25 February 2007

Stuff Happens

I found another person getting rid of her stuff.

The fall/winter 2006 'special issue' of Vogue Living has an article by Joan Juliet Buck called "Stuff Happens."

She has several ideas about why she bonds fiercely with her things.

Firstly, she is an only child without children. So, she develops relationships with things as if they were companions and she is loyal to them.

Secondly, we use things to develop identity. She says we are born naked and people shop for us. Then we grow up and shop for things that tell us who we are. She says, "This was called developing an eye, cultivating my taste, becoming a person. The stuff I bought was proof." p. 52

Lastly, she enjoyed reliving memories through things. But when surrounded by so many souvenirs, she came to say, "I was one step away from talking only about myself and entirely in the past tense, just like my house." p. 56

Also, "The clothes you buy at seventeen tell you who you are going to be, but the clothes you own at 50 had better not tell you who you once were. I hauled myself into the present with boxes and boxes of donations." p. 64

So many beautiful passages in this article. If I am allowed to share three paragraphs I find especially meaningful, they follow:
"I thought it would be easy, and also fashionable. Nostalgia is so yesterday, and the past is aging.

Discrimination and purity are to the Zeitgeist what sex and drugs were to my adolescence.

Everyone knows how to make a void in their head. All I had to do was make a void in my house, then sell it, and move back to a real city with very, very, very little.

My brilliant East Indian friend once told me that at 50, it was correct to give everything away and go out alone with a begging bowl.

If I had any American Indian friends they would tell me there isn't much at home to begin with.

I would honor both sets of Indians." p. 56

"Moving is like peeling an onion. You remove one layer to find another, but each layer has its own meaning.

As you let go of the shells of the past, you should close in on some essential truth, but it seemed, as persona followed persona out the door, that I was going with them, shrinking, vanishing.

I could almost hear the minimalists asking: 'Do you feel it yet? Do you get it now? Are you there?'

After the twentieth box went out the door, I felt a little giddy, but couldn't tell if it was freedom, or fear.

The joy that others claim to have when divesting themselves of old things felt, to me, like criminal recklessness.

Who was going to archive and tend everyone else's leftovers now? Who would know what went with what, when my story and the stories of those I loved had been dismantled?

And if I no longer had anything to watch over, who or what would watch over me?

It's all gone now. The house, most of the stuff.

As I emptied the place after the sale, people materialized who wanted to buy things, and I gleefully sold whatever caught someone's eye.

Triage is such an interesting word.

There's a storage unit full of linens, glassware, china. None of it seems important anymore.

I think I have walked through the door." p. 64
Her last insight ends the article: private property is an illusion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, i just wanted to tell you that i find your blog extremely inspirational. i found the link on one of the couchsurfing forums. :) thank you for providing me with so much inspiration. take care. - Julianne, 19, Norway

Wednesday, 21 March, 2007  
Blogger Jennifer Metz said...

Thank you Julianne! Your comment made my day! :)

Saturday, 24 March, 2007  
Blogger Jeff said...

I found your blog while searching for urban camping, though I had a different vision of it. I'm older, and can afford a little more comfort, and being handicapped, sleeping on the streets is out of the question.

My vision was to have a vehicle that I can sleep in. I would use parking lots as my campgrounds, even if I had to pay to park. Good spots for camping would be medical complexes. Large hospitals have bathrooms, food courts, family rooms with televisions and free tea or coffee. The staff is accustomed to seeing new faces all the time. If you're bold enough, you can even take a shower in an empty patient room. (Avoid the pediatric unit. Don't want to be accused of being a perv.) Airports might be good too, but with today's security, it might be risky.

The parking garage has security, and is out of the weather -- well worth the $10 per day fee. Spend the week in a city for $70.

The van would give you a good base of operations that will keep you from having to haul all your belongings all over town all day. You can even wash up and put on posh clothes for an evening out.

Marinas are also potential campgrounds. Almost all marinas have showers, and it's more fun to be by the water anyway. Make friends while you're there, and you'll be invited to go sailing!

Thursday, 07 August, 2008  

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