the value of stuff.

in the past five years of my life, i have moved seven times. this week, i've been preparing for numero ocho, and i've been reflecting on what i've learned:

1. the amount of crap you will accumulate is directly proportional to how long you live in one place.

i moved yearly during college. each time i was faced with dedicating precious spring time hours to packing my junk in boxes, i adopted a strict and monkish dictum: if it's not absolutely vital to your happiness, it goes. i always wound up giving away or throwing away mounds of stuff i had no idea i'd tucked inconspicuously away (the amount of crapola i pulled out of the closet i lived in freshman year was especially shocking). pieces of costumes i'd worn to parties, old essays, photos of kids i'd parted ways with, broken things, dirty things, things i'd used once and had kept around 'just in case'- all the stuff that, unless you're lucky enough to be one of those fastidious people that thoroughly cleans their living spaces on the regular, gets pushed to the backs of drawers and stuck behind things you use every day. it's miraculous the stuff you'll learn to overlook the longer it decides to make camp. 

however, in the last year i've moved three times. during the periods of settlement, the memory of the previous move clung to me. fear of the impending forthcoming move and "stuff accumulation" became my constant companion. it became clear that if i owned something, it meant i had to move it. believe me, it changes how you look at shopping.

2. things, with a few rare exceptions, are not memories.

all that stuff i mentioned under lesson #1? i'd kept most of it around because at the time, it meant something to me. we are a species that likes our mementos. we keep ticket stubs from concerts, bottle caps from a beach bonfire, place cards from weddings. it's fine if you're a person, like me, who likes to hold on to a little bit of the moments we've treasured. but guess what? that stuff is a pain in the bazeejus to move from place to place. and more than once, i've completely forgotten why i decided some random thing was so important to me at one time. i keep one shoebox for the little things that really are special, but with space at a premium, it forces me to consider long and hard which souvenirs are worth keeping. i've found that most of my great memories stand on their own, and don't need anything to hold them up. for the all the rest, i've learned to take pictures like a crazy person, and back up my hard drive.

and finally, the cold, hard truth...

3. stuff costs money. 

every time i've had to purge my bellongings before i move, i end up throwing away and donating a ton of stuff. it's heartbreaking, because even though i spent my own cash on those items, somehow between then and now they've come to mean nothing to me. i've also discovered that most things have no resale value to speak of. it does feel good to donate to the needy, but a few boxes every year? from one person? after being affronted with a physical symbol of my waste time and time again, i knew my lifestyle had to change.

i've grown to loathe the impulse buy. if i spot something i think i want, i've made a habit of walking around for 20 minutes to see if i still "need" it. more often than not, the feeling fades.

i've also developed a sense of value for the items that i buy. firstly, i assess whether or not an item i've been lusting after is really worth the price. just because i want it, does not mean that money is no object. on the other hand, if i want something to last me a long time, i buy the best quality i can afford. i end up saving money in the long run because i don't have to replace it. 

"stuff accumulation" has become my enemy, but i'm still learning how to practice avoiding it. my constant goal is to be able to put everything i own into my tiny acura and be able to hit the road at a moment's notice. as i size up the pile once again, i know i still have a ways to go. 

but at least my suitcase zips.

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