<editorsnote> Nerds, meet my buddy Layne. I forget how we first started talking … I think it was on twitter, and then we totes became besties on Facebook, and then we started reading each other’s blogs and like commenting and like and like and like … this chick is RAD annndd she’s a ginger. No, seriously. Welcome to the world of Layne and the thoughts that are inside of her head. HIT IT GIRL! </editorsnote>
I have a need to purge. No, not the bulimic kind of purging. In fact, this purging is not related to bodily functions at all (cause that would be both gross and disgusting). The kind of purging I’m speaking of is the kind that has to do with material possessions. One thing that I have learned in my short lifetime on this planet (as if I have had a life on another?) is that possessions are impermanent. Objects do not persist. Except, perhaps, to create a false sense that you are somehow rooted to a place by the things that you have collected. The “stuff” we all curate, year after year, taking up space in our homes, our lives.
This lesson came to me the hard way. The story goes that one summer, after coming home from visiting my Mom– I spent summers with Mom and school years with my Dad– I came home to a completely new bedroom. New furniture, new bed, new everything. Which was fine with me, except that all my “stuff” was gone. ALL OF IT. I had some stuff up on my walls that I loved, like a Betty Boop shaped mirror and a framed poster of Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog (don’t judge me). Gone. I would have been 11 years old, I think. I believe I was starting 6th grade that year. Anyway, I was gutted. I was sooooo pissed off. Even my CLOTHING had been cleared out, replaced with new stuff, but nothing that I actually wanted to wear. (read: stirrup pants. ugh!) It was bizarre. Toys, collections of things, artwork, etc. Almost every piece of my past had been removed from my room, from my life.
From that, I learned to never get too attached to a piece of matter that did not have a beating heart within. (Also: Miss Piggy isn’t really much of a style statement, so in hindsight, maybe that was an improvement. The stirrup pants, not so much.)
This may sound like a depressing story, and at the time, sure I was upset and felt violated. I felt robbed. I felt like I had no control over what I thought was “mine.” But, the truth of it is, now, I look back and realize that I was able to detach from all of the things I thought made up who I was, and realize that my identity was completely separate from my belongings. It didn’t change my favorite color, or my taste in music, or how much I loved science or art, or any real part of my personality. A valuable lesson, indeed.
Cut to me as an “adult” (I use this term very loosely. I don’t feel very grown up most of the time)… every time I have moved, I purge about a third of my possessions. Things I haven’t seen or touched since I last moved them usually go first. Nothing is exempt from this process, either. I have thrown away things that were I a member of the Amish community, I would probably be shunned. Even things some people consider to be of sentimental value. Birthday cards, letters, clothing, souvenirs, etc. I also rid myself of anything with a negative memory… like if I come across something from a past relationship that went sour… and really, sometimes the last thing you need is to happen across a valentine from a former in that box of random shit at the back of your closet. I find that given time, my mind keeps the good memories alive, while objects often bring about whatever feelings of hurt, betrayal and/or pain. Perhaps that is due to what happened to me at the end of that summer, perhaps not…I don’t want to point any fingers. The result is this: I purge myself of unnecessary weight. I reduce the gravitational pull of my possessions.
I often say that if I can’t put it in my car (a Mazda 3, so it’s a small car) and drive to Mexico with it, I don’t need it. Yeah, I know, it makes me sound like a nut bag. So be it. Ergo, very few things really make the cut to become what I consider a “necessary” item. Besides the essential clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc., the things I would keep with me are my phone, my cameras, my negatives (yes, I would even leave my prints behind, because those can be recreated from my negatives), a few pieces of artwork, my music, and my computer. Everything else would simply be dead weight. This is not to say that I am really a minimalist, but if put in a corner, I could deal with it and not blink an eye. (Said eye may twitch a bit at first, but that too shall pass.)
This is also not to say that my day-to-day life is free of superfluous crap. I have a purse filled with miscellaneous shit I think I need: lip balms (yes, more than one), ibuprofen, random ephemera, obsolete business cards (as everyone I need to contact is in my phone!), pens, hair ties, what have you. I have a closet-full of extra. A dresser, bookshelves, baskets of magazines, tchotchkes. But each and every item is one motivated session of cleaning and organizing away from excommunication.
My reason for writing about this is due to the fact that I have a client that I am helping with a huge move. Currently, I am self-employed, as a “Gal Friday” for hire, of sorts. I have a ridiculous laundry list of skills I have obtained by doing this type of work on and off (between “normal” jobs) for the better part of the last decade. It’s akin to being a personal assistant, with a side of professional organizer and a dash of tech support. I have done it all. So, my client is moving from her home of 22 years into a smaller high-rise apartment because she wants to downsize to something more reasonable, now that her kids are out of the house (most of the time) and she doesn’t want to have to manage such a large household. In 22 years, a family of four can acquire a lot of “stuff.” Albeit, I understand that there’s an added element of sentimental and emotional attachment to things that belonged to your children, or things you collected as a result of raising a family and living so long in one space. I get it. Really. Well, as much as a childless, unmarried 29-year-old can get it.
The truth is, though, it has only reinforced the way I feel about my “if I can’t make a fast escape to Mexico” policy. Having to spend all that time and energy sorting through the mountain of objects would be overwhelming to me, if it were my stuff. The weight of it all… the gravity of all those things almost seems to take on a life of its own. And before any of you get it in your minds that I am being critical, or saying it’s wrong to have all of those things, let me assure you, I enjoy the right to do, believe, think, and feel whatever and however the hell I want to, and I also believe I should treat others as I wish to be treated. As such, I hold no grudges or judgment over those who hold onto things, or keep more than what I would feel comfortable with, I’m simply sharing my own convictions about how I deal with my possessions. Different strokes for different folks, y’all.
What is it about being human that causes the invisible string of emotional attachment to be flung from our sense of identity, imbedding itself amongst lifeless, soulless matter? How does this happen? Is it a psychological tether that allows us to feel safe, stay put, procreate and survive as a species? Or is it nonsense that we learned as a result of society’s influence, an influence that drives us to accumulate and preserve objects as some kind of trophy, to prove that we had something to show for ourselves? And if you find yourself on the opposite side of that coin, not wanting to hold on to too many things… cutting the ties before they settle, what does that imply? Am I weird? Damaged? Is it abnormal to feel less free when surrounded by too many possessions?
You tell me.