On Stuff

June 10, 2009 at 8:14 AM | Posted in Musings | 1 Comment

I’m in the process of cleaning my apartment and getting it ready for my subletter, and as I shift my personal belongings around to fit them all in the little closet in my room, I’m struck by the extent to which I have so many things that I don’t need and don’t even use.  As a socially conscious and less-than-wealthy grad student, I really don’t think of myself as living an extravagant life.  Yet as I moved my things around, I realized that if everything I stuffed into this little closet were to disappear, I don’t really think I’d miss most of it.  Clothes that don’t fit that I have been storing in garbage bags almost since I moved to Boston, shoes I haven’t really worn since I worked in DC, sports equipment that I haven’t touched since I lived in St. Louis, a blanket sized to fit on a college freshman’s extra-long twin bed.  Yet I keep carting all these things around on all my various moves, tucking them away in closets when they are out of season and taking them out again the next year, or I just stop noticing them altogether.  And yet, as I was thinking about this very pattern, I still packed away the shoes that scraped off the backs of my heels the first time I wore them and which I haven’t put on since.  I’m too busy getting ready to go to France right now to really go through and cull, I tell myself.  I’ll do a real clean-out once I get home, and get rid of this stuff once and for all.  But whether I blame it on a lack of car to bring my old clothes to Goodwill, or nostalgia for a really cute blazer that never quite fit right and probably never will, or the nagging feeling that one day I might really  need the five malaria pills left over from my trip to Tanzania, I am fairly confident that I’ll just unpack all this crap and put it back where it was, to deal with it another time (when I have less work, when the season changes, when I have access to a car…etc).

This realization that I don’t really need the majority of things that I own makes me feel quite calm about the idea of picking up and spending a year in Paris working on my dissertation, which will, with any luck, happen about a year from now.  I will hopefully get rid of most of the useless stuff I’ve been carting around, put 90% of my remaining belongings in storage, and head over to France with a few suitcases and a lot less excess baggage.  I think that more than anything, I’ll miss having my family and friends nearby, the ability to pick up the phone and call someone without thinking about the time zone, and the ease with which I can interact with people here without worrying whether I’m pronouncing something correctly.  Note that none of these things involve the several half-used bottles of lotion that I just put in a paper bag in my closet.  Of all my material possessions, I think that what I’ll miss most will be my chef’s knife and my books.

This summer in Paris is going to be a wonderful adventure, and I’m looking towards it with a much less apprehensive state of mind than I had at this time last year, when there were so many unknowns–the language, my job, my apartment, whether  I’d even like Paris (ha).  This time around, I don’t feel like I’m going on a trip so much as I’m temporarily relocating.  I know, for instance, that I’d rather buy my toiletries at Monoprix once I get there, rather than buying them here and lugging them through Charles de Gaulle airport.  And that’s the real kicker–that almost all this stuff I’m keeping is completely replaceable, should I ever want to replace it.

Now excuse me while I go finish cleaning out the medicine cabinet.  Those five-year-old packages of Dayquil and Nyquil aren’t going to pack themselves!

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1 Comment »

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  1. Oeuffi, remember Skype so we can chat virtual face to virtual face! See you in a few weeks. xxoo


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