How much stuff do we really need in order to get by? I found myself contemplating this question as I boxed up books, dishes, and memorabilia last month to move. There’s very little that I hate in life, but I hate packing. Primarily because I’m confronted, quite blatantly and with no room to hide, with the fact that I keep junk for no apparent reason.
My parents used to tell me that I take after my nana in that regard. Saving boxes and scraps of things in case it may soon be useful. But though that makes sense for a resourceful English woman helping her hard-working husband and young children to make it through World War 2 during a time of rationing and great scarcity, it does not make sense for this young American woman with only herself to worry about, when goods are in abundance. So, no excuses, Self. Deal with it.
Knowing I had half a dozen friends showing up on my official Moving Day, I had to force myself to work hard and be systematic in my approach to packing. Knowing also that this is the last move I hope to make for the next several years, I cracked down on myself (or so it seemed at the time) in finding things to give to friends, consign, donate to Goodwill, or otherwise dispose of from my life. As I packed, I started with two small boxes of true treasures – keepsakes from my life, and my grandfather’s cameras from a different era – before moving on to my oft re-read books, and steadily packing objects in an order of decreasing meaning and importance, so that it became easier to recognize what I did not want (or need) to take with me.
“You will have a home of only the things that you use and treasure!” became my war cry, to the catastrophic-looking battlefield of my old apartment. “You will not be swayed by such emotions like sentimentality, and you will venture forth a Bold, New Sasha!” [Readers, I’d like to take a moment to thank you for reading many of the conversations I have aloud with myself without sharing harsh judgment in the comments.]
I took a full carload of clothes and old dishes to Goodwill. I gave a redundant DVD player to my fella who needed one. I tried to foist an unused (still packaged) Nike+ running gadget on one of my best friends (“But Sasha. Neither of us run in Nikes.”) before relegating it to the “Give eBay A Chance” box. Somehow I managed to rid myself of what I’d estimate to be about 100 pounds of weight in stuff, and yet I still had a layer of boxes (and bags as proof positive of a yet unacknowledged, hereditary fabric addiction) covering the floor of my new living room at the end of moving day.
Now, in the evenings and weekend following my move, I’m unpacking. Everything needs a place, and everything needs to be cared for, and everything – if not used – will gather dust and silently taunt me from its home within my home unless I get rid of it, too. The things we buy, the things we have – they don’t just have a physical weight, but they have a psychological weight, too. There are the fragile treasures that are heavy with sentiment, and the myriad pieces of junk that have little use or meaning in life today, though they may be a relic of a different stage of life.
I’m good at letting go of some things but not so much of others. The letting go of the weight of things reminds me of one of my favorite poems, with which I’ll close this post:
One Art, by Elizabeth Browning
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
-Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Leaving behind this beloved table in the happy kitchen of her old place was hard for the author, but she admits it wasn’t a disaster.
Sasha may be the shyest social person you’ll ever meet. She joined Verity in 2009, with a couple years in the Credit Union Movement already tucked under her belt (amidst coffee-making and bagel-slinging, running a non-profit, and trying her hand at farming).
An eternal optimist (except, you know, when she’s not), she enjoys exploring her surroundings and having adventures with friends; yoga, running, reading, writing, and good food. Though not a remarkable cook, she is nonetheless a sincere one and admits she’d be better if there were three more hours in every day. When not doing one of the many activities mentioned in the previous two sentences, she counts herself lucky to be peacefully at home, cuddling with her partner and their cat.