the unbearable stuff-ness of being

i live with someone who is at once worldly and minimalist. she follows trends and is acutely aware of her appearance and the message her clothing sends, so it’s not that she doesn’t understand the emotional import objects can have. yet if you took away a few big-ticket items (bed, couch, washing machine), you could fit everything else in her car without a problem. the two biggest bags? movies and jeans. but she has no actual attachment to stuff, save a couple of sentimental objects given to her by her parents. if something is broken, she throws it away. if she doesn’t like something anymore or it bores her, she throws it away. she doesn’t hang on to anything.

i am the opposite of all those things. i don’t attach a ton of significance to the message my clothing sends out, occasionally to others’ chagrin. (i do at least try to fit in within my space, whether that be work, the club, or the mountains, so i don’t feel overly uncomfortable. but that’s about it.) i long to get rid of everything and live a minimalist lifestyle. but i don’t. i have STUFF. i have enough stuff that it made impossible an out-of-state move that i really wanted, because moving all this STUFF would have been prohibitively expensive. i have so much stuff that i had to get a storage unit when i downsized my apartment by just 150 square feet. let me repeat that, because there is something really wrong with it – i put things in storage that i genuinely care about just because i couldn’t get them in the apartment.

but that’s the problem – i care about EVERYTHING. i have bins and bins of clothing i will probably never be small enough to wear again. i keep these things not because i think i will, but because the memories associated with them are so great i can’t bear to part with them. i’ve tried taking photos, and for some things, that works. but if the memories are too significant, i ache every time i look at a photo of something i got rid of that i really loved, even if it was no longer usable. the tangible connection matters.

still, the yearning is getting the better of me. i’ve started taking carloads of boxes over to goodwill. i gave away an entire box of books i had intended to sell, but just the idea of the selling process was stressing me out so much that i couldn’t look at the box anymore. such a weight lifted once those things were gone. i gave a coffee table i wasn’t using to a friend for his first apartment, as well as a surround sound system with DVD changer that i’d bought for $75 at a garage sale and made one halfhearted attempt at installing. if i let it sit in a box for a year, i didn’t care enough to use it. out it went. this wednesday, i went to that same friend’s apartment and propped my feet up on my old coffee table, and we watched Meatballs on that DVD player. it felt really good.

so now i hope i can do this in earnest. i got rid of my old desk, since i no longer use a desktop computer, which means i have a desk chair with no purpose. i think a friend from work is taking it. next up: four pairs of jeans that make me feel like a stuffed sausage every time i put them on. i may get small enough to wear them, but i don’t like how i feel in them now, and i have three other pairs of jeans in the same size that don’t make me feel that way. also seven mugs that i never use, a shirt someone gave me that’s too small, and a sheaf of supplemental materials from a class on multigenre composition theory, which are currently doing me no good but could be of enormous help to a friend teaching comp at george mason.

i don’t have a clear idea of what “just enough stuff” rather than “too much stuff” will look like. it will take some time to achieve, and there will be maintenance involved. but i have a goal. the next time an opportunity comes up that requires me to pick up and move, i want to be able to take advantage of that opportunity. for me, “picking up and moving” shouldn’t involve a semi truck.


About betterpast

Thirty-seven and counting. View all posts by betterpast

4 responses to “the unbearable stuff-ness of being

  • Nine

    Good luck! Seriously. I may live out of a rucksack, but I have a bunch of stuff back in Edinburgh (and now about a dozen boxes, a desktop computer and so on, in a friend’s flat in Glasgow). It’s mostly books, I guess, and some sentimental stuff, and home decor things that I’d want around if I ever settle again. I sold and gave away a ton already, but it feels as if I maybe didn’t make that much of a dent. For now, I’m just in limbo, and so is the stuff. I don’t miss it much, I just don’t know what’s on the cards in terms of wherever I’m going.

  • Sheila Piner

    Girl I remember helping you move all that stuff!!! Glad to see you are embracing letting things go.

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