Just Throw Everything Away: A Compendium of Tips for Moving Successfully (Part One)

+Note: By “tips” I mean “my personal actions,” and by “successfully” I mean “without dying.” (Some people may think, “That’s not particularly noteworthy,” and to that I ask, “Oh, really? Since when is not dying even one time in my entire life so far not a big deal?”)


Every year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is don’t hit people, and every year, without fail, I regret putting it on my list. It’s a stretch goal, but I aim for difficult targets because I’m brave. And also because not bringing a shitload of shame to my family is important to me. I want to honor the only stable life I have ever known.

I didn’t grow up with stability in my childhood home, and it eluded me still after becoming a mother, but in this life I now share with Harv, it’s become a familiar and welcome presence. When stability was only a vague concept, I thought it meant being rooted in one place, both physically and psychically.

I’ve learned that home is wherever your people are and that being a stable person isn’t about remaining unchanged. It’s more about not allowing temporary but intense emotions and thoughts to dictate actions; or seeking the destruction of yourself, others, and property as a release; and learning to carry the extra weight of grief or sadness or disappointment without letting it define you. Basically, psychic stability is about not losing your motherfucking shit.

Since marrying Harv eight years ago, I’ve moved across the country twice (Los Angeles to Miami, then back to Los Angeles) and halfway across the country once (Los Angeles to Austin). Although I have not been rooted in one place physically, I am always at home because of Harv and Cal. I am with my people.

So, greetings from Texas. My fam and I moved to Austin in July. My maxim for this transition has been (and still is):

If you’re lost in the woods, burn it down.


Packing is one of my only skills. I know I’ve said “one of my only skills” about eight or nine times in the past. Humility aside, eight and nine are very high numbers so, yes, I’m a person of many talents, but I still like to be chill about it.

Two months before our move date, I spent a week buying packing supplies- hundreds of boxes, cartons of tape, professional-grade tape dispensers, foam peanuts, bubble wrap, color-coded stickers, stacks of packing paper, and ten rolls of Necco wafers. It’s my candy of choice when I’m doing hard labor.

As the mountain of packing materials grew, Harv campaigned for professional packers. Each time he suggested it, I reminded him that sorting and packing were my passion. He never said, “Yes, yes, you’re right. Of course you should do it all.” Instead, he gave me a lot of hard stares and said some bullshit about our previous moves and how I always ended up on the floor begging Jesus to please take me because I’m fucking done with this fucking shit.

I didn’t bother explaining that this time, things would be different. I knew he would be sorry when he saw my fastidious progress- the rows of neatly labeled boxes in each room, separated by size and weight, special notations for “fragile” and “unpack me first!”

At first, I mindfully sorted what would stay behind and what would make the move with us to Austin. After a week, every time I tried to tackle an area, I became mentally and physically exhausted, pain clamping my jaw shut and radiating through my arms.

Fifteen days before the move, I woke up still feeling unmotivated and lazy, but I forced myself out of bed to go to the gym. That simple act filled me with pride as I gloated about my newfound agility and strength since exercising on the reg.

In the midst of those congratulatory thoughts, I fell down the stairs. Luckily, the cup of water I was holding hit my face as I tumbled forward, so I felt awake and refreshed as I lay on the floor. My vision wavered and I felt dizzy as Cal helped me up. By the next day, I figured out that I could prevent the whirling sensation by keeping my head straight. As long as I didn’t turn left, turn right, look up, look down, or tilt my head even the slightest, I felt totally normal.

The vertigo proved burdensome because I still had a lot of packing to do. And by “a lot,” I mean that I hadn’t really started. Oftentimes, I got so dizzy that I would have to sit down or lean against a wall until the world stopped spinning. Then, one second later (like, literally, one second after I got my vision in check), I turned to mull over an item and swooned all over again.

When the movers arrived, I still hadn’t finished, so I continued packing as a team of men carted away boxes. When the moving van pulled away, I was standing in the midst of yet-to-be-packed items. Shit I wanted. Shit I should have tucked away first but left out instead because, idk, it made sense at the time. They were too big or heavy to take onto the plane or leave with my brother.

I sat on the kitchen island trying to sort out my next steps. I felt boxed in, lost in all of the material baggage I had accumulated to fill the empty spaces in my heart.

If you’re lost in the woods, burn it down. 

Instead of looking for ways to save everything, I left all of it behind. I set up another donation pick-up, and bagged up the items that were only valuable to me but to no one else for the garbage pile.

What I learned: Decluttering an entire life and home requires more than a handful of days. Because it’s not just a physical clearing. No matter how much I wanted it to be anything but, the process was a double-edged emotional purge. Freedom and loss. That loss brought grief, but I try not to stay mired in desire for what no longer remains in my life.

Also, next time, I’m for sure gonna hire some goddamn professional packers.


I did not tell my mother we were moving away. Before heading to the airport, Harv snapped one last picture, but I waited to post this picture and a moving announcement until the three of us were at the airport, through security, and waiting at our gate.

My life was wholly comprised of secrets until I became a mother and a wife. I made a commitment never to live on the periphery of truth again, but I slipped back into those shadows when we decided to move. I didn’t share the news for months because I didn’t want anyone to notify my mother. I didn’t want her coming over to confront me or nag me or blame me or accuse me or tell me that this decision was wrong and stupid. I physically left the city and my childhood family behind. I removed them from my life.

I still have a handful of objects in my possession from back in the day. The entire lot fits inside one large plastic storage tub. They are my tangible connections to milestone moments. I rifle through the container once a year, and it’s a rush to see incarnations of past lives literally unfolding in my hands. Everything is a thrill except for one dress. Sometimes, I debate the merits of donating it. My mother purchased the loose-fitting gray dress for me so I would look presentable when I visited an adoption agency because she insisted that keeping Cal was not an option. I kept the baby. And I kept the dress.

The rest of my pre-marriage life is still locked away in my mother’s garage. After months of see-sawing, I voted against going for my belongings or sending anyone to retrieve them. That decision made it possible for me to admit that getting older hasn’t made hard truths any softer. I still wish for things that will never come. I wish my childhood family could have been my forever family. But I have Harv and Cal and a new beginning here in Austin.

What I learned: Stumbling through the thicket of longing is wasted time I will never get back. Sometimes, the life we wanted in the beginning, our Plan A, remains shrouded because it wasn’t meant for us. If you’re lost in the woods, burn it down. Then head towards Plan B.


In April, I flew to Austin to be a part of the Listen to Your Mother show. Austinites sure know how to be supportive because more than 400 people came out. It was one of the highlights of my year. I was just hoping to make new friends in my soon-to-be home city, but I got so much more than I anticipated. I read a piece I wrote for Cal’s birthday: Look at the Stars. Look How They Shine for You. (click the link for the official video of the reading)


After I immigrated to the U.S., learning English didn’t interest me at first, but thanks to my elementary school’s participation in Book It!, Pizza Hut’s reading incentive program, I can read dozens of words good now, because, I mean…what kind of person turns down a free one-topping personal pan pizza?

I still read every day. Most of it isn’t memorable, but occasionally, I’m floored by what I find. So going forward, whenever I stumble upon brilliant writing or not-that-brilliant-but-fascinating-AF writing, I will share it with you.

The Lonely Death of George Bell (New York Times)
Please read this if you are a recluse so it can inspire you to break free from your antisocial confines. Also, please read this if you are loved by many as a reminder to keep it cool with those people, especially if you are old and/or frail. (Heads up: Longer read. Worth it.)

The Baffling, Gruesome Plague That Is Causing Sea Stars to Tear Themselves to Pieces (Vice)
I have no idea what compelled me to click on this piece because I cared zero about sea stars, but damn, I’m tenderhearted for those little homies now. Please read this if you are going through rough times. You think you have problems, but is one of your arms trying to tear the other arm off? 

Zola’s Twitter Tale: Strippers, Hooters, Florida, and Murder (Complex)
I had to listen to some Enya and close my eyes for a few minutes when I got to the end. This story is lit. LIT.


When it’s quiet here on the blog, stay close through the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Instagram (@flourishinprogress). I don’t give a fuck about Twitter, but I roll through sometimes (@ElizabethJLiu).

P.P.P.P.S…..Just kidding. Please calm down.

[top image: Harland Miller]

Meal Ticket? I’ve Already Eaten. (+Giveaway: Jillian Lauren’s Books & Signed Weezer CD)

“I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” –Joan Didion

“Everything not saved will be lost.” –Nintendo Quit Screen Message

I am still caught off guard by the first-world nature of the questions I encounter in this “less hood but only marginally more good” life I now live. A few weeks ago, someone asked me if I believed in perfection as an attainable goal. My first thought was What the fuck kind of question is this at 6:30 in the morning inside a strip club? Can I live? My second thought was to weigh which answer might invite less debate.

“Yes,” I said. And then I went back to sleeping but not with my head down. That’s how my friend Andro got kicked out of the same strip club last year. Instead, I propped my elbow on an armrest and cradled the right half of my face in my palm, because my head bobs a lot when I’m forced to sit upright and look conscious as I succumb to the heavy sleep that feels both inconvenient and inescapable yet delicious.

If we changed a few minor factors like the time, location, ambience, level of rapport with question-asker, and my general affability, which is inversely proportional to the number of hours since my last meal/large snack, I would have answered the question differently.

It seems unfair to give blanket meaning to a concept that shifts a little with each person, but to keep things simple, let’s define “perfection” as: whole, free from flaw and defect, exactly right.

So, is perfection an attainable goal? No. Maybe. Actually, I don’t really care. I’m no longer shackled to the ideal because it’s kept me from writing for months and months. Before, when I was rooting around in the filth of my imperfections, I was so submerged in darkness that I didn’t know that I…didn’t know. When I gained a little clarity, it suddenly seemed wrong and troubling to write without having the perspective that hindsight affords.

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and whether or not I should continue. I thought that if I walked away from writing, I would feel free and happy. Those commodities have been fleeting and scarce. For a short time last year, I felt some relief when I decided to wake up every day and just do the thing I really, really wanted to do that day. (This involved a trip to Target most days. You guys, I fucking forrealz did a Target Tour of Southern California.)

I believe that everything happens for a reason. But sometimes things happen because you’re stupid and you make bad choices. You choose blindly and poorly because you don’t know.

I also believe that you don’t know until you know. Once a little piece of “know” gets lodged inside of you, you can choose then to understand it. Knowing and understanding aren’t the same thing. Then when you finally understand, you come to a place of possibilities, choices that mean something because you aren’t feeling around in the dark and pushing through whichever opening you find first, unaware of the other exits.

What happened is this: I approached the healing process with the mindset that I was so broken and so imperfect that I had to fix myself before I could proceed into higher level pursuits like writing, especially writing about my brokenness. I kept waiting to become perfect, because being perfect and whole and free from defect would be my meal ticket to…well, life. How I came to this conclusion is mystifying since I’ve never been perfect, yet here I am, like, you know, living. Here I am living and writing this motherfucking sentence, and I am not perfect.

So I guess I don’t need that meal ticket. I’ve already eaten.

I decided that I was already enough. I made the choice to view myself as whole. And I realized that I can create gravity by continuing an endeavor that really speaks to me, and pursuing it in the way I want to do it. That gravity attracts the right people at the right time in the right place.

When I met Jillian Lauren this spring, the first words she said were, “I heard your name twice today before coming here. It’s nice to meet you!” and then she laughed casually as we shook hands. I immediately liked her because she didn’t give a shit about an unspoken and pervasive L.A. rule: Slight apathy at all times.

I enjoyed Jillian’s writing before meeting her, and it was such a treat to find out that her rare blend of delicate and dope as fuck exists not only on the pages, but in person as well. Some people are controlled and caged by their past, but as Jillian and I exchanged emails, I got the sense that she transcended who she was to become who she is because she understands that the only way out isn’t always back in. Sometimes, it’s about moving forward. Exploring outside the bounds of the known.

It seemed important to share her words and her heart with you, so I wanted to do a giveaway. She offered not only her latest book, Everything You Ever Wanted, but also her other two books, Some Girls and Pretty. She also included a signed Weezer CD (Jillian’s husband, Scott Shriner, is Weezer’s bassist. I took some time to educate myself about Weezer because I wasn’t super familiar with that genre of music. Tbh, I think the only rock band that came to mind before this is….Nickelback. And it’s only because someone asked in a Reddit AMA with 50 Cent if a theoretical tour with Nickelback would be called Forty Five Cents. My husband said it’s not okay to reference both Weezer and Nickelback in the same paragraph for any reason, but sometimes bad groupings happen to good artists.)

When I decided to start writing again, I wasn’t quite sure how to do it anymore. Or what I would write about. Then I met Jillian and ended up at a strip club (wait, those two things aren’t related btw), and I decided to let go. Not everything is worth keeping.


P.S. BIG THINGS POPPIN’: Major changes and transitions for our family this summer. Can’t wait to share with you what’s on the other side. When it’s quiet here on the blog, stay close through the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Instagram (@flourishinprogress)


DOPE GIVEAWAY: All 3 of Jillian Lauren’s Books + Signed Weezer CD


TO ENTER: Leave a comment below sharing a valuable shift in perspective / important life lesson / noteworthy advice / a goal or a hope or a dream. Basically, if you find it shareworthy, I’m listening. You fascinate me.

Only comments left on this post qualify. Giveaway entry period ends Sunday, June 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm PT. Winner will be contacted via email. It’s not necessary to create a Disqus account or comment with a social media profile, but please make sure your email address is correct if you choose the “I’d rather post as guest” comment option.