I’d like to take a few minutes to just talk about stuff.
Y’know, all the STUFF you own, and you don’t know why, but when you look at it you think; ‘oh, I need that…and that…and that…I could use them someday’, or ‘I CAN’T get rid of THAT! so-and-so gave it to me and I’ll feel so guilty…even though I never look at it cause I carefully wrap it in a box to deal with when I have the time and/or space’
The past month or so has been a head-long dive into people attachment to stuff. The case at hand is my grandmother, which I will only touch on briefly as this is more of a self-reflection.
At the beginning of July my mother took 2 weeks off for vacation/get-shit-done time, and seeing as I was (and am) still fun-employed I gave her as much help as I could.
The first week was mostly spent helping her pack up the remnants of her old apartment so come the night of the 14th her and my step-father would not be pulling an all-nighter and contemplating the single-life (he hates packing and is the king of ‘I’ll do it later’), but we also spent a few days out in the sticks with my grandparents, trying to lay some groundwork for the epic task of downsizing their house. We spent the majority of the 2nd week just working on cleaning out our own stuff that we had in storage at their house, and their garage…
My grandparents live in a 200-year old farm house, with 4-5 bedrooms, 2 sitting rooms, 2 offices, a dining room and a kitchen…not to mention an attic…three sheds…a garage…AND a gigantic barn they had built shortly after they moved in (about 17-20 years ago)
Now, my grandmother’s house is not like those ones you see featured on the hoarding shows, and other reality-TV drivel, but the woman likes her stuff, and it’s not always the most practical, like having un-countable amounts of towels and sheets, among just…other things, books, old magazines, art supplies, (ALL THE ART SUPPLIES, which is why I never have to buy a new sketch book) you name it she’s owned it at some point.
While I’m not going delve into the details of this experience my mother and I have been having with this (which I guess is not my mother’s first go-around) I did want to reflect on the impact it’s been having on our own view of our own stuff.
We spend most of our car rides there and back pontificating on the uselessness of most of the things we own. Why do we keep them we say? We don’t NEED all of this stuff, these trinkets and knick-knacks, memorabilia that we just pack away and store in attics and closets because we have nowhere to put them.
What has real value, we want to know? Must we feel compelled to keep every little scrap or bauble given to us by loved ones or great-grandmothers?
How many things should we allow ourselves? One item, two? Ten? What do we really hold dear?
We’ve been continuing to work on the seemingly never-ending onslaught of stuff every week on Fridays, which means we end our weeks coming home wanting to throw everything we own away, and just not care anymore.
My grandmother calls us ruthless (only half in jest), but it’s not our stuff*, it’s easier for us to be objective when met with yet another leaning tower of towels, to just say ‘Out, out, out!’ while she defends and says, but someone might need them!
I’m not saying I don’t own things. I own A LOT of things. I struggle with what I keep and what I don’t all the time. I feel I constantly have a box of things next to the door to ditch, but yet there seems no end, all my surfaces stay cluttered, every corner and scrap of wall is filled.
In my own defense I have to remind myself that I am in a tiny apartment and that this might be the way things are for awhile. regardless I know there is still more I could ditch, that I don’t need to be content.
In part, letting go of things is liberating, but sometimes it is heart-renching.
Currently I am at a loss for where my art portfolio is. It holds so much, water-color paintings from a trip to New York with my grandmother when I was 16, collages from my art-therapy courses in college, illustrations from unfinished stories, the list goes on.
It is missing. I noticed I hadn’t seen it maybe a month or two ago, and this apartment is small, and this portfolio is not small. It can be easily slipped behind doors or dressers, but, it is not there.
My last memory of it is packing the car, all by myself at my apartment in Montreal, and taking it out of the car to re-arrange some stuff, but after that I don’t know…I know I made a point to grab it from leaning against of the car, but whether I put it back in or brought it up to the apartment still eludes me.
There is still one place I have not double-thoroughly checked in the apartment, and that is behind an extra futon mattress in our closet.
Partly because it’s hard to get to, and partly because if it’s not there, then I am going to have to face the strong possibility that it is gone forever, lost to the ether.
I’m not sure how I am going to handle it. It wasn’t just some random stuff, it was my artistic history from the last 10 years. If I could just find it I would be more than happy to give up everything else, books and stuffed animals, old mobiles an a printer I’m too cheap to buy ink for.
*For the record, we have been collaborating with my grandmother on what we are cleaning out, but sometimes we find a box of our own stuff from years past and she doesn’t understand our indifference to these things we didn’t even know still existed.