58 Boxes-Leaving My Stuff To Move to Kona


Most of my boxes I had to go through..more were in the garage..

“I had 58 boxes, my husband had 1!”  I wrote this story as part of a creative writing exercise for the Women’s Writing Workshop in Waimea. I read it out loud to the group and everyone encouraged me to share this story of having to let most of my “stuff” go to move to Kona four years ago. The process of letting go was certainly not an easy task as I had methodically been putting my life in boxes since I was in high school. Thirty years later, I had 58 boxes of life. Or as my husband called it, “stuff”.

Here’s the story:

What I wanted to say but didn’t was “Please don’t throw that away”. We were standing amidst 58 boxes of stuff, as my husband would call it. But for me it was stories, memories, secrets, and treasures. Those boxes contained my life. Some were from college, with sorority t-shirts with photos of besotted nights, and Spring Break days. Some were of a post-college life that was lived on fun vacations of oceans in places like Jamaica, Tahiti, Moorea, Cabo San Lucas, and Hawaii.

Some boxes held hundreds of photos of two little lives from conception (literally, as I kept the EPT stick) until five when we decided to move to digital to keep our memories on our computer instead of in our garage. But the day came after we spent a year living in Hawaii and came back to our house in Los Gatos to sell the house. We needed to get rid of most of these boxes, we just had no room in our condo in Hawaii, and knew storage expenses were going to be too expensive for us to keep paying monthly.

My husband kept reminding me of who we are now. We are residents of Kona that do not need to cling to stuff. We are free of the emotional and physical connection of our stuff. The concept seemed to be a crystal clear reality when we talked about it after not seeing our stuff for a year. The year we lived in our vacation condo hoping the recession would end so we could go back to our lives in the Bay Area. We rented our house in Los Gatos and told the renters that the storage sheds and garage were off limits as they were all full of our stuff, furniture, wedding dishes, children’s toys, vacation tees, and memories.

When it became evident in the summer of 2011 that the economy was not going to get better, and when our house lost another $100,000 in value, that we decided that we could not keep both houses and we found a life we loved in Hawaii. We made the choice to get rid of just about everything. We had a monster garage sale during the week vacation we had to clean out the house, say goodbye to our neighbors and give the keys to our Realtor.


My 18th birthday-I think I kept that jumpsuit..

I was convinced that my husband had not had much of a life..he had one box, I had 58.

He said I had a misconception. He chose to store his memories in his head, while I had to fill up a box. When he pulled all the boxes out onto the driveway to pick out what I could store at his father’s 10×10 shed, I thought I would go insane. (like a good hoarder!) How do you go through your life and only get to keep a few things that you have two hours to deem most important? How could I throw away the photo albums that I had painstakingly created or the baby’s toys and clothing that would Caylinbabyforever keep them infants in my mind?

My husband kept trying to remind me of who we were now. Not hoarders of physical memories that resided in boxes and boxes of photos or vacation memories or onesies or sixth grade art projects. Certainly not in the 15 boxes  he called “Christmas Crap” of the ornaments I had collected over 40 years. How could he stand there and say all that stuff did not matter? I knew the reality of the situation. I could blame the banks for putting me in this unenviable position or the fact that shipping it or storing it was just not feasible. I was feeling a loss as each piece of my life was bought for a fraction of what I had paid for it at the garage sale and the discount shoppers walked about with my holiday memories and new mother’s were thrilled on a deal on babies clothing and furniture. I silently wept while my neighbors were hugging me in the middle of all my stuff.


The hand me down dresser my husband and I painted together when we moved into our first home..at the Goodwill..

When I thought I could take no more, my husband said at 5:00 pm that we have to give away or throw away everything that was left over. Do you remember that scene in the movie, “The Jerk” with Steve Martin where he was wandering in the yard in his bathrobe saying, “This is all I need! My lamp..my remote control…”? As my husband would try and give the Goodwill guy something I would say “No! NO! I’ll find a space for that!” I called three of my best friends and tearfully begged them to keep a few of my boxes in their homes for me until I could buy a larger house to call my stuff back to me in what I thought would be the near future.

How could I throw away the stuffed unicorn my brother gave me at my high school graduation? The worst of all of it came at the city dump. My husband threw photo frame after photo frame into the pile of stuff no one cared to buy, take from us or could store for us. Glass shattered as one by one my life was tossed into a heap. Photos  of my infant son, released from a three foot tall photo collage blew in the wind and scampered across the refuse. I chased after it like a mother whose son had recently passed away. Both my kids were at the in-laws so they did not have to watch this pitiful behavior and much is a blur-a grief fog.

When we were tucking the 10 boxes of the stuff I DID keep into the shed in Sunnyvale, my husband and his father, very kindly said that this was my space. A place that was mine, a place I could return to each summer when we came to visit. A place I could thumb through my wedding album, the baby books, and press my face into my father’s sweat shirt who passed away.

When we returned to Hawaii I DID feel somehow lighter. I spoke to other people who had moved to Hawaii about letting go of their stuff and how painful it was for them, as well. However, we all agree that stuff is an anchor.

(Here are some of the comments from my friends on Facebook while I was going through “the purge”.


Sometimes to find true freedom, you have to let the stuff go.

For the most part, I have released the energy of loss, but sometimes it pokes me.  Every Thursday on Facebook, people post photos of themselves from high school, college, and family get togethers from the ’70’s for Throwback Thursday’s. I got nothin’. All my throwback photos reside 2500 miles away and some of them are under 15 feet of garbage in the Santa Clara County landfill. But what I DO have is “every day is a moment to live-right now-moving forward”. I get it, but sometimes what I want to say and don’t is “Kids, put that souvenir trinket down-it may end up in a box at some point and you’ll be emotionally tied to it forever. Don’t do it to yourself or your soul”.

That’s the end of that story..and the good news is that in six weeks I will be heading back to the shed in Sunnyvale..I will bring a glass of chardonnay with me as I get to traipse down memory lane for a few hours.


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Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at 365Kona.com and MoveToHawaii365.com and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • Bryan says:

    It is just stuff in the end. When I moved here back in 91 I looked like Steve Martin from the Jerk when I got off of the plane. If I couldn’t carry it, I didn’t need it. Did have my Mnt bike shipped over. Old photos can be digitized. I do have old photos from before moving here in boxes but, then again, I am a photographer 🙂

    Mostly I’m like your husband. I kept little stuff that fits into one box.

    Good to hear you were able to let go of “Stuff”.

    • Bryan-everyone has a story about having to look at their things and decide “How important is it?” Amazing that the people who just can’t let it go spend thousands of dollars to get a shipping container to get all their stuff out here..and most realize it just was not worth it. Thanks for reading! I am thinking about shipping my mountain bike out here this summer, too as its been sitting in the in-laws garage now for four years! (Maybe I’ll throw the wedding album into the box as we are celebrating our 15th this year!) Aloha!

  • Bob Watson says:

    Thank you Julie. And thank you Eric! I have “stuff” and with no children no one is going to want my stuff when I’m gone. Even if we had children, most of it would be tossed. I’m from the age of “collectors”. Collecting the history of others when out in the antique trails; collecting our own memories in the form of things that document the history of our life. When my father passed away, everything except his “treasures” like an antique St Christophe medal and journals/paper documents which told the story of his life were kept. It’s nice to sit and look at those things, and each time I do I filter out a little more of the history that I don’t feel is important. Your post has given me a moment to reflect on my “stuff” about my life. More to come…

    • Thanks for your comment Bob! I kept thinking that I would show the kids when they grew up..or take it to the nursing home with me so I could entertain myself for hours looking back over my life! I guess the kids and grandkids would rather not have to deal with it..sure is fun to make those memories though. Antiques are not what they used to be anymore either..kids just don’t want their parents stuff. Have a great week!

  • Colin says:

    I hope you either scanned or snapped a photo of your pics and other items? This is what I have done with much of the things I discarded but wished to remember.

    I do feel your pain Julie. Although much of my childhood and high school memories were lost in a fire, letting go of everything nonessential is tough. We do not wish to ship anything that is easily acquired on island, hoping for a compact shipment. Reducing a lifetime into a fee boxes is no small task.

    I must say that it is powering letting everything go.

    Nice story.

    • Thanks Colin! I DID take a few video clips of some of my stuff..but where are those files now? See? In a box you know where to look and the tech never goes out of style. There is some power of just cutting the ties that bind and starting fresh. I have less opportunities to look back at life when I had fewer lines and more young friends..lol! Enjoy your week and will be great to see you when you move here full time!

  • Lisa says:

    I’ve started this process myself, and I’m feeling your pain. There will be at least two boxes in my mom’s attic (family heirlooms and 100 year old photos in them), and mom is graciously taking some of my furniture for her new house (I’ll always have MY bed to sleep in there), but I’ve got to weed out the remainder. The hardest for me has been my books. I love to read, and yes, I have a Nook, but I’ve got autographed books, and special series, and sometimes I just want to hold a book in my hand. I’m trying to limit myself to 100, but we’ll see where I end up. The rest? I can probably take it or leave it. Now I just need to find a place to put it!

  • David Edwards says:


    We are planning our move to Kona in about 22 months. We just had another large garage sale in preperation for the move. Both my wife Theresa and I have found it very freeing to get rid of a lot of the “stuff” I think we are now down to only 8 purple containers of “Christmas Crap” We have made a vow to get it down to one or two when we move.

    Thanks for your posts, they keep me motivated to do what I have to do today so that I can live in Paradise tomorrow.


    • Julie says:

      Aloha David!
      Thanks for your response! It took us about four months to make the decision to move, we bought the condo in April 05 and were here on Aug, 1..but it was supposed to be only for a year..moving here full time, was more in our heads than in our suitcases! If the island calls..all the stuff you leave behind won’t matter anyway.
      Good luck to you!

  • Carol McC says:

    We are also planning on moving to Kona soon. We are going to come for several months and see how it works out. We are just starting to purge now, and once our house gets sold, we will sell most of our furniture. My husband is in the process of copying his CDs and photos. It’s wild, it’s crazy, but the time is right. If we hesitate and think logically, we will miss this opportunity.

  • Larry says:

    Good post!

    If we end up moving to Kona in 3-5 yrs, then what to bring will be a major issue.
    I suppose if our cars are still in good shape, then we’ll ship them over. It’s apparently about $1K/car.

    Most of our furniture and large household items are 20+ yo, so best to sell-donate-dispose and buy replacements in the BI. Doesn’t seem worth the cost of a shipping container + the hassle of storage and transporting around the BI. Get new beds, mattresses, furniture when we buy a Kona home and see what our BI needs are like. I’m budgeting $15-20K for new items.

    In the all-inclusive “stuff” category, I’m thinking 4 boxes of books, 3-4 boxes of glass/pottery/art, 3-4 for clothes, 3-4 for the endless small kitchen items, 4 boxes of personal items, 1 box (max!) of X-mass items, 3-4 boxes for other precious crap (OPC). Scan-digitize most old photos and memorabilia and put on a USB drive (or upload to Google). I’m thinking about 25 total boxes.

    I guess this means a 90+% purge. Take the 1-way HA flight from OAK to KOA with 2 suitcases, 2 carry ons, and my golf clubs, too.

    We are moving to the BI for a new, aloha lifestyle, so why clutter it too much? I’m hoping we can relocate at a total cost of around $25-30K to a home roughly equivalent to what we have in CA. We just need a 3-4 mo Kona furnished rental @ $2-4K/mo with a garage for our cars and an extra bedroom to store our 25 boxes.

    Then there’s the cat to worry about. I suppose that’ll run another $1-2K.

  • April says:

    Julie, your article rang true for me. We are moving to Kona in February, and my man has been calling me a hoarder through the process of lightening our load 🙂 I already condensed to a 1 bedroom apartment in Santa Clara, CA after 4 bedroom houses in Michigan and Texas. I feel like I only have the bare minimum. He moved from Kauai to California to be with me 2 years ago with just the suitcases we could take on the plane, so he thinks I have way too much stuff. I’m enjoying reading your articles and am looking forward to joining you and all the other happy people out on the Big Island soon!