Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wherein Our Heroine Gets Carried Off By the Wind

Um, how the hell did it become late July already? What is going on here?!!

Sigh.

In just over five weeks, I will turn in my dissertation.

In just over five weeks, I will be leaving London.

In just over five weeks, my stuff will be packed up, and I will be living out of a suitcase.

Again.

Yes, I'm leaving London. At least for now. The current plan seems to be to go to New York by way of India. Yes, I'm aware that India is not *technically* on the way to New York. But homeland, and more importantly, family calls ... and so off I shall go.

I've been behind on my blog reading and writing, but today I read Green Bean's post about her small home.

And it made me reflect, once again on my stuff.

When I was in college, I took pride in the fact that I had very little in the way of stuff. I felt like it was important for a person to only have as much stuff as could fit in the back of a Honda Civic. That was how a young person was supposed to live. Rootless, free as a bird, able to take off on a whim.

Then I moved to Los Angeles. And though I assumed that my vagabond lifestyle would somewhat continue, I instead developed these awful things.

Roots.

I lived in one ghetto apartment next to, I am not making this up, a bona-fide drug dealer. One time, we came home and there were helicopters above and about five or six police cars on the street.

Also, the roof leaked and the balcony in the master bedroom tilted so that rainwater would spill over into the room, and we had to evacuate our rooms several times so that the carpet could be pulled up and dried so we would't get mold. So what I'm saying is that this apartment was maybe not the most awesome place in the world.

Nevertheless, I continued to live there. For FIVE years. Because I was lazy. And I had started to acquire stuff. More stuff than one could fit in a Honda Civic. I owned a FRIDGE, for God's sake. Moving was a bitch. Plus, all my stuff was there, the walls were decorated, my room felt properly kitted out. For all its faults, this place was home.

After five years, I was finally persuaded to move. I moved into a much NICER neighborhood, painted it, decorated it, bought more new stuff, and decided I loved my place too much and was going to live in it until the day I died.

Except, that I didn't. Because I got rid of most of my stuff, got on a plane to London, and ended up in a room the size of a postage stamp with two suitcases.

I am glad I didn't acquire a whole bunch of stuff in London. Because frankly, it's going to make moving much easier.

But I also realize that without all that stuff, there is a feeling of impermanence. Although I love London and seriously considered staying here, I never felt that I was really much more than a traveler to these parts.

And yes, there are many reasons for that, but I'll tell you what. Never underestimate the power of stuff. To weigh you down, yes, but also to anchor you and to settle you.

I have stuff therefore I am.

Without my stuff, I always felt more like I was in a hotel than in my own home. Meanwhile, I still seem to suffer under the delusion that my home is still waiting for me in Los Angeles. The walls still painted turquoise and brown, the crumbs in the papasan still needing to be vacuumed.

No matter that I got rid of the papasan. And the bed. And the futon. And the fridge. And the CAR.

So, in a few weeks, this girl who lacks the weight of any substantial possessions shall take flight once again. To India, and then for a couple months, to New York.

Now, you know me, I'm not big on the consumerism, but I do wonder if I'll have to buy a lot more stuff before I ever feel like I'm truly at home again. I do wonder if somewhere there is a balance between weighted down and feather-light.

In the mean time, when people ask me where home is, I'll likely answer as per usual, "Los Angeles." It may not be where I lay my head, but it's where I once I owned a fridge.

14 comments:

Mouse said...

NYC?! Wrong coast! NYC don't got Korean BBQ like we do!

ruchi said...

It's true. The Korean BBQ in LA is out of this world. I actually owe you an email ... tomorrow as it's past midnight here. :)

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I just talked to a friend who is trying to whittle his belongings down to 2 suitcases for a transatlantic move. Been there, done that, bought more stuff when I arrived... starting with pots and pans and plates, and accumulating ever after.

I know exactly what you mean about needing a minimum of stuff to feel at home. In my experience the minimum is more than 2 suitcases, but less than my current house full...

Good luck with the move

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Until a few months ago, we were trying to sell our house while living somewhere else, so all of our "nice" things were left to stage the for sale house while the rest of our belongings moved with us. During that year, I came to realize how I didn't really need all that stuff that I'd filled our home with.

But when we finally sold our house and got all of our stuff back together, I cannot express how excited I was to see my home looking pretty again. Unpacking was like rediscovering old friends. I kept saying things like, "Oh, I love this vase! This rug is so pretty! I've missed you, beautiful Ikea entertainment center!"

So I know exactly what you mean about needing stuff to feel like you're home. But there can be a balance too. I didn't miss any of the DVDs that were packed in a box for a year. Why did I buy those?

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

it's true...i'm moving into a new apartment soon and i keep fantasizing about all the cute little things i want to buy to make it feel more homey than my current place...i think part of my urges also stem from wanting nice things that will last forever instead of cheapo stuff i have now. but then next time it comes to move i will regret everything i accumulated...

Donna said...

Sounds like you're not really trying to limit your belongings to the contents of two suitcases, but the problem is, junk expands to space alotted. My husband told me that little axiom before we got married, when I was fairly new in my house and it wasn't full, yet. I didn't believe him then, but 12 years later, we have so much "stuff" that we're moving to a larger house. Of course, we've got a kid, now, too, and he takes up an amazing amount of space for his small size.

Good luck, and don't be in a hurry to collect more stuff. It just happens.

The Mom said...

I wish I had more stuff, but as Donna said, kids take up a lot of space. We have way too much stuff for our 1400 sq ft house, but I refuse to move. I think stuff has been a part of home for millions of years. Nomads and gypsies carrying their stuff around on their backs or however they could. We just tend to be more rooted these days. The more rooted you are, the more stuff you have.

Fix said...

I'm with Mouse - that's the wrong coast. It just doesn't seem fair that we would switch at the same time! Details, please. And let me know if you need help in NYC.

Megan

ruchi said...

Cath, I think you're right. 2 suitcases < perfect amount of stuff < crap I accumulated through 7 years of living in LA.

Erin, yes, balance. I actually, freakishly badly missed my DVDs which I didn't bring with me. I don't have many DVDs but the ones I have are well loved.

Julia, ah, I well know the feeling. Definitely make your place homey, but don't clutter! That's my advice.

Donna, sound advice. Thanks. :)

The Mom, you're right. I bet "stuff" has been a part of home for eons.

Megan, sorry!! But I'm not necessarily permanently on the wrong coast. I owe you an email too.

Stephanie said...

Yeah. Especially: "Never underestimate the power of stuff. To weigh you down, yes, but also to anchor you and to settle you." I got really angry at someone who acted high-and-mighty because a friend had a lot of junk recently. I'm getting really tired lately of moving around and not having that stuff as an anchor. I'm back at my parents' home for the summer and so delighted at finding all these old things I bought over the years and am starting to use now. But in over a month I have to leave it all again. I am getting really, really tired of living without roots. Two years apparently is my limit.

Good luck with everything. Thanks for writing exactly what I needed said.

Ms. Becky said...

Thanks for the thoughtful post! I'm always torn between wanting to get rid of all my stuff, and realizing that I actually like most of it. My solution is to only acquire things that have some kind of meaning for me--which means that rather than cheap, mass-produced art on my walls, I have photos from places I've been and people I love.

Anonymous said...

I can live w/o a lot of pretty stuff. But useful stuff is another matter. Small scale farming, food storage, a small business - all need stuff. Although I am tempted to chuck most of it some days and go minimalist w garden...

Good luck w your move & hope you find a nice new homey home.
EJ

Chile said...

Stuff, it's so useful and tempting and a pain in the butt. I like having the useful stuff but sometimes defining what is useful can be a challenge. I always feel torn between acquiring more useful stuff and getting rid of all the crap. Which is which, though? That can vary from week to week!

Congrats on making a decision where to go. I hope you find a sense of home when you get there, whether or not you choose to refrigerate.

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