Not long ago, after a night of drinking, I came home and tried to throw my bed – mattress and boxsprings – into the dumpster. I wanted them gone. I wanted to sleep on the floor. I needed the minimalism.
Luckily, I passed out before I could do any damage and a cooler perspective prevailed in the am. Still, this was part of a longer trend and a real enough impulse that if I had remained conscious, I really would be sleeping on memory foam alone now.
I can’t say when it started, but I have been shedding material possessions for some time and lately it’s reached a frenetic pace. At this point, in a two bedroom apartment, furniture I own includes:
1 mattress and box spring, 1 loveseat, 1 bookshelf, 1 small side table, 2 metal tv stands from IKEA, 1 small metal stand of drawers, a foldable chair, a treadmill, a treadmill desk, and a bowflex.
My kitchen pots and pans aren’t even that. I have one pot, one pan, a rice cooker, 2 spatulas, 2 cutting knives, and disposable utensils. I do not own a microwave.
My book collection has been reduced from “a hundred” to “tenish”.
The point is, I don’t have much stuff. Other than the exercise equipment, it could all conceivably fit into a studio apartment.
And I am having an absolutely outright panic attack over it. Still. After giving or throwing away thousands of dollars and thousands of pounds of stuff.
As my spring funeral approaches, I realize more and more that I’ve failed to control my environment and let it control me. I have abdicated throughout my life, whether through intent, accident, biology, or character flaws, control of myself. As I’ve allowed myself to be shuffled down the path of least resistance (perhaps in the manner of L’etranger ), I have put myself in a corner that I do not know how to get out of. And, in a nonsensical attempt to reduce this complexity enough to claw my way out of the corner, I’ve given myself a sort of Phobia of Stuff.
This might seen shrug-worthy to some, but it’s really not. Not to me. It’s just hard to explain the tight burning horrible ball of bunched up mental and emotional stress that “owning things” creates in me – or what it feels like.
I keep thinking that if I can get to a point where I can name, from memory, every single object I own, then maybe I’ll no longer feel crushed. At least not by the weight of this one aspect of my environment. My life choices at any given juncture will not be constrained by physical baggage. I will be more free.
Right now, though, I have a conundrum. I’m sitting on that 1 love seat (a beautiful white leather one) surveying my apartment mentally listing all those things I must have vs those I merely think I want and it’s HARD. I mean, what the fuck do I really need with that ripped paper lantern I picked up in Vietnam? Or an electronic keyboard I’ve played 3 times in 5 years? I don’t. I have no need. But still, here we sit staring each other down.
It strikes me as curious that, although I’d been willing to give up these things to real death earlier on in my life, I’m still clinging to them now as I march on toward another kind of death. I don’t know why that is. But I do know that eventually I will let them go. If I can’t bear to give them, sell them, or trash them, then I will burn them. The detritus of my life will not be left to litter the future.