I haven’t written in a few weeks. Evenings and all spaces between work and thought have been stuffed full of nesting projects. I’ve been making space for a new roommate, a cohabitation fellow, actually. Which means smashing two folks’ living space into one. Like playing Tetris with furniture and most prized possessions.
First, an aside: I should mention that my current roommate of two years very firmly thinks I’m a packrat. That I collect useless items for some perceived potential use in the near future.
I contend I’m not a packrat. I don’t hoard schtuff. I just like to keep the sentimental things.
I keep cards people gave me for my 12th birthday. I keep little notes my Berlin house-mother left on the kitchen table each morning before school. I keep postcards from places I’ve been, labels of wines I’ve imbibed, articles that remind me of a unique stranger I’ve met. I keep sheet music, in case I ever pull my violin out of hiding and whip up a song or two on the dusty strings. I have boxes and boxes of things that make for a rich tapestry of my personal history. But in day-to-day living they’re simply useless.
This makes the game of Cohabitation Tetris difficult.
What do I keep? What do I get rid of to make space?
I recently attended Ignite Seattle, a symposium of bright and talented individuals eager to share their brains—each presenter has precisely five minutes to enlighten the crowd. The second presenter from Ignite 12 really hit my nesting experience at the core. Though her slides appeared on screen in random sequence, Emily Chen, fumbled a moment then regained composure to describe her dedication to getting rid of stuff. She’s trying to simplify her life by posting a new free item on her blog for every day in 2010. Once on her list, that item must be gifted, donated or trashed (hopefully recycled!)
Listening to Chen in the dim auditorium, I thought of my own stuffed apartment and could easily ascertain my own reasons for carving down my belongings down to a small selection of VIPs (Very Important Pieces). As my living space fills up, my brain crowds and I think, do I need all this stuff? Can I survive on less?
As my fellow cohabitant made his way into my space, I devoted any available free time to sorting through those sentimental boxes (I discovered photos of my dad and me (age 3), college friends in embarrassing poses, high school snapshots. Brilliant!).
I scoured and carefully sorted. I donated multiple bags of clothes I wear a scant two days a year. I gifted potting plants, useless knick-knacks. I recycled reams of dog-eared The New Yorkers. And still I’m left with those boxes of sentimentals.
Next spring I’ll be living and teaching English in Thailand. I can’t take my whole apartment with me. In fact, I wouldn’t even want to. I want life in Thailand to be simple. So, in order to pare down my belongings, I’m trying to defy my nesting instinct and reduce, reduce, reduce. Should I join the ranks of Emily Chen? Should I post my accoutrement on Craigslist and give them away one by one?
I’ve started. I’m giving away tons of furniture in the spring (Anyone need a mattress? A desk?) I’m willing to skim down to the bare minimum.
But I’m keeping those boxes of sentimentals. They’re part of a tapestry I want to keep. For now. Don’t worry, I’ll find a place to store them.