Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Lists and Stuff

Before moving to Germany, one of my many (uncompleted) tasks is organizing my room. When I first arrived home, I was greeted with a half-collapsed closet, dumping most of my clothes and boxes of possessions in front of the closet door. While I have cleaned up most of that mess, there are just so many things that still need to be moved around and sorted into boxes from the other corners of my room.

That said, I have come across a number of items which I seem to have an inordinate amount of:
+ Bookcases (and I bought another today)
+ Sweaters
+ Pajamas
+ Lip Balm
+ Lotion
+ Shoes
+ Notebooks
+ Scrap Paper
+ Pens and Pencils
+ Linens
+ Pillows
+ Travel guides
+ CDs

Then there are the things I find it difficult to part with:
+ Anything I've received from my best friend
+ Stuffed animals
+ High school and college papers
+ Things I intend to someday organize and paste into a scrapbook

And the things I will never throw away of my own accord:
+ Letters and postcards -- yes, every one you've ever sent me is filed away in my room.
+ Computer files (emails)
+ Photographs and negatives

I have long said that I have enough stuff to fill (and tastefully decorate) a house, whenever I finally get one. However, Mr. Right will have to bring all the furniture, because I have only a nightstand, shoe storage units, and the aforementioned bookcases. In return, I promise years of free softened hands and moisturized lips. What a steal!

I have always had a lot of stuff, and I feel more than ever sorting through it the strength of my emotional attachment to so many different items. It doesn't help that most of the things that are already in storage are sorted not by type, but by time -- a box of things from that summer in West Virginia, or from a specific year in Grinnell, or things I tossed in a box after returning from Russia. Opening each one is like uncovering a little bit of myself from a former time. At the same time, there are many things purchased or saved as "presents" to my future self -- the one who'll someday have a house with lots of wall space and with rooms to develop different themes and color schemes.

As you might imagine, it is sad to leave all that stuff -- and those intended self-images, imaginings, plans of a sort -- behind every time I move abroad. As difficult as it can be to haul one's stuff from place to place, in many ways it is easier than starting mostly new every year or two. Though I'm moving to Hamburg for the first time, it's comforting to me that some of my things are already waiting there for me; a German friend of mine was nice enough to move my things along with his from Frankfurt and store them alongside his own in his parents' house (and before that, three Germans were nice enough to store those same things for me while I was in Russia). I'd be more comforted if I had a place to stay lined up, but that is fodder for a different post entirely . . .

We all have differing relationships to belongings, and I will be the first to admit that I'm a hoarder. I probably place too much value on *things,* though the value is largely emotional and not material (because I'm cheap and a romantic). I understand the burden that possessions can place on ourselves and our loved ones, I admire people (and cultures, be it Finnish or Mongolian) who live simply -- and yet, I know that I will never be among them. There are too many things I long to keep near to me. Years from now, you will find me dead, buried under piles of lifetime collections, memories, and good intentions.

What does the stuff you keep say about you?


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