In preparing for our big trip (getting the house ready to rent, planning to live out of suitcases), most of the process involves the organization of stuff. In fact, this summer as I’ve discussed this topic with friends, I’ve confessed to having an existential crisis based on stuff.
The stuff situation has been growing for years, but when it became necessary to move my Mom from the family home of 45 years, it went to another level. Then my Aunt Lourene died and her stuff merged with the other stuff. And now this accumulation of stuff confronts various interpretations of the dictum, “you can’t take it with you.”
Now don’t get me wrong, some of it I’d like to take with me (if I didn’t have to carry it). There’s lots of stuff that has sentimental value, waxes nostalgic, is weirdly artistic, or just not throwaway able (at this time). There’s stuff you think you’ll use again, or is worth money, or you want to go through later, or you think you’ll give to someone sometime. There are collections: of books, records, tapes, albums, photos, files, clothing, jewelry, objets trouvés, and generic memorabilia that just have a general stickiness.
Before you say “hoarder” (altho’ yes, it could be an issue) consider the fact that the storage business has exploded. Americans, having filled their two car garages with bags, boxes, equipment, tools, toys, and stuff (but not cars), now spend hundreds (of millions collectively) per month on storing their stuff in storage units. Google “storage” and you’ll find numerous companies dedicated to warehousing stuff.
I’m proud to say that we will not be paying for storage in some warehouse. That’s because we have a small horse barn that we’ve paid to convert into our own personal storage warehouse. Then there are further regions of our garage that will house stuff thanks to an agreement with the renter (who is renting the house furnished, thankfully). This, after numerous trips to thrift shops, the transfer station (dump), and giving myriad items to friends and family.
Now, as our family of four prepares to travel around the world with one backpack and one suitcase each, we will lock the barn door, close the garage, hand over our keys, and say goodbye to our stuff. Someday, a year or more hence, it may be nice to open boxes, rediscover things, have rather than get stuff. But for now, the necessity of simplicity seems strangely liberating.
For more on the this topic, consult George Carlin.