3.09.2012

Destination Spain

$2 thrifted
 
This "Destination Spain" tote bag was waiting for me at the Clackamas Goodwill the other day. It's not at all cotton canvas, but cheery, graphic, and giant—perfect for stashing miscellaneous household supplies in the attic (cat food, vacuum cleaner bags, a can of Butcher's paste wax, spare boxes of Chemex filters, etc.). I live with a roommate on the top floor of a duplexed two-story house built in 1908 that has storage space—a basement, an attic—but minimal storage infrastructure. For a renter on a tight budget, having only a small closet-and-a-half and zero built-in's makes attractive, organized storage a challenge. It's a work in progress.

I've never understood why people who own homes pay for additional storage units, or why one person needs a three-bedroom, two-bath house, or two people a five-bedroom, three-bath McMansion. (Hello, you have too much stuff!) I'm not a minimalist like some, but I have minimalist tendencies, or maybe my possessing less stuff than most people I know is just relative since North Americans generally have more stuff and space for stuff than most other people. Because I have traveled and lived in Europe and Asia, I have experienced other, more compact ways to live.

One of the most freeing times of my life was a summer in college when I borrowed money from my grandmother and went traveling with a friend who had planned a month's study abroad in Prague. We visited several countries in Europe and even popped over to India, staying with friends, and the whole time I lived out of a backpack containing just two or three changes of clothing. Such an experience does shake up one's concept of possessions; it's good to know I can live that way for extended periods if I ever need to (e.g., while running from zombies). But I don't want to.

I've traveled enough that I value the concept of home and like being surrounded by practical objects containing memories and inherent loveliness—and seasonal and situational clothing. I love black but don't want to wear it every day. I don't want to go for a job interview in a sundress or hoodie. Do I have too many clothes? Probably. But most were purchased secondhand and I wear them all. And if I stop wearing them, I sell them or give them away.

I enjoy cooking, so I have a fully-equipped kitchen, at least for simple vegetarian cooking, but I don't keep tools I don't use or unnecessary duplicates. I also own far fewer books than one would expect for someone with two English degrees. I own two sets of sheets. My friend Dan tells me I am the least adorned woman he knows. Still, I do have stuff. I like stuff. For my mental health I periodically need to purge stuff. And I hate clutter, though even more than clutter I detest surface minimalism, people whose closets overfloweth though exterior surfaces are swept pristine, especially when company comes.

How much stuff does one need? I don't have the answer other than its being historically, generationally, culturally, and individually relative. It's healthy, I think, to remind ourselves that everything we have, from toothbrushes to heartbeats, is temporary. All of it will pass. One must not get too attached.

Somehow I haven't yet made it to Spain, but it's on the list.

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