I started–several times–to write a narrative of my history with stuff. I’ve decided that bullet points are probably a less boring way to get the basics out there.
- I have always been a fan of boundaries and conquerable spaces. I like everything for everything to be included, everything within reach. For example, when I was little, I preferred to pretend the couch was a boat than to build a sprawling fort on the floor. I loved games like Oregon Trail where you picked your supplies and packed them. I have always, always, always loved packing-related things. When you’re living out of a suitcase, everything you could need is contained and accounted for, miscellaneous stuff is to a minimum. As an adult, I think this impulse was obvious in my desire to have all of my things with me, rather than having some things (like my childhood memorabilia) housed in my parents’ attic, some in a closet at their place, some with me, some in a storage unit, etc. During college, I was never one to leave out of season clothing at home and return for it; wherever I was, I wanted it there.
[Note: Obviously, there are both good aspects and bad aspects to this mentality. Sure, there’s a bit of a control thing going on; it’s a work-in-progress. Some elements of this mentality, though, make my transition toward a more pared down lifestyle easier. For instance, having everything in one place makes it easier to recognize just how much of it there is.]
- I used to pride myself in being prepared for just about anything. If you asked me if you could borrow some tape, I would respond with “Duck, masking, Scotch, medical, or fabric?” If you asked me if I had any hooks to hang picture frames, I would ask you the weight of the frame so that I could pick the appropriate size hanger. This mentality, though, meant that I had too much stuff. It wasn’t dirty, disorganized, messy or gross, but there was so, so much of it. And since I always wanted it to be relatively in one place, that meant I was usually stuffed to the brim. It was overwhelming.
- I wasn’t the only one who noticed it was overwhelming. We’re not talking Hoarders-esque interventions, here, but just a general acknowledgement by those around me that there was a lot of stuff. For the last eight years, I’ve moved once a year. A few years ago, my moving help (i.e., my family) made it pretty clear that they’d be more excited about helping me if there was less to move. They were always generous about helping me, but it really was too much stuff.
- 2007/2008 was a turning point. My college is in my hometown, and in the year after I graduated, I rented a house there with friends. I used the house to pool my college things, my things from my parents’ house, etc. I was working for a clothing store at the time, and I was provided a clothing allowance, which meant new things were regularly coming home with me. That year, I started trying to get rid of some things; I felt like I was making progress, but on the whole, I think it was pretty limited.
- My earliest thoughts on minimalism. Last night, as I was thinking through what got me in the “pare down/explore minimalism” mode, I searched my Google mail and chats. Thank you, Google, for remembering things I can’t. Here’s a cringe-worthy excerpt from a 2008 chat with my now-boyfriend: “i wish i had less stuff in general, so i’m acquiring less these days/ but i have so much stuff from the past that it would be spiteful and silly of me to get rid of/ so i have a ton of stuff.” [Ohhh, “2008 me” makes “2011 me” shudder!] Even though I didn’t really think I had a good way out, I was definitely clued in to minimalism and envious of the simplicity of it: “i’d rather be a minimalist, you know, but i can’t seem to do it, but that’s what i respect.”
- The last few years have been a slow and steady trek toward living with fewer things. I’ve regularly played the “get rid of 50 things” game (which tends to be more fun for me than any spectator), I’ve taken many a bag of “goodies” to girls’ nights, and in my last graduate program, I regularly left a basket of stuff in the grad. student lounge (you’d be amazed at the kind of junk grad students will take!). I’ve consigned things, made donations to all kinds of local organizations, and passed things on to family members. I’ve sold things online, and posted facebook offers, which resulted in me mailing everything from coupons to celebrity-autographed dollar bills and delivering makeup cases, cooking supplies, and more.
- Stuff detracts from my ability to take care of the things that matter to me: my relationships, my finances, my exercise, and my eating habits. Lately, my blog has been all about getting rid of things, but I don’t anticipate this becoming entirely a forum about my stuff. Sure, that’s a key part in my quest to live a simpler life, but getting rid of the unnecessary things will help me achieve more balance in all the areas I’d like to.