Sunday, February 21, 2010

You can't take it with you.

“My idea of the ultimate luxury is to be able to move all my worldly goods in one taxi.”

This, one of my favorite quotes, is from a British TV series (Murphy’s Law). Though I’d thought like this for years, I’d never put it so well. Actually, until this show I hadn’t really known there were other people, even fictional ones, out there that thought like me in this way.

Having said this, it’s likely apparent that I’ve not been a big saver of things, and am, in fact, excessively sparing compared to most Americans. Because of my desire to live abroad and travel the world, I’ve attempted to keep the ever-building amalgam of collected paraphernalia to a minimum. (Of course, being a compulsive organizer contributes to the constant downgrading as well.)

Yet the mass makes headway. Like when I took up triathlons. The equipment and wears add quite a bit. Or my growing collection of luggage and travel gear. Meant to help me keep things to a minimum, or at least to keep them quite small, these little items add up and take up space. Or my high quality kitchen items that have accumulated during my more domestic moments.

Most of all, it’s my books. It is the one collection with which I just can’t seem to part. I’m ever torn between wanting to be free of the encumbrance of mass quantities of stuff, to adoring the library I’ve taken a lifetime to build up. How can I reconcile this? I get advice spanning the spectrum. Yet my core is still torn asunder.

What’s worse with the books is that, because I was in a non-productive space both mentally and physically for the last few years, I indulged in collecting easily over 300 books I’m longing to read. What do I do with them as I prepare to move abroad? How do I keep up with them? When living in Italy, I used to send the books I’d read home to my parents. Do I keep that practice up? Am I then spending the same as if I bought them again? It’s my constant conundrum.

As to the “memory items” that fill up closets, garages, and storage sheds all over this vast country, I’ve been good about ridding myself of such things. If it still holds personal value and I can, I’ll scan or take a snap of it then free myself of it. But mostly it just goes. This is perhaps easier because I don’t have a family of my own. If one day I do, my kids will likely be grateful not to have to sort through my life in objects and paperwork.

Now when it comes to things from my ancestral past, I truly treasure the connections to those that have gone before. I would like to hold onto a few things from them. My grandad’s old stand-up radio that he brought to California from Nebraska as a surprise, the rocking chair my great-grandfather built, the painting my great-grandmother created… those things I will cherish whether they take up space or not. And the photos, of course. But the rest I can leave behind.

All this said, I do still love to have things. I’m not all that abstemious. Nice things feel good. I just want to keep them in proportion. Especially since so much of it is going to be in storage very soon. And, too, I don’t want to have things just to have them – I’d like them to be useful as well as nice. Form and function together is ideal. And always, always, always I must remind myself that in my case, less really is more.

If I try to stick with this, then perhaps I can live something close to that quote. That is, so long as there is a bike rack on the back of that taxi…


Heather said...

I've been doing a lot of downsizing lately too, mostly in preparation for a move inland. travel by plane in many ways is even more restrictive than by taxi I think.

still so jealous of your move over to Scotland! so wish I could go with.

Anonymous said...

Hello! I wandered over to your blog from a discussion on Goodreads. I know exactly how you feel about accumulating stuff. I'm getting to a point where my husband and I have actually filled up our small house (it doesn't have much in the way of storage space) and it seems ridiculous to me...we can't need so much stuff! Can we? But books are the biggest problem. I'm so bad at parting with them, and I love surrounding myself with them.

gbpackergirl76 said...

I'm currently fighting the book battle as well. I'm finally getting rid of a lot of them. My criteria consists of: will I read this again and did this book change my life? Things that have been passed down are important and worth lugging around (within reason). When are you moving to Scotland? SO JEALOUS!

whichwaydidshego said...

Lindsaygail - so glad you wandered over! And I'm completely with you on loving to surround myself with books. I have gutted my closet of clothes in favor of books (clothes relegated to a tiny armoire). I did this when I was going through a horrid time. They just made me feel comfortable and happy!

Heather - wow. I don't envy you your move, especially with a little one to consider. That's a rough downsizing road, girlfriend. Good luck. Are you staying in Alaska?

Packergirl - My problem is that I underline in my books and I love to be able to go back to it years later and see what touched me then. Does it now? Yes, I underline in nearly everything. It's my process. But the more frivolous reads I'm STARTING to break bonds with.

Scotland is eminent. Have a date I'm working toward, but it's not fixed. I mean my goal is absolute - I'm going to Scotland as soon as possible, and hopefully by the end of March, beginning of April - but if the timing is a little off, I can live with that... because it's just a slight delay. So long as I'm working with everything in me to get there, I can wait a bit longer.

whichwaydidshego said...

This was the end of the quote that came up on the sidebar next to this post:

"...I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life..." — Henry David Thoreau

Spartan-like. Seemed fitting.