I have a lot of stuff. Not, you know, hoarder amounts of stuff, but I am an American. One of the unspoken religions of America is the acquisition of stuff. Titles, cars, clothes, jewelry, books, the entire collection of Seinfeld, World of Warcraft achievements, empty whiskey bottles, candles, etc., etc., etc. Look around you — you’re surrounded by the stuff you’ve acquired.
And chances are you, like me, have spent more mental and physical energy on the acquisition and protection of this stuff than you have on any deity. Our obsession with acquiring stuff is why we are so damn fixated on zombies these days. Zombies consume and consume and consume and consume and yet are never sated. They terrify and fascinate us because they are us.
Traveling the world for a year means forcing myself to get rid of all my stuff. I, Zombie, am regurgitating all I’ve consumed and putting it back into circulation. Ew, this metaphor just took a bad turn.*
For the most part, getting rid of my stuff is more of a hassle than an emotional hardship. I’ve always enjoyed that spacious feeling that comes with a good de-cluttering. But some of my stuff has significance. Not because it has any particular monetary value, but because it reminds me of who I am and where I came from. I have a book that a friend in college gave me. I’ve only ever read the book once, but it reminds me of my friend, who I will likely never see again, and I smile when I look at that book because I am thinking about him. He was a sweet dude.
It’s a matter of practicality that we keep some stuff so that we can settle back in once we’re done with this trip. This means getting a small storage unit. This unit will mostly be filled with a few key pieces of furniture, but also with a small number of boxes of the stuff we can’t part with. I’ve given myself some guidelines for this work. If you’re interested in doing something like this yourself, here are my rules for what to keep and what to sell or donate:
- Go room by room with a box and a bunch of trash bags. The box is for stuff that goes into storage; the bags are for stuff you’ll be giving away, selling, or tossing.
- Pick up a thing.
- If that thing has any kind of sentimental value or is a one-of-a-kind item that makes you burst with joy, put it in the box.**
- If you can replace it once you get back, put it in a bag. All of my dish ware and almost all of my clothing falls into this category save some pants. I have a 36” inseam. It is virtually impossible for me to find pants that are long enough for me. So those go into storage.
- If you haven’t used it, worn it, or noticed it in a year, it goes into a bag.
- Resist the temptation to wander out of that room. It’s remarkable how quickly you can get distracted while handling your stuff. Hey, you’ll say to yourself, this reminds me that I need to get a thing to fix this other thing, and then you’re at the hardware store buying more stuff. Do not buy more stuff.***
Those are the rules. Let me know if you have others that have been helpful to you. And since you’ve all been thinking about George Carlin the whole time you’ve been reading this…here:
*That show, I, Zombie, on Netflix is worth checking out.
**I realize that your kids will fall into this category. If they are young enough they might play in the box for quite a while, but don’t put them in storage, ok? I’m speaking here of a TARDIS teapot and a framed Attack of the 50 Foot Woman poster, should you, like me, have those.
***It is ok to leave the room to get another beer. This is hard work.