In April I spent just under two weeks in my hometown, Western Australia, visiting my Mum in my childhood home. It was my first time back in nearly two years. When my husband Alex and I packed up and left (indefinitely) to pursue our careers abroad, I left dozens of boxes of my clothes, shoes, bags and accessories in the spare bedroom at her house. Being the champion that my Mum is, she doesn't mind being a pseudo-storage facility for a future version of me.
The things that we kept all felt completely essential at the time. When Alex and I moved out of our house (our ‘dream’ future rebuild project on a great block of land, that we have a mortgage on, and tenants currently in) and sorted what we had to scrap from what we would need in the future – we worked based on the idea of what we would need when we were in our 30s and ‘established’. We were planning for hypothetical versions of ourselves, and we thought we were being extremely selective.
Some of the ‘bigger’ items we kept made sense. We’d be stupid, insane, or both, not to keep our best kitchen appliances, the gorgeous artworks we’d been given as wedding gifts and our ridiculously expensive mattress (that we only slept on for a few months before deciding to move). But a lot of other items made the cut too, things that weren’t important enough to shove into the four suitcases we were able to bring with us on the plane when we first left for New York... but we figured we'd definitely want to collect all of it later.
Those items reveal how much we’ve both changed more than any deliberate self-reflection was able to - I am a wildly (or conservatively?) different person today than I was even in 2015. The itty-bitty rainbow jumpsuit with a deep plunging neckline that I’d thought was fierce now looked like something a tween pop star would be photographed in on TMZ, the sequinned blouse I’d picked up in a charity shop in San Francisco looked at best fit to wear to an 80s themed party, and the baggy leather pants I had kept in my closet for the day they’d finally work almost seemed like a practical joke.
In Perth, with all of our space, a minimalist wardrobe felt like something that I could only dream to have on Pinterest. Having to live in a tiny room in London has made me a true functionalist by necessity. My wardrobe currently consists of beautiful staples – structured, comfortable pieces that all work together in a palette, effortlessly blend from work to play, and fit in about 1.5 metres of closet space. By being forced to have less – I’ve learned to be selective, to understand my own style and to value what I have so much more. Tiny steps towards feeling like that 'established' version of myself, I guess.
So before we left for our long-haul journey back to London via Jakarta, while loading a car-load of things I once thought reflected my identity into the charity donation bin, I felt an overwhelming sense of catharsis. By knowing what I’ll never wear again, I’m able to appreciate exactly who I am right now.
This is the ninth in a series of 52 Memoirs I will be posting weekly until April 2018. Look out for new posts every Wednesday!
My name is Keeya-Lee. I'm American-born, Australian-raised, living in London. I work in the humanitarian innovation / tech / social impact space. You can follow me on twitter here!