The Accumulation of Stuff. Or, I Am A Pack Rat.

To the four or so people that read my blog: I am moving. Away from Seattle to lovely tiny Woodland, Washington. On Sunday.

It’s been less than a week since this plan become something feasible and definite instead of just wishful thinking. And somehow, amazingly, everything has just fallen into place. I started packing up some of my things, and realized that the only time I am aware of how much stuff I have is when I’m moving.

The apartment that I’m currently living in is super super tiny, and yet somehow I have managed to accumulate a horde of material things. I don’t even have large furniture except a mattress and some book shelves: the bulk of my possessions are books, and clothing, and knick-knacks that I’ve saved since I’ve been in college.

I had coffee with a friend today (who also happens to be a pack rat like myself) and we talked a lot about why we save things. I think the reason I can’t let go of anything is because I can’t detach the meaning attached to certain objects from the objects themselves. I guess I just save books because I like them and because I like having a collection (and can’t resist adding to it), but with letters and mix cds and things, and even with clothing, I like to hold onto them because of what they remind me of. I struggled to get rid of this one shirt for like three years because, even though it didn’t fit me anymore and I knew I wasn’t going to wear it again, my best friend from high school bought it for me for my seventeenth birthday, and just seeing it in my dresser reminded me of her and all of the fun we had when we were together. I also save old letters and mix cds and packages and gifts from old boyfriends. Not because I still love them or anything, but because looking at them takes me back to another place in time. I feel like I have an abnormally bad memory when it comes to things like that, but having physical evidence of things that happened or sentiments that were expressed help me to remember the good things and that that person loved me once. I feel like if I don’t keep the artifacts of my life that I will forget, or that throwing them away would be like a disacknowledgment of things that have happened in the past. While I don’t advocate living in the past, I do think it’s of paramount importance to be mindful of it, and to never forget what led you to where you are now, whether great or small. Everything is significant.

And maybe this will sound terrible, but it gives me comfort to be surrounded by these things. Or, if not surrounded, then at least to have them close at hand. People let me down, but my favorite book will never let me down, and neither will the dress that makes me look and feel like a million bucks, and neither will the inscription that an ex-boyfriend wrote in an antique book he gave me for our two-month anniversary. There’s comfort in the dependability of things. The Marxist section of my brain says that’s just the commodification of sellable products, but my sentimental heart says otherwise. Maybe that’s just nostalgia talking.

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2 responses to “The Accumulation of Stuff. Or, I Am A Pack Rat.

  1. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from No Country for Old Men.

    “Anything can be an instrument, Chigurh said. Small things. Things you wouldn’t even notice…Well, you say. It’s just a coin. For instance. Nothing special there. What could that be an instrument of? You see the problem. To separate the act from the thing. As if the parts of some moment in history might be interchangeable with the parts of some other moment. How could that be? Well, it’s just a coin. Yes. That’s true. Is it?”

    It sounds like you refuse to “separate the act from the thing” and I think that is important. Strangely enough, the tea pot you gave/made me with the ee cummings poem on it recently broke and I was really sad because it actually did remind me of a lot of really amazing things. And yet it is somehow fitting to have a ee cummings poem on a broken tea pot…

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