As I was on eBay yesterday bidding on yet another piece of vintage jewelry (a really cool, unusual compass broach from the 40s!), I suddenly thought back to the final scene of Brokeback Mountain where Ennis has Jack’s jacket hanging in his tiny yet virtually empty closet. Each of his few possessions held great sentiment or utility or both.
I remember sitting in the theater, sobbing at his loss, yet struck by the simplicity of his existence. Could I live that way? At that level of simplicity, no. However, I do go through waves where I purge tons of stuff, which feels soooooo good. I feel straight jacketed by belongings. They weigh me down.
I think this is why Joe Pug’s Hymn #101 speaks to me so deeply.
One part in particular touches my soul:
Oh they say I come with less
than I should rightfully posses
I say the more I buy the more I’m bought
And the more I’m bought the less I cost
Thank you, Lyrics Mania, for these!
That somehow we exchange part of ourselves in return for goods resonates with me. Before I moved to England, I sold off most of what I owned. I had a 4’ x 5’ storage unit (basically an apartment starter kit) and numerous suitcases filled with clothes and small belongings that came with me. Everything else was gone. Then, when I returned I reduced the amount of stuff in my storage unit by a third, wondering why I’d ever kept most of it.
I think a great part of my desire to get rid of unneeded possessions deals with my relationship with clutter. I can’t think clearly if things aren’t put away. This is probably a shock to my high school friends who probably have scary memories of the shape of my bedroom growing up. Amazingly, once I moved into my own place and had the resources to buy sufficient organizing pieces, the mess wasn’t always gone, but it always bugged me.
I remember being stressed out in England about the shape of my studio flat. I’d been so busy with studying and applying for jobs that I hadn’t taken the time to clean. It really was making it difficult to focus. I finally decided to simply stop what I was doing and clean. 20 minutes later, everything was back in its place. Wow. I’d spent a lot more time than that stressing about it!
In my trainings with the Red Cross, compassion for people who have lost all their worldly possessions (or MAY have lost them all) is fostered – both intellectually and emotionally through role-playing exercises. While I am not a “stuff” person, my purges by choice are dramatically different than having things removed by natural disaster. I would mourn the loss of the items in my memory box and all the photos. It’s easy to get caught up in the despair, even knowing that the loss is imaginary right now. Creating a game plan has been for me the best option: Planning to scan the pictures and whatever mementos I have kept reduces that tension. I’m sure actually doing it will make an even bigger impact!
What has been your relationship with stuff? Are you a keeper or purger? Has it changed over time?