2 weeks ago, I moved our 2-bedroom apartment to a 3-bedroom townhouse. I did the packing mostly on my own, as well as the unpacking.
My previous experiences with moving have been pretty easy: the stuff I own fits in a bedroom and two kitchen cupboards. Until recently, I didn’t even have furniture of my own, always moving from furnished place to furnished place, carrying my clothes, books and computer along–the only necessary things for my life.
This time, though, I wasn’t just moving myself: I was moving two people with all their accumulated stuff and furniture.
As my semi-bohemian life in my 20s showed, I can live with very little stuff. Entertainment and reading are digital now; I scaled down my book collection when I moved from Edmonton and have never looked back. My computer can be used as a television screen–that’s why I got it in the first place. I own enough clothing to get by, but have little need for a big wardrobe since I spend most of my time at home anyway. I spend more on pyjamas than actual clothes.
My partner, however, has a thing for things. (Well, I don’t know. He just owns a lot of stuff). Aside from the necessary furniture like a couch and a bed and a desk, which are totally justifiable, he owns a ton of stuff, from DVDs to his wardrobe to his numerous collectibles. And I’m not even talking about his shoe collection.
As I packed and unpacked everything over the space of a week, I started thinking about how our lives are defined by things. The stuff that we own.
How much pleasure am I getting from these objects? How much meaning? How are they influencing my life?
More and more, I feel like I am living the life disconnected. Making my life on the web, it might sound like connection is a factor of my success. But I’m not talking about this kind of connection. I’m talking about living the life disconnected from our bodies, from our environments and from our souls. From other human beings.
For about a year, I’ve felt like something was missing in my life. Something important, something that mattered, something that made me feel like the drudge and grind of daily life wasn’t in vain, like every day wasn’t like the day before and wouldn’t be like the day after.
After the money I spent to move our stuff from one place to another, the exhausted body I had after five days of packing, unpacking, buying, placing, moving, washing, shelving, the constant worry that the new place wouldn’t be big enough for all our accumulated stuff (mostly his) despite one more room…
It all became clear.
I have too much stuff. I don’t have enough life.
What’s the stuff of life? Experiences. Memories. I feel stuck, weighed down to soullessness by the things that attach themselves to my body like millions of little anchors. Clothes need washing. DVDs need watching. Car needs gasing. Shoes need wearing. Things need using. But there is very little in this past year that I find worthy of remembering.
I’ve seen nothing beautiful.
I’ve done nothing amazing.
I have experienced nothing but the increasing hollowness of my life, nothing but the impression of drowning into a sea of things that clamour for more money to increase their numbers, like so many cancer cells eating away at my soul, taking it apart and selling it for spare parts.
I am sick of it all.
Every week, my body gets fatter from trying to fill the void of my increasingly poor soul. Every week that goes like the one before, just like the one after, kills me a little bit more.
I make my own schedule. I work the hours I wish.
Do you want to know what I do with those hours that I so proudly free by being self-employed?
I watch television. Sometimes, rarely, I take walks. I wash dishes. I do laundry. I play video games. Sometimes I read. I wait.
These are all distractions because I don’t want to think about what’s missing in my life. This morning, I was wondering why I feel so lazy, why I feel like my skills and my intelligence and my potential are going to waste, and why I can’t just will myself out of it.
I have nothing to live for but the drudgery of another day spent doing the same damn thing all over again.
Despite my getting bigger every week, I am starving–my soul is starving.
The stuff we own is suffocating me. The real stuff of life–laughter, beauty, love, touch, tears, amazement, learning, friendship–pass me by because there is no space for them anymore, all worried that I am about taking care of stuff and making space for stuff and making more money to buy more stuff.
I would gladly give it all away if it meant seeing the sun set on a beach on another continent, dancing to drums until it came back up, hearing the stories of interesting people and loving someone unfettered by budgeting.
Photo by the United Nations