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]

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  • cricket

    congratulations- you’ve done something so huge, so scary- it’s taken me years and years to really let go, even though so much was so… not cool. you rock!

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Props to you. Sometimes….ok, oftentimes, when you’re working through something difficult or life-changing, it feels like it’s never going to happen. But then you reach the other side and feel like DAMN THAT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT.

  • Corrine

    I have so much I want to say about this post. I’m going to need a minute or ten or probably a day to put my thoughts together though. I’m going to start by saying that I’m so happy to see a new post…as always your writing takes my breath away.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      You cross my mind sometimes. (God, I’m so creepy.) Like, at the most random times. And def when I see one of your comments from an older post. Then I send out good vibes with the thought “I hope homegirl Corrine is doing good.” <3

  • Natane

    Oh how I’ve missed your words.

    Sometimes the hardest thing to do is accept what was, warts and all. We can’t change what’s been written and we can’t make people something else. Letting go of that and allowing ourselves to be accepting of what is… Damn, that takes a strength like nothing else. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

    And always hire packers.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      That’s one of the most important (also, painful and frustrating) lessons I’ve learned- that we can’t make people something else. I ignored this truth for a long time because I am stubborn and reality and I aren’t really friends sometimes. It’s brought a lot of peace into my life now. And freed up a lot of extra time.

      • Natane

        Sometimes it can be fun to get to know people once you accept who they are. My mom and I have never been close, but I’m working to accept her for who she is and that person has her good moments.

        I read the George Bell article and feel so sad for him. I am motivated to get more put of the house hobbies.

  • http://binthegreatfunkk.blogspot.com Brittany Olson

    I have missed you. What a huge milestone in your life!!

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Sup giiiiiiiirl sup. I hope 2015 has been a bangin year for you. <3

  • http://fearlessfibrowarrior.blogspot.com FearlessFibro

    Glad you landed safely, and have such strong roots to help you flourish. I am always inspired by your words and optimism even when shit gets real.
    Today, I dropped my husband off for a 30 day rehab, while I go home to kids who had no idea there was a problem (they always know though, don’t they?). So I’m trying to look for inspiration each day, and to be stronger than I thought possible. Hugs and love to you, and keep writing! ❤

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      My friend, hugs and much, much love to you.
      I’ve been on both sides of the rehab grind, and I’m still unsure which side requires more patience and perseverance and work.
      What I know tho….is that when people break free from addictions, they have a real chance at becoming who they really are.
      You got this, girl. I’m rooting for your husband…and you.

      • http://fearlessfibrowarrior.blogspot.com FearlessFibro

        Thank you. It’s going well, so much different than prior attempts, so there’s that! Enjoy big food and hair, mums (WTF????) and humidity ;)

  • http://www.elizabethaquino.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth Aquino

    I’m so glad to read this, my sweet and beautiful friend. While I miss knowing that you’re somewhere here in the big shitty, I am happy that you’ve found a swell home for your homies. I hope you keep writing and blessing us with your wisdom and humor. xoxxoo

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I must be missing you bad. I don’t know if I told you this when we were chatting the other day, but I almost never dream about people I know. Always strangers in strange places I never recognize. So to dream about you twice….I mean….we need an Elizabeth meet up.

  • Lasher

    This is such a great post. You never lose your groove, you just find new places to take it. Awesomeness in action.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Oh man, when I was struggling with this post for like 15 days I thought for sure I had inadvertently thrown away my groove when I moved. Thank you so much for the encouragement.

  • http://aladyinfrance.com/ Jennie Goutet

    Hi beautiful. I had my heart in my throat reading this. I just wanted to remind you, although it seems you’ve got this figured out, that you are stellar. Inside and out.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      THANK YOU, my very lovely friend. I hope to see you again someday….soon.

  • Robin

    When I read your post I thought it was well-written and interesting and then I clicked on Zola’s twitter story… I can’t comprehend anything right now, my brain is not working anymore.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      OMGFORREALZ. I don’t even have easy access to my Enya stash anymore but I had to go find that shit cuz…melted brain.

  • Misty

    We have very similar situations re: our childhood families v. our new and established fams. I’m so glad you found your people, just as I am thankful everyday for the stability of the family I created, and the escape from my childhood crazies.

    Good luck in Austin!! Hope you’re all settled in by now and are adjusted to your new home. You are inching closer and closer to my side of the world. Maybe that means that someday we’ll actually get to meet up again! ;)

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Still half a country away….one of us gonna have to move….or at least get on a plane. Man, friendship and laziness don’t mix good. But you are worth breaking my ways.

  • http://www.toothbrushtravels.com/ Amy M

    Such a huge step and one that will benefit you endlessly.
    Sometimes it’s better to just start afresh with new materials.
    Here’s to wishing Austin is filled with tremendous amounts of happiness for you all xo

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Thank you so much. It’s taken a minute to get into the groove of a new city…but I suppose all good things take time. (also, not being awkward AF would prob help me a shitload) xoxo

  • Trish Ní Mhaoileoin

    You’re on Facebook, and that is pretty frackin amazeballs, but I am so glad your back to your blog. I missed your blog, dude!

    At the moment I’m skirting the woods, giving it serious side-eye and pretty much basically girding my loins to take the plunge and leave Plan A in the frickin dust and head off in the direction of Plan B with a machete or flamethrower or whatever. This post makes me feel like I can totally do it. Like, totally.

    Thank you, and welcome back to blogging.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      OF COURSE you totally got this. Especially with the assistance of a machete. Clearing a path can feel like so much work…TOO MUCH work, but I think it’s just as much work to keep heading in a direction that no longer suits us. Good luck, my friend.

  • Tiffany Romero

    And there she is. Day made.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Ain’t gonna lie….your thumbs up is always thrilling AF.

  • Carla

    This is awesome. I love that you keep it real. You inspire me.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Thank you, homegirl. <3

  • NanU

    My family’s house burned down when I was just out of high school. Best thing that ever happened to us! You really learn what you can leave behind. Good luck.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      I am just….so floored and impressed with how you view the experience. I hope I come to a place where I feel just like that.

  • http://www.4phees.com/ Marci Phee

    As always, Elizabeth, you impress the fuck out of me.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Thank you! Your compliments are (um, I don’t know how to use my computer good but if I were on my phone I would put the one hundred emoji here).

  • http://www.unitedstatesofbecky.blogspot.com/ Becky

    I want to write in all caps so you know how excited I am with the screaming (of excitement) but that is apparently rude and taken as angry screaming, not the I’m-so-freaking-delighted-to-see-you-jump-up-and-down-let’s-get-coffee that I would intend.

    I fear you are in my head. Translation: I am moving in a month. Only to a different apartment, but moving is hard, yo.

    • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

      Wait. All caps means yelling, not excitement? Fuck. No wonder nobody wants to text with me. Between you and me, I’ll know to take all caps as a good thing. YESSSSS
      Moving is SO hard, yo. And remember this tip I learned the hard way- if you lean your head against the wall and say over and over again “I don’t want to do this,” shit doesn’t magically pack itself. I know….I was fucking stunned too.

  • http://flourishinprogress.com/ Elizabeth-FlourishinProgress

    Homie, we both know you’re the real star. :P <3

  • lifespondering

    Yeah that is how I felt when we moved: “ended up on the floor begging Jesus to please take me because I’m fucking done with this fucking shit.” That and where the fuck is this shit coming from can I just get 1 room empty because the closet is as bad as a fucking clown car!

  • LaurieM

    Damn, son. I keep it together and don’t cry over my own shit, but I cry over YOUR shit? Love…look what you’ve done to me… <3

  • Erin K. Moffat

    Elizabeth!! I loved this!!! If I’m ever in Austin I hope to see you!! xoxxo Best of Luck and always here for you homie!!

  • Roller Scrapper

    Congrats on the move and the ability to let go, once I backed up the wrong email file and lost all of my archived work email and you know what? I never needed any of it. I’m still a pack rat though and I too loved the book it program, i think I had to choose between keeping and tossing the button i earned by reading books and i probably kept it. I did recycle the list of summer reading i did though. ..gotta let some stuff go :)

  • Jenny

    Okay I liked your blog but the tale of the strippers was unbelievable. I hope you post again soon.

  • M

    I was thinking about you this morning… your writing runs deep.

    I wonder whether you ever imagine what your reaction would be if in a few years Cal told you she was pregnant..?
    And whether that helps or hinders your rapport with your mother…

    I think maybe you see Cal now and it feels as though your Mum encouraging you not to have the baby means she would have denied Cal’s existence. It’s as though she has is an opposition to the life force that is your daughter and your fierce AF bond. Which obviously seems unforgivable.
    Maybe your mother has only ever responded to the -idea- of you having a child so young – not the reality at all. I’d imagine, as you may feel if it were Cal – that you’re reaction would be of concern for what that meant for the life ahead of you… Maybe if you saw that your Mum was trying to prevent the tough stuff you’ve been through, and may still be living if you hadn’t formed your fam with Harv, rather than preventing the granddaughter she could never imagine, it would shift things a bit? She didn’t want the pain you feel, and worst of all, she’s compounded it. Where do we ever go from that place of shame & regret & guilt..?
    I don’t know your experience or background, but I imagine discovering your baby girl has had her life (and maybe your dreams or her) suddenly changed would be a rude awakening. Nothing like pure fear to drive wild actions. We often exhibit our worst behaviour around the things that mean the absolute most to us. If we’re coming from a place of limitation and fear to begin with, it doesn’t take much for panic to blinker us from our true perspective. And admitting to helplessness doesn’t seem like it will help anyone.
    I know nothing, of course, except (from painful experience) that understanding where someone is coming from is one of the only ways to come to terms with it – even somehow, so I’m hoping you find some peace with where you are and what’s brought you here.

    PS May I suggest a piece on Buzzfeed by Sarah Mathews…On emigrating to the US ‘Our individual pain makes us all opaque to each other.’ I think you would appreciate it too.

    And PPS: You talked before about work and esteem, and honestly, most people not in work lose their minds – especially someone like yourself who obviously has a real deep sense of figuring out what it means to be part of this whole life thing…
    It would be amazing if you checked out what organisations and groups are doing around you.
    You’d be such a star to anyone facing some of the hustles you have, and it would bring new purpose to what you’ve been through…
    You could do some fun glitzy fundraiser, -or- you could simply talk to young people in predicaments.
    Your written word is a great example of the power of sharing – and there’s nothing like face to face with people who need it most – esp from someone authentic.
    It would take a lot of bravery to get involved – but I think maybe bringing new energy and purpose to your past is an excellent way to change your feelings around it – rather than ‘moving on from’ which always implies that what’s negative and painful is still there,… just maybe a bit further away.
    Maybe don’t deny where you’ve been. Change the perspective to it and give it a new purpose and then it’s all anew.

    I really commend you for sharing your life and going deeper into it, rather than layering new stuff to life all the time – actually – as you said – honouring what you have.
    This could give you a fulfilling way forwards – which we all need!
    Putting time and care into others is a sure good way of giving that to ourselves too – but like buy one get one free. This did all start with shopping, right..?

    Keep it real EJ :)

  • http://www.theomgspot.com Bekah Rigby

    Um, I just discovered this blog, and I got psyched as fuck, and then I saw that this post is 7 fucking months hold!!! HOW AM I GOING TO SURVIVE WITHOUT READING MORE OF YOU NOW THAT I KNOW LIFE IS DEPENDENT ON READING YOU?!?!

  • ChickenConsigliere

    HI, hope you are enjoying Austin. I really enjoyed this post and a couple others. Hope you well and will come back and blog more soon. You are really talented. In my opinion. Which counts. Also in my opinion. I think you know what I ‘m trying to say here. I really like your writing.

  • Andrew Lawrence

    I always felt guilty for moving from NY to Atlanta. I did tell my parents, but I didn’t discuss it with them. I might have already rented an apartment when I told them.

  • http://leahfavela.com/ Leah Favela

    The beginning of this post really hit home for me. I lived in Austin for over sixteen years and three years ago I randomly met and fell in love with a New Zealand man in town for work. Last December I moved from Austin all the way down to Auckland. This has been one of the hardest years of my life. It’s been amazing, and I don’t regret moving here, but it has also been a year of missing my friends, my family, my home, my culture…. But you are absolutely right, my home is where he is.
    Two weeks ago my partner left Auckland for a five month work deployment (military). I’m really struggling to figure out my life here without him. And honestly I’ve been lonelier than I’ve ever been in my life. I am making friends here but it’s not the same as the friends I’ve had for years and years back home. And sometimes I take my emotions out on my partner. Even though I knew he was leaving for five months almost a year ago, I still irrationally get mad at him. And there are days that I don’t want to get out of bed because I just don’t know what the hell to do with myself (days when I’m not working). And sometimes I get angry about it, and sometimes I get sad about it. But I recently made the decision not to let my emotions control me. I can be sad but still get the FUCK UP and get things done. I can be mad but not take it out on my partner. I cannot control my feelings but I can control how I act upon those feelings.

    Your post made me feel better. Like someone knows what it can be like sometimes.

  • https://www.debnation.com débora Ewing

    I think you just became my new favorite human! I wish I were going to be in Austin a bit longer

  • The Lawnfather – Calgary Lands

    Awesome share ! keep your head high and always look at the positive in any situation. you are a great soul !!

  • drianisoriana

    I wandered over from The Bloggess this evening, and maybe I should’ve stopped by sooner. I’ve chosen to create my own family too (a few very close and dear friends, plus three cats), and I wouldn’t trade any of them for my parents or sister. “Family don’t end with blood,” as Bobby Singer said in the TV show Supernatural. It’s strange how the people one is physically related to think they can treat one like shit and expect there to be no consequences for their behavior.