I just made the mistake of looking into the cabinets in the garage. We’ve lived in this house for thirteen years, and thus we have thirteen years of clutter crammed into its nooks and crannies. Soon we’ll have to go through everything and pack away, throw away, give away, or garage sale away a good portion of it. The thought of living through that process fills me with dread.
It’s not that I have a problem letting go of things; on the contrary. I’m the mother who didn’t keep a lock of her little boy’s hair after his first haircut. I have no idea where my vet school diploma is. 99.9% of our wedding pictures are still in the proof album. But the prospect of sorting through 10+ years of my life is daunting. My point is that no matter how good a person is at routine de-clutterfercation (Oxford-English next edition writers, take note!), clearing out your house so that someone else can live in it is going to take some time, and likely cause some pain. We’ve just signed a lease for a year with a very nice lawyer who works in Greeley but whose family is in South Carolina. They will visit him fairly often. He’d like the house furnished, but clearly he doesn’t want my stack of unread books on his nightstand.
When Wiley and I traveled around the world in 2000, we each had a backpack. That was it. In those packs we had pretty much everything we needed for that year. Two pairs of shoes each. A small bag of toiletries. The electronics necessary to keep a web site updated (a good deal of paraphernalia in those days, but that’s fodder for another post). We bought clothes as we needed them on that trip, and shipped stuff home as we bought it. I remember getting back to the U.S. and stopping at a grocery store to buy toothpaste on the way home from the airport, and being assaulted by what seemed like an infinite and ridiculous variety of choices.
There is something that is simultaneously liberating and terrifying about pulling up your roots and cutting ties to the mountain of personal detritus we call our “stuff”. We take comfort in having things around us that are familiar, that are useful, and with which we have history. I anticipate that this adventure will necessitate a major readjustment in thinking regarding what is “essential”. This past weekend Wiley gently informed me that no, I was not taking my favorite corkscrew to Mexico.
And as if to make her case, my cat, Sneaky, just jumped into my lap while I’m writing this. Yes, my dear girl, you are truly essential, but sadly, I can’t take you with me, either. Some of the things that are essential must be left behind.