Earlier this month, I was planning to move house for the third time in two years. It would have been a good move too–shorter commute, less driving in general, closer to downtown, living with friends, spacious apartment. I was dreading it, of course, as does anyone who owns stuff. I’m very wary of even thinking about moving, but I was actually starting to embrace this one. Until shit hit the fan and we lost the place.
In those couple of days that we thought we had the place, the gears had already begun to turn. I was already making lists of things I could stash at work VS things I wanted to bring VS things I could send back to my parent’s house. I started making lists, piling up things to bring to Good Will, and I even packed two small boxes of smaller items. Now I’ve got to unpack that stuff. When I thought I was moving, my way of thinking about my belongings changed, and changed once again when I knew I wasn’t moving.
Any type of move or change provides a chance to reflect, for better or worse, about who you are and how you present yourself in materialistic way. I don’t mean materialistic in a capitalistic mindset, aka with oft negative connotations, but rather just literally how your stuff figuratively reflects your interests, and how you spend your money. Owning things is not a sin, despite all of the KonMarie acolytes1 and minimalism podcasts2 that now exist. Regardless there is a point for everyone, however different it may be, when you do want to cut down on possessions, sift through old clothing, and take a realistic look at things. I too have read Marie Kondo’s book3, and read up on the state of things for many Americans. Spoiler alert: we own too much shit. I
may be am totally over analyzing this, but I may or may not get defensive when it comes to this topic. I’m friends with a lot of people who moved to the east coast with minimal affects, or just didn’t own much to even begin with, and who have managed to continue to resist accumulating things.
But I like things, and I don’t give a fuck. I love my books and my decorations and the clothing I’ve bought for myself. I like having little figures on my desk, and my art supplies, and a box of Christmas decorations that, yes, I only obviously use for one month out of the year. I’m sure you’re no perfect angel: Do you shop for cruelty-free beauty/healthcare products? Do you avoid fast factory fashion? I am working to get my life in a balance I am happy with. People are so quick to proclaim their good deeds…think of all of the vegan jokes that exist. Well, here I am telling you about my flawed reality. Thankfully I’m not plagued with the troubles of people that are legitimately diagnosed hoarders, but I recognize that, for me, this is a problem I want adjusting. My mom is a woman who did not own much growing up, so she took/takes pride and puts value in the life, the home, and the things that she’s built up for herself. So maybe this all stems from an inherent need to have status symbols: I have things so obviously I’m doing well for myself, yeah? But places like Forever 21 have shown us that it doesn’t take a lot of money to own a lot of crap.4 But then I have my father, who owns like, seven possessions and doesn’t let us buy him presents. His mentality is that there will be less stuff for my brother and I to sort through when he’s dead…WHICH IS ANOTHER ALARMING EXTREME I DO NOT AGREE WITH, DA FUCK, DAD.
Phew that was a downward spiral. So. Here are some little things I’ve observed that I’ve implemented:
1. Make an effort to bring reusable bags with me when I go shopping. I have too many plastic bags stuffed into other plastic bags at home. You can only use so many as trash bags, so keep some and recycle the rest. Some reusable bags fold up as small as the paper footballs you made as a kid, so there’s no reason you can’t tuck one away in a handbag, or keep some in the trunk of your car. That being said, I should look to phase out plastic bags even as trash bags, and look into bio-degradable options.
2. Let go of old cards, certain mementos, tchotchkes that exist to represent a memory, or store them more smartly. I tend to keep things from trips, both big and small trips, both large items and little knick-knacks that add up. Ticket stubs, maps, brochures, programs. For me, these things serve as a physical anchor to a point in my life. If I really needed to save something, I should 1) use something that came for free, like a free map or ticket stub, and 2) take the covers or cut out the title or logo and tape them into my journal to store them all in one small place. This of course excludes things like cards and letters I have with nice handwritten messages. But I need to be a little more ruthless about things. Frankly, maybe if I journaled or printed out more of the photos I took on my phone for an album, that would stave off the unwarranted fear of forgetting things.
3. Take advantage of living close to my parents’ home, and switch out my wardrobes, books, DVDs, and game systems, etc. I won’t need the six heavy sweaters taking up space in my apartment for another seven months, so why not take advantage of my bedroom’s closet back home? I also probably don’t need six different similar cable-knit sweaters too, which is obviously part of the bigger
problem picture. But I’m not jumping on the capsule wardrobe chain and will hang on to all of those perfectly good sweaters I wear. And if I decide I want to play a game on my SNES in a couple months, I can bring home my PS2 and switch them out, rather than slowly accumulate things each time I visit. This is really the dangerous (and privileged) part of living close to the ‘rents. Every time I go home, I make an effort to tackle some of the drawers and my wardrobe there, and always manage to throw away and donate some things. I’d like to spend a weekend home to really focus on this.
4. Remind myself that I will move many more times in my life. None of the places that I have lived or will live in for the next five, seven, ten, who knows years will likely be my “forever” home. That is, if I even have one of those. Don’t get me wrong–I desperately do want that someday. I know that my parents won’t stay at their home for the rest of their lives, and I want a place of my own for everything I’ve accumulated and curated and chosen to keep in my life.5 As I said previously, I’d like to continually cull the things I have at my parents’ home (whist still using it as storage, lol thanks Mom) so that I don’t burden them when they eventually (most likely?) downsize or move elsewhere.
5. Invest in less, pay more upfront for better quality that will last, and know when to get cheaper things. This applies to both wants and needs. Borrow from the library and only purchase a book if I really want it–I’ll know the difference. I think this is pretty clear when it comes to clothing. With certain things, it’s worth it to buy the cheaper store brand, as many products are made in the same factories and packaged differently. Don’t buy lots of cheap toys or art buttons when you can invest in a really beautifully crafted figurine or lithograph print that doubles as a display piece.
Nothing ground-breaking over here, just some slightly different things I’ve thought about this time around.