I have access to 5% or less of my stuff at the moment, because most of it is packed into boxes awaiting our big house move on Tuesday.
Do I miss that other stuff in the 60 boxes? Well, yes and no.
Books aside—because I still love mine (though I’ve given loads away) and I’m a specialist collector—do we need the ornaments, piles of kitchen gadgets, knick knacks, souvenirs, shoes, bags, bathroom paraphernalia, cushions, pictures, 25 wine glasses and 20 towels?
The answer? I think it’s no. We just kind-of acquire this stuff and then become attached to it, because we think it has something to do with identity.
I’m still me without the ceramic cats from Thailand that hang over my bookcase, without the enormous glass fish I bought cheap at auction when a favourite bar closed, without the three wise men statues I bought in Beijing, and without the coloured-light replica of The Space Needle building I bought in Seattle (pictured, above). But actually, I do want these things, because they’re sentimental.
But there are some things I could happily divest myself of.
Ninety percent of my clothes are sealed in a box now, but I don’t care, because I wear only a small proportion of my clothes regularly.
I think about it this way: last year, I went to the US for about four weeks and I took a small bag the size of carry-on luggage (though I always check mine so I don’t have to carry it). That was fine, as long as I remembered to find a washing machine every three days. So, if I can survive for four weeks with this small bag of clothes, why not forever?
The other thing we’ve done is not replenished the food in our fridge or cupboards as we usually do. We’re down to loaves and fishes-type dishes now, if you know what I mean, but they’ve worked out just fine.
We spend a lot of extra money on whims with food, and we end up throwing some of it out. In fact, I’ve read government statistics that say about 40% of the food Australians buy ends up being thrown away because it goes off before people can eat it. You can read more about that here.
And the thing I miss most about not having access to my stuff? My art equipment! I wish I’d put aside my little travelling paint kit to keep me company this week. Oh well, I’ll see it all next week on the other side of the city.
Caron – It’s amazing how many things we have that we keep, and perhaps even say that we treasure, but don’t use or really need. I think there’s nothing like a move to really help one put one’s possessions into perspective.
Yes, absolutely. I can’t believe how much stuff I have acquired!
Last summer I decided to finally clear out my spare bedroom, which had become a cluttered storage area that made me irritated every time I walked by the door. In doing so, I found boxes that had never been unpacked in the 13 years I’ve been in my home. I kept a very few things, but most of it went to Goodwill. (Nearly a year later, the room remains clean and tidy–a real triumph! 🙂
That must have felt great! It’s funny the things we keep and think are important at the time, and years later, they have become irrelevant or superfluous.
I have shifted home twice now in two years. The downsizing was the most dramatic with the first, after separating from 36 years of marriage. The second shift was different, my possessions fitting into one trailer and van because I was joining a established home with my new partner plus sharing it with a couple in their twenties. So downsizing is an interesting exercise, adjusting to share your possessions with others is another level again.
My cameras and laptop were my last things.
Thanks for sharing your story, Denis. When I married in 2006 and moved to the place we are now leaving, we found we had double-ups of a lot of things, and quite a lot has been given away over the years. But we’ve still ended up with way too much!
Music. That is all. It’s like oxygen for me …
Yes. Do you play the actual CDs, or is a lot of yours digitised? I digitised all my music years ago and download what I want for the most part, but then again, I’m not a serious collector. On the other hand, I collect books about Thailand and have more than 200, a lot of them vintage: it just wouldn’t be a collection if they were ebooks. I imagine it’s the same with music for you (?)
No digital for me! I need/want those booklets and books and all the documentation and photos and history. A lottery win would see me revert to 45s and 78s – auctions and field trips to collect them!
Yes, wonderful. I do have some “special” CDs still that I saved, specifically for the booklets and covers. I think it is the serious collectors that will keep printed books and albums on CD and vinyl going.
Will your cat immediately check the new place out? Or will she hide under a bed for a week or so?
She’s a timid little thing, so I think she will be under the bed for a day or two at least. Then again, she might surprise us. She is at the cattery over two days of our move, so when she gets to the house, at least all the things she knows will be around her.
You are so right. I had a lot of stuff in storage. It’s been there for years. My mover is giving up the storage part of his business so I had no choice but to go through it and decide if I still wanted it. With very few exceptions (books) the answer was “no”. I didn’t even remember what was in those boxes. Clearly I didn’t miss any of it. So why acquire it in the first place? The only time I purge is when I move. And then I become ruthless. Silly, silly, silly.
When I’m ruthless, I seem to get rid of the wrong things, and regret it later. For example, I wish I’d saved assignments I’d written for my bachelor’s degree way back when, and notes I’d taken at journalism school. These things would now be highly interesting to me as artefacts. But I got rid of them many years ago, not knowing that a long time into the future, I’d become a tertiary educator and they would be of interest. Meanwhile, I had kept volume upon volume of poetry and other writing I didn’t even like but once had to study—those books have gone to good homes now, and I have only the poetry that I do like.
Yes, you make a good point. I have done that as well . I guess there is no happy medium. Something to aspire to 🙂
You’re making me feel like a hoarder. Many years ago I did sell off my fabled vinyl record collection. There are times I feel sad for it, but I also have this fantasy that somebody is enjoying them as much as I did.
Absolutely! I feel like that about books I give away. If it makes you feel better, I have several collections of stuff I hoard and would never part with. My collection of vintage books about Thailand, my snow domes, my mermaid collection (books, dolls, and more!).
My favorite snow globe: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_qnD9Og8xXzM/TR9qCAi_W5I/AAAAAAAACok/qotxtF4cb-M/s1600/FargoSnoGlobe%2B086%2B-%2BCopy.JPG
The combination of a crime scene in a snow globe- a very un-snow globe like theme. A little piece of paradox under a plastic dome. It sort of sums up the entire Fargo film. Takes everything we think we know and shakes it up.
We don’t ‘need’ per se but we could live, survive anyway, on bread and water if we had to…doesn’t mean that it would be much fun…for almost twenty years (because I traveled so much – not like I was in prison or anything!) most of my possessions, especially my library were all in storage and I would have brief moments of reunion before another job would come up…I survived but I am much happier now with with all my things about me – I can so identify with Mary kate’s line from The Quiet Man “Ever since I was little, I’ve dreamed of having my things about me…”
Yes, I must admit, I love my stuff around me too.
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What a chore! Moving! I last moved 38 years ago, but had so few possessions then compared to now. I have so many books and file cabinets of papers and documents now.
I did take a lot of books to donate to the library four years ago, and kept books I love or that were given to me or that I inherited or that belonged to special people in my life.
But I’m trying to get rid of things to pare down, and one tenet though is not to throw out anything
I’m really attached to because it belonged to an important person in my history or has special meaning.
But books. I couldn’t part with many. My house would not be a home without them and the pottery arranged among them.
I agree, Kathy. There seems to be an anti-book trend in houses. I blame it on consumerism, the making of the house into a commodity, rather than what it really is and should be: home, shelter, safety, solace. consequently, people want to make something that looks like it’s from the pages of Vogue Living: an unrealistic and sparse modern living set. This doesn’t include books. So many friends have commented on our last house that it was “cluttered”, one even saying “It will be great in your new house, because you can get the clutter out and move all those books into the garage”. Well, we have moved most of our book cases into studies upstairs, which suits me, as I have my books around me all day while I’m working.
Well, there’s clutter and then there’s clutter. Books are NOT clutter. They are like pottery, works of art to be cherished. A lot of work went/goes into writing and producing books, sometimes years of work.
Papers are another thing. I just had to throw out files to make room for other things in file cabinets. And did I ever love to do that! The more I could toss out, the better. Now every paper is filed, with a few exceptions: those I need to find room for in cabinets. But my drive is there to do it.
Absolutely agree with you on both. Now, here’s a quandary for you: I spent 5 years researching and writing my PhD thesis. It then had to be printed and bound, costing a lot of money. Eventually, though, you get the 2 examiners’ copies back. So now I have 3 enormous tomes taking up half a book case. I should throw 2 out, but they’re so beautifully bound… Also, I subsequently had a book published that was virtually just my thesis updated. Should I just toss the extra 2 thesis copies into the rubbish? Libraries won’t want it, as they have the book.
That’s a dilemma. I think when you are ready to toss out a few of the bound versions of the thesis, that you will do it. There are things I can throw out, and things I cannot throw out, that mean too much to me.
Maybe you could put away the two in a box in another room, so that you have more space on the book case.
But it all represents years of hard work, so you’re attached to the copies, so keep what you need to keep.
I don’t think I am attached to them, since I would still have one. However, they seem like an odd thing to throw out. Oh well!