Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Stuff of Life

In 2005 I read A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink just before he came to Colorado for a speaking engagement in our school district. While I like the book for many reasons, the fact contained in this quote box has never left my mind. My mother has always stored stuff in self storage. Sometimes renting multiple units. In fact, she and my sister Robin are currently in the process of condensing a couple of units. In looking at the footnote that this quote connects to, I visited www.selfstorage.org to look at current statistics. In 2013, the self storage industry generated more than $24 Billion in U.S. revenue. To provide something a little more visual, consider this (from the Fact Sheet on selfstorage.org): 


"Total self storage rentable space in the US is now 2.3 billion square feet (as of Q4-2013) [approximately 210 million square meters].  That figure represents more than 78 square miles of rentable self storage space, under roof – or an area well more than 3 times the size of Manhattan Island (NY)"

It's because of numbers like this that I am vehemently opposed to personally choosing to store my own belongings. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place to do so. For example, a soldier being deployed can rent a storage space cheaper than maintaining an apartment he/she won't be inhabiting. But to own or rent a residence AND have additional storage seems wasteful to me. Either the stuff matters in your life, can be useful, or it doesn't. Until now, I've always packed up my belongings and moved them into the next home or apartment. I've always had the necessary space. 

Stuff being sorted and packed today.
But moving over the Pacific to another continent is not the same thing as packing a Uhaul and driving from PA to ID, or from the house on Prado Drive to the apartment at the Knolls. When you are looking at paying $50 per box or rubbermaid crate to travel 45-60 days by ocean freighter, then you have to be critically selective. 

It is, of course, important to have family mementos and those things that remind you of your childhood and youth. It's important to have things that will make you feel at home.....in a new, and at least initially foreign, home. Right? But I also can't take it all. Some books I loved, but will I really read them again? (Yes for Jane Eyre....she absolutely makes the cut!) I don't need 8 copies of that publication I made while deployed in 1998-99; two will do. And all those notes passed from friends while in middle and high school? Well, I am enjoying the memories now, with a glass of wine, but then they go in the trash (perhaps after taking a picture with my phone and sending it via fb messenger to said old friend). And pictures? Well, I don't have the time nor the patience to scan them all....so they make the cut and will ride the Pacific waves to be delivered to my new home in Ulaanbaatar.

So on this snowy, wintry February weekend in Colorado, I chip away at the Stuff of My Life (to date). What matters? What doesn't? Is reliving the memory contained in that old letter today, enough? And when I'm dead and gone will any of this stuff have meaning to anyone? Or is its sole purpose to simply bring joy and comfort to the life I am walking and breathing in this time? 

I don't know the answers. And my answers could be different than yours. I'm figuring this out as I go, as I navigate this previously uncharted course. But one thing I've discovered for sure--packing up one's life is not a speedy or simple process. It takes time and energy. And music. And wine. I miss My Love very much (oh so very much!), but this Time is needed so that I may reflect and remember. Time to process and prepare. 

My good friend, Julia, recently shared the following with me:

"...winter is the perfect time to go deep and internal, to go underground before reemerging in the spring. This is your winter. I can only imagine how much you miss him already, but you will be on overload once summer hits. Reflect. Refuel. Prepare."

She is right. 

So I shall pour myself some Malbec and sort that next pile. 

All the while imagining what it will be like to unpack it in my next home. I always liked the putting away of things in a new space. That's the best part!

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