Lately, I have been getting reacquainted with the fact that I own a lot of stuff. While I do not generally consider myself a packrat, I haven’t been able to avoid accumulating things, and a slow process of accretion has taken its toll.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t take that much notice, but I have become more aware of my possessions because I am moving into a new apartment at the end of June, and anything I can’t get rid of between now and then will have to be packed up and moved into the new place.
Certain basic things are easy to deal with: Accumulated papers and glass jars can be recycled. Old clothes can either be cleaned and donated (if they are in good repair), or discarded. The plastic jugs of water stored in the corner against loss of power can be dumped out and recycled.
Books, of course, are sacrosanct—they may be given as gifts, donated to the library, traded at the used bookstore, or sold to a new owner, but I wouldn’t dream of throwing one away. Even the well-loved paperbacks whose covers I’ve had to repair with duct tape are guaranteed safe passage. But beyond that, things start to get a little bit more complicated.
Furniture is probably the biggest logistical challenge. Certain key items I’d like to keep—things like bookshelves, the bed, a dresser, the dining room table, the sofa, and my most comfortable chair. Unfortunately, that leaves several other pieces of furniture in need of a new home, including a desk, several chairs, a dresser, a table, and other miscellaneous sundries.
The idea of trashing a perfectly good desk or dresser simply because I no longer need it offends my sensibilities, but it’s also a righteous pain in the rump to get rid of them responsibly. Even if I want to donate them to charity or sell them for a pittance to a used furniture dealer, I’d have to rent a truck to get it there. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the cheapest option, in the long run, is just to hire a waste-hauler to cart it away. It’s a bit of a quandary. Nevertheless, furniture is basically a minor organizational matter, and I can take care of that without too much trouble, once I’m finished complaining about it.
The really challenging things are the small yet valuable bric-a-brac that accumulate in the bottoms of drawers, forgotten corners, and file boxes stacked in the backs of closets. Some of these things are sentimental, such as cards or gifts from friends and family; coins and pebbles collected on excursions abroad, maps, and old photographs.
Others are more important: Passport. Keys. Camping equipment. Unfinished sewing projects. Old bank statements. Tax records. These are a lot harder to deal with, because they require thought and consideration—and no matter how much I might want to just cut them all loose, I can’t afford to chuck the whole mess into a trash bag and send it to the dump. It might not be important on Moving Day, but at some point, I’m going to care.
I guess it’s probably a sign of growing up, that I’m thinking about these things more than a month in advance of the move. I just wish there were some way to keep useless things from accumulating in the first place. Short of dropping out and living like a hermit, I don’t really see any way to prevent it, within the bounds of human nature. So, maybe I should just keep doing what I do now: Let things accumulate until it’s time to move again, and then get rid of as much as possible. It’s unsatisfying, but it’s worked so far.
The editor of In Journalism and pursuer of relatively interesting information. Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.