As Brad Pitt's character in Fight Club
remarked, "The things you own end up owning you." Hardly profound in itself; anyone who's seen the movie has tucked that scrap of cosmic wisdom
away for the next time they feel like they have too much stuff
. That doesn't happen often, and even less often do we packrat
s actually manage to discard
a significant portion of stuff. "I might need that sometime real soon! I'd love to be able to give this to my kids someday!"
I think the mindset that leads to hoard lust
is deeply rooted, and it takes a real mental shock
, an uncontrolled transforming experience, to shake it off. Nobody wakes up on Spring Cleaning
morning and says, "woah, all this crap is going in the trash today!" Not when you still listen to that CD
occasionally, not when this book
was so full of rare insight, not when Mom would have conniptions if you scrapped these heirloom quilt
s, not when those umpteen volumes of diaries
have faithfully recorded your ecstasies and agonies through the years.
Somewhere between ages 12 and 31, I accumulated enough
books, notebooks, CD's, videotape, magazines, computers and accessories to fill a small U-Haul truck. My girl and I had it all shipped to follow us (along with her stuff, of course), from New Jersey to Florida. In October of 1999, one crucial domino, the relationship with my girl, toppled. The ensuing chain reaction was the "uncontrolled transforming experience
" that made shedding decades of stuff I never really used, not only thinkable
but even do-able
. When the dust settled, I was back in New Jersey, with exactly one carload of stuff. What wasn't in the car, I had sold, or it ended up in a dumpster.
For me, "getting rid of it all
" took a strong dose of despair. I don't recommend despair. On the road, though, I discovered something I had never felt in my life: freedom from possessions. Right there, on four wheels, ready to accompany me anywhere I could drive, was everything I wanted and could have.
Now, a-year-and-some later, I have a few regrets... I wish the relationship hadn't fallen down and broken in the first place, but that involves someone beyond myself; there's the factor beyond my control. What was
within my control was my destination. I wish I had headed someplace where it doesn't snow. I wish I had rented a little room instead of this huge apartment where I need a flatmate (with her decades of baggage) to help cover the monthly rent. The books I brought back to New Jersey have mostly just gathered dust
- I regret I didn't ditch them when I was still crazy enough. They breed and multiply, you know...