I am equally embarrassed, and fortunate, to be the owner of all my stuff. A woman in transition, I have spent the first four months of this year looking at it. Sorting, choosing, remembering, cleaning, tossing, and ultimately, keeping. Some things anyway. Now that I think about it, this process began most seriously ten years ago, when my ex-husband left. When “we” ended, and “ours” was over, it could only be mine. As the sole owner of it all there is nobody else to blame. I am stuffed.
Years back, Riana helped me sort through boxes in the garage. She opened one only to find hundreds of greeting cards and letters going back to my childhood. “Mom, why do you have these?” I explained to her that I like to keep the kind sentiments that are sent my way. She rolled her eyes, pulled out a card, and asked, “Who is Edith?” and looked at me accusingly. I didn’t know out of context, and, in fact, couldn’t for the life of me remember ever knowing an Edith. She read the card, some silly sentiment, and then laughed, and I joined her, as she read: “Love, Edith.” She then kidded me and asked, “So, do you feel good now?”
“Don’t toss that box,” I told her, even though the ridiculousness of my choice had made itself evident. She folded the top flaps, took out the extra large black permanent marker to label it, and wrote, “Mom’s Stuff. Hoarder Box No. 1.” The afternoon proceeded, with much hilarity, at my expense, and quite a series of Hoarder Boxes, which, I am embarrassed to say, I still have.
In this most recent purge, I have not sojourned out to the garage while in my sorter brain mode. Not yet, anyway. I have worked on my bedroom, kitchen, closets, pantries, etc. In these spaces I am not finding too much that I have kept for sentimental value. But for my dad’s yellow sweatshirt that I will never give away. Or Sue’s Michigan hoodie. My mother’s stacked porcelain mixing bowls. These things are old, a bit worn, but putting them on, or using them to stir cookie dough, is as close as I will ever get to deceased friends and family. (Hoarder Box No. 14, I hear Riana say).
Otherwise, I have made three trips to Goodwill or Savers with carloads of stuff. Stuff. Stuffed. While I believe that it is “American” to shop obsessively, purchase for the sake of buying, own for the sake of having, I can only account for my own habits. I see us, myself, as hungry. Eating sandwiches that are so large and stuffed we cannot take a bite without flavors falling to our laps. Some of us savor the pieces on our thighs, pick them up and eat them. Some brush them to the floor. I think it is time to not make such a sandwich. Reduce. Take leave of my stuff. Stop feeling stuffed.
Reducing my linen closet to two boxes was cathartic. The pantry to one shelf, relieving. Emptying my bedroom to ten boxes. Okay, my empty bedroom did choke me up a bit. But why in the heck do I own four sets of sheets? Three black skirts? Character shoes from before my feet grew with pregnancy. Two pairs! Four boxes of band-aids. A heating pad that doesn’t work.
Reducing my life of stuff down to one carload is my goal. I have watched over the years as tenants have moved in with one carload, maybe two, and I am envious. They walk with an air of carefree that I can taste. I look at my garage and gag. Stuffed.
How do you eat an elephant, or a sandwich as the case may be? One bite at a time. How do we overcome our addiction to ownership? One box at a time. Hoarder Box No. 14? In the trash.
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