Sick of your home and belongings? I have a hot tip for you. Break your lease or sell your home, pack everything you own and put it in storage. Fill up your mom’s car with the essentials and go stay with friends or family in their spare room.
You will think fondly about the books you didn’t bring, the photographs you packed away, and the sheer amount of things you have collected over your many years of life. But soon a sense of calm will set in and you will feel lighter and relieved to not have the responsibility of caring for all of those things. You will languish in the freedom and notice that, for the first time, you may like your clothes. You only packed the ones you actually wear and having fewer choices is a relief.
You will think about all the time you spent organizing your stuff and cleaning your space, then marvel at how this time can now be spent doing other things.
You will create interesting ways of setting up your pop-up rooms and notice what items you truly must have—the comforter that makes any room feel like home, the box of cards with messages that you return to for encouragement—and those that you have already forgotten. You will borrow random objects from your hosts—a small bookshelf to house your trinkets, a table you turn into a makeshift workspace—and find joy in the short-term rental of someone else’s long-loved articles, which are new to you.
You will find reasons to acquire some new things—whether to fill the space you created or simply because you can’t fully break the spell of consumerism——but you will see that your choices are more thoughtful because you only have limited space in the Prius.
The sneakers really do make you feel like you’re running faster, and since you only have one other pair, you wear them with new combinations of the same clothes. That sundress on sale feels like a luxury, and when the package comes, it is as though it was a special gift from your past self.
There will be some moments when you find yourself longing for your bed, or that chair you used to have by the window. You will remember with nostalgia what it feels like to have your own kitchen and the luxury of having any space completely to yourself.
Still, though, you don’t want to deal with your stuff yet, and you think, with great relief, that it is currently someone else’s problem.
You contemplate living a life of wandering and staying in guest rooms forever but then wistfully remember what it felt like to eat breakfast at your kitchen table while reading a book, and you know this will have to be short-term. Some things you just can’t live without.
Sometimes you’ll wonder about certain items. Is your bed okay? You hope that you wrapped your pictures well enough that they did not break. You think about how silly it is that so much of your life can just be put in boxes and how strange it is that we quantify our success with the sheer amount of things we have managed not to get rid of.
You feel some judgment from those who have more things than you and who are not currently wandering the world in their mom’s Prius. But then you realize that you are really not that different, but have simply spent energy on divergent endeavors in your short time here on this spinning sphere.
You are aware of your privilege now more than ever. You feel a (knowingly naive) kinship with those forced to wander. You linger by the line at the soup kitchen, trying to make eye contact with those waiting, then you wonder why you want them to see you noticing them. You think about the inadequacy of the dollar bills, granola bars, and bottles of water you give to people who have to sleep on the street. These human beings who receive so little humanity.
You think of the absurdity of our society, that some people have so much and so many have so little. That we have accepted this way of being and allowed houses to stand empty and people to be sleeping outside of them.
You, who have a car full of things and a warm bed in a safe home, are exhausted. You think, “Shit, I left my home so now I will never find a space where I will feel comfortable and like myself again.” You are being dramatic and need to sleep. But the craving for home continues as you scan your future for the moment to make one again.
You realize your expectations and priorities have changed a bit. The space of your last home is more of a dwindling memory and the loss of it does not hurt as much as it did initially. You allow yourself to grieve the wonderful moments and be grateful that the tougher ones are past. You let go of the future you thought you had in that space, with the partner who is no more, and the children who do not exist. New dreams for the future creep in, and you allow yourself to feel the joy of potential, knowing full well the sting of disappointment that could await in the shadows of plans that go awry.
Your new home may find you unexpectedly and could even be a short-term plan for refuge that has heard your calls in the night. You take it, thinking that home is not so much one place with years to show for it, but the quality of the time spent in the space. You reflect on all the homes you’ve had and those times you did not set up your room properly because you knew you were leaving it soon and think that we could always live like this if we so chose.
You decide to behave like an adult (for once) and pay the movers to move your things from storage. You are beginning to understand the value of your time and how much it can be worth. Still, though, you feel guilty when the movers arrive and find you are uncomfortable with paying others to do things you could probably do yourself. But the movers are much stronger than you, so you can probably just relax and focus on the mountain of bins that have appeared in your new space. With self-judgement, you think, “Why the hell do I have so much stuff?” but then find great joy in rediscovering your history with each box opened.
With a surge of adrenaline, you get busy organizing, setting up, and picture-hanging. Eventually your energy dwindles, and you find the keyboard still in pieces against the wall and that painting sitting on the top of the couch in the living room. Like life, setting up a home ebbs and flows with some of the wisdom of the space gained by the time spent living there. A week ago you would have put that picture in the wrong place, but now you know that you want to see it when you gaze up from your computer in your new office.
Though it is natural to delay, you must not wait too long to put this home together, however imperfectly, because before you know it may be time to do this all over again.