Packing up after half the year in Spain is always difficult, but the main questions are relatively simple: where can we stash a few things that we’ll use here again next year, and will the stuff we want to take home exceed the baggage weight limit?
This year, those questions got more complicated. Stuff wasn’t safe just because it made it into a suitcase. Added to the “can we fit it in” question was the question, “what do we do with it in Massachusetts?” We haven’t had to ask that question before, but if we had, the answer would have been, “we’ll put it somewhere–maybe in the barn.”
We managed to figure out what to do with our square meter’s worth of stuff in Spain, but that was just the tiniest prelude to the main work, reckoning with 25 years’ worth of stuff in New England. It’s not just a matter of whether a given thing will fit into a certain size moving box, but where we’ll put it in a smaller living space once we arrive at our destination. This year, our stuff has no safe place to go.
I’ve written before about how tricky these questions can get. You hold something up and begin with the intention of identifying whether you want to keep it, and soon your thought process is off and running, and not in a productive direction.
So I’ve been working on developing different questions, in hopes of improving the process I go through. One of my recent innovations is this one: “Am I the person who needs to get the good out of this thing?” Being able to say no, to acknowledge that someone else could take over as beneficiary/caretaker, has been helpful. And it’s not even that difficult, once I frame it like that–someone else can take over using it and storing it–even when we’re talking about something I have really valued, transferring ownership sounds great right about now. If I hold onto the (largely unconscious) idea that I’m the person who must get the good out of this whatever-it-is, that I am the only person keeping it from falling into the everlasting abyss of uselessness (cue long wailing whistle, fading into nothing), I’m going to have real trouble shrinking my pile of stuff.
Even with this new and improved question, I don’t manage to stay focused as long as I should. Before long, I’m back to “what kind of box would fit this?” instead of “How can I send this out of my life?” And I wish the path out of my life were a steeper slope, possibly nicely waxed, so that things could slip away effortlessly. We haul things to the corner by the busy street, hoping people will take things (and some do), we list them on craigslist, many for free, we alert friends and friends of friends, we fill carload after carload to take to the thrift store, and still we are surrounded. But I recognize that it took decades to build this collection, and I shouldn’t be surprised if it takes weeks to divest.
That reminds me, when are you coming by to see what I have that you could use?