Move Over Minimalism and Marie Kondo — Surviving the Extreme Purge to 3 Suitcases

Karen Espig
4 min readJan 19, 2022

Perks, pitfalls, and a letter to Santa

Photo by the author — This is what is moving with me (insert Vincent, my cat)

Here it is, just a few more weeks until my flight. I have managed to dispose of the contents of my apartment and now I am finishing with the final details while living at my mother’s place. That this is really finally happening is exciting and surreal.

The process of emptying out my home was an intense experience, both psychologically and physically. It took six months. For those of you planning something like this, you need at least that long. I don’t even remember half of the decisions I made in the final weeks. And I was so tired every day. I was tired in a way I cannot articulate.

I have been asked by a few friends whether it felt good to downsize à la Marie Kondo? My answer is yes, but not always. And really, this was less purge-and-tidy and more identify-and-remove. I did keep a few items that “spark joy,” and they are tucked away in storage with my oil paintings — mainly photos and special items made by my son. I plan to bring them back with me to Albania after any Canada visits. I am grateful for the luxury of the storage unit, as it means I do not have to eliminate everything; that would have been heartbreaking.

Early on in the process, ruthlessly going through my belongings was energizing. It felt great to be so productive and to change my surroundings for the better. As time went on, however, the process of letting go, over and over and over again, took its toll. Sometimes it was really difficult, sometimes it hurt. I had to go through the full contents of my home — every piece of paper, every photo, every shirt and shoe. I came face-to-face with my entire life history, good, bad, and ugly.

Thankfully, within the difficult work, rewards awaited me.

I found an envelope of photos from my teenage years that I thought were lost during a move, over 15 years ago. That certainly brought me joy. Looking at those photos now, I see the beautiful young woman I…

Karen Espig

I am a contemporary figure painter, working primarily in oils. I am also a Canadian Expat currently in Albania. Follow my art and travel journey.