Stuff is not utilitarian and does not pretend to be. No one buys an ornamental teapot and plans to use it to serve tea. Stuff is what people surround themselves with because they enjoy buying things, they enjoy receiving gifts, they enjoy tchotchkes that give their home character and mementos that remind them of where they've been. Stuff is the enemy of freedom. Furniture and clothes and appliances can all be passed on to other people who will use them, but stuff has no value to anyone besides you. The older you get, the more stuff you amass. And each time it makes moving harder.
From when i was very young, because our family moved a lot, i learned not to collect a lot of stuff. I went through purges where i would throw away all my doodles and letters and photos and worthless knickknacks. Like, who wants to transport all that garbage internationally? Who cares? I lived like that for years, and every now and then i would think back to something that happened to me as a kid, and i realized i didn't have the odds and ends that would trigger memories any more. Even at the age of 20, my childhood was drifting away.
There was a moment during my relationship with T when she was rummaging through a "memory box" of hers and was able to share detailed anecdotes from when she was 5 or 6 years old - maybe even younger. I don't remember exactly how the conversation proceeded, but i do recall coming out of it with the sense that she pitied me for not having any connection to my past - that it was something sad and unfortunate. I resolved then to start retaining stuff and stop with the purges. I would appreciate it in 5 years, in 10 years, right?
Wrong. I mean, it's nice to have memories, but it's nicer to be free. I still feel bad about the boxes of stuff i left with a friend in Toronto almost 4 years ago. She has since moved to a different city dragging my shit with her, but i haven't missed it at all. She has my CD collection, some of which i ripped beforehand, but a good chunk of which i didn't and haven't missed. She has my cuddly toys, some of which are from my earliest childhood and kept me company through lots of hard times. She has my books that i tried to donate but couldn't find anyone willing to pick up. But mostly she has about 15 years worth of gifts and journals and cards and trinkets i denied myself the liberty of purging because, you know, they might be meaningful or something. Yet, here i am 4 years later and i cannot for the life of me remember what any of them are. All they bring me is guilt (for filling up my friend's storage room) and anxiety (because i know i have to get back to Canada at some point to go through it all).
I tried really hard not to do the same thing when i moved here, but failed.
What have we got here? A huge stack of random phone numbers, track IDs and other drunken notes written by people i met in dive bars and nightclubs all round the world. Some flyers and stickers for parties i went to. Wristbands for Garbicz festival. Pack of cigarettes branded for Katerholzig nightclub. A pinecone from halfway up the Sierra Madre Oriental. Chestnuts from i can't remember where, but someone gave them to me. A pit from some kind of strange fruit a Sudanese guy gave me. An ornamental teacup my dad inexplicably gave me. A Narcotics Anonymous keychain from my ex that i half keep around half as a joke and half as a reminder to remain sober from time to time. A bottle cap from a bar in Detroit. A plastic ball from the ball pit at the Katerholzig closing. A rubber ducky from i think the NYE shenanigans the year after. Some carvings from Namibia. A St Thérèse de Lisieux chain i still have from when i was with T ~15 years ago. A freakin business card of a bookstore i visited in Berkeley when i was like 17 or something (never left my wallet).
Okay, so i do kinda like having that stuff, when i take the time to look at it. And for 4 years worth of stuff this is reasonably portable. Maybe the right thing to do is just keep whittling away the things that don't matter any more. Before i took this photo i X-ed out a few things - some hairclip i was either given or found somewhere that reminded me of a night or place i no longer remember what it was, various maps and brochures i picked up in the towns i visited across America last year... I can still talk or laugh about what's left.
This is the point where a better writer would go back and rewrite all the paragraphs before i took the photo to support my conclusion that a little bit of stuff is good. But i am not much of a writer, and i need to have a shower before heading out to meet my mom who is in town. So i will stop here. I do want to reflect on this more in the coming days, though. I'm sure i will. Packing your whole life into a bag you can carry on your back tends to provoke this sort of musing.
Soft Cell - Memorabilia