, a few meters further away where it waited in the snow for many days until it was finally carried off to the eternal sofa grounds by some unknown force (maybe someone had complained about that bulky thing blocking the sidewalk?).

Week 4: The Devil Is In The Details

Despite getting rid of all of the above, there was still too much left, not too much to feel homey at home, anymore but definitely too much to carry on our backs or just leave to the unsuspecting landlord.

The short answer is that we put everything in boxes and put it out on the street. Everything, from old clothing to dishes to unclassifiable junk was never waiting more than a few hours to be finally picked up and carried off by their new owners. Many times, I remembered, saying to my wife: “What? That? Who could possibly want that?” but then, minutes later, the boxes were wiped clean as if the streets insatiable appetite had devoured even the least desirable of our possessions. (Sometimes even the boxes themselves disappeared!)

The long answer is that it was these small things, from pencils to cables, that caused the most trouble – and actually, we were carrying them off from the first day of this project until the very last.  The lesson here, obviously, is never to accumulate to much of it in the first place, but then again, these things have a way of clinging to human life like leeches. “Oh, a free promotional pen! What space could this possibly take?” we say, but then, years later we open a drawer and are drowned in a flood of junk!

Week 5: The Departure

Nothing I remember better than the final day in this apartment, actually it was early morning.

It was cold. Very cold. Thick ice covered the streets and a terrible wind swept through the darkness.

We woke up on our mattress, the only furniture that still remained in the apartment. While I boiled some water for our last coffee and my wife went into the bathroom, I took the mattress, blankets and pillows and dumped them into the trashcan.

When my wife came out of the bathroom, we sat down at the table, drank our coffee, ate a slice of bred, and then sat the table into the snow next to the house’s entrance gate.

Our apartment was empty. The cups and dishes of our last breakfast went out in a trash can. We took our suitcases, locked the door and then – as previously agreed with the landlord – I put our keys into the caretaker’s mailbox.

I still remember the sound of metal on metal as our keys hit the bottom of his mailbox.

The door behind us was closed. And we stood in the dark, past the point of no return.

So we carried off everything we owned through the icy black morning, realizing that wheels on a suitcase were as useless in the snow as an Alaskan beer cooler.

P.S: here are some nice before/after pictures:

P.P.S: feel free to share your own dismantling stories in the comments below.

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