Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Belongings, goddammit!

A fleeting thought: At the risk of sounding vapid, almost nothing makes me happier than seeing one of my boyfriend's exes in a photo snuggled up to an attractive man with horn-rimmed glasses with the caption 'Us, flying back in to Chicago'. Though it is something women rarely divulge openly, there is comfort in seeing that a former lover of a current love is wrapped up in a separate joyful drama. For this reassuring image there is Facebook to thank. I am moving and have just finished a two-year contractual employment commitment. So of course I have been using Facebook for procrastination research purposes.

Why is moving so difficult? Because it is a forced reorganization of your whole life. Moving our belongings, our physical representations of both ourselves and our power within the economic arena, allows for auto-reinvention. What you buy is what you choose to represent your taste and what you proffer to whoever sees these things with a non-verbal, 'I spent money on this, judge me accordingly'. If your treasured things came to you by way of gift---a designer bag, jewelery, or other 'keep your mind right mami' tokens (and yes I am 12 years late with this reference)---this too is an expression of economic power. This says 'I didn't even need to buy this, it was purchased as a ceremonial offering to my beauty'---but before we open Pandora's box let's refocus on the subject of moving.

When moving we sift through our accumulated pieces and decide what to display and what to obscure, to abandon. For a brief moment in the moving process your priorities shift and new interests can become the stars of your every day. Id est: my former apartment did not have a studio, my new house does. Art becomes a fixture of everyday as opposed to a coffee-table hobby.

On Monday the moving process reached it's zenith. It was incredible how many objects went into the trash bags that had been purchased especially for the occasion. How blessed (by whom?) the residents of the US are to live in a nation where we have the ability to hoard and also to purge our belongings.

At the age of fifteen I began working at the public library in our town. It was one of the best jobs I have ever had, and since the last day I have been striving to get back to that simple place of calm task and clear expectation. One of the greatest perks was working amongst the stacks. It was around this time that I became especially interested in writings on self esteem and how our relationship to belongings affected that slippery 'sense of self'. Modern Western/developed nation thinking is that retail therapy is effective. If you feel sad, the thinking follows, buying something will help you feel better. But it will only make you feel better for a short time before the buzz wears off. When the buzz subsides we are left with a fuller home and emptier wallet.

Basically, the general consensus is that less is more.

Relating to clothes, high-quality, well-fitting key items will always trump a full closet of pieces that are flimsy and poorly designed for your body type. And remember that versatility is also a factor in a piece's longevity within your wardrobe. Every six months or so I review my closet and purge anywhere between an eighth to a third of my clothes. It hurts just a bit at the outset, but donating them feels good. (This year I am selling choice items via Amazon and Ebay, too.)

The less-is-more theory as applied to belongings is harder. Experts agree that there is such a thing as owning too much. Where the line is drawn remains subjective. I still have the immature notion that one should be able to fit everything they own into one car. A friend likes to say that she and I are different because I don't 'need stuff' and she does. Not needing objects isn't it, exactly; it's that I need a palpable sense of mobility more. Though, similar to the properties of water I attest that people will fill any space they have with their things if given the ability.

Proof of this, the past year I lived in a three-bedroom apartment. The difference in the amount of things I own definitely shows. This time a one-car move was impossible. Because the harsh reality was too jarring the trips were split up over five days. Moving into my partner's house was an even stronger reminder that there is too much in my possession, what once seemed like a spacious home is now filled with a mixture of his and hers.

Moving forward to the next chapter of this life has involved embracing the object purging process. I want to be the one who controls my belongings, not the other way around. Already DVDs and clothes have been bagged and tagged, the art supplies and books are next. The hope is that whenever I move next I can get everything into the same car and speed off into the night.

Studded in the text are some hyperlinks to pertinent articles. Give them a look!

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