Packing and my relationship with stuff
I hate packing. In a big way. I always leave it until the last minute and then I usually proceed to stare at my stuff for a good hour or two, and then I take it all out and lay it on the bed and stare at it a bit longer and then wish that someone would walk in and wave their magic wand and voila my bags or boxes (whether I am traveling or moving) are packed. It never seems to work.
I left Vancouver for Hamburg, Germany two years ago almost to the day, in February 2012 and at that time I just needed to get away. I got rid of half my stuff, stored a bunch of it at various friends places and packed a bunch of boxes which my parents kindly took home. I remember standing in my apartment with the guy who was taking it over, looking at half of my things and saying to him me $200 and take it. It was rushed and not well thought out, more of an emotional shove this away and not think about it than anything else and the moment I got on the plane to Europe I forgot about my stuff for almost two years. I recently returned to the west coast and in the past weeks I officially moved back to Vancouver but before that had to sort through every, single one of my boxes and bags. And I discovered something my stuff didn go away. So for a good week or two I re packed and sorted all of my things, all day, every day, which were stored at my parent house and in their garage. The interesting thing I discovered in this process was stuff isn just stuff.
I found this little marble that a shop keeper in Venice had made a big show of giving me, when my friend Genni and I were visiting as 18 year olds. He even signed the package. I took a photo, smiled at the memory and finally threw it away.
During my time in Germany I prided myself on telling people that I arrived in Hamburg with only one large suitcase and a carry on bag. I lived off of minimal during my entire time there. I lived in furnished places, I didn clothes shop all that much, I tried not to accumulate and I kept most of my souvenirs in the form of photos and blog posts. I learned to live on a lot less (in terms of stuff and money), and for the most part, I really enjoyed it. It was incredibly liberating and I learned that you can truly get by without a lot of the luxuries we so often think we need. When I left Hamburg I was amazed that I did have to get rid of a fair amount of things, but I returned home with only one extra suitcase. Most everything else I gave away to friends (I think they loved the part where I got rid of all my wine the most.)
A ticket stub from the very first musical I ever played in the pit orchestra for at university. I not really sure why I have a ticket stub for it since I was playing in it, but I obviously felt it was worth keeping for 15 years.
So, in the past weeks when I was suddenly confronted with two years of stuff that I had tried to forget about it was completely overwhelming. Why do I need this? I thought. I should just throw it ALL away. Then, as I painstakingly began to go through each box I realized that so many of my things were not just things, but memories, and experiences and part of my past, and part of who I was. I found old birthday cards from a serious past relationship, photo album upon photo album of the last ten years of my life, ticket stubs from concerts I worked at or enjoyed, essays from both grad school and my undergrad (and yes I admit to standing in my parent cold garage and re reading a professor notes on one of my favourite essays on the making of a pop hit song). I found papers with silly poetry that my friends at university had written, binders of recipes that I had carefully put together and sampled, altered, alphabetized and labelled. This wasn just stuff, but a record of pre Germany Kristi. Each box contained a moment in time and it forced me to slow down and process what happened before, to feel the feelings I may have run away from, but also to remember rich and vivid times with friends and loved ones.
My dad sent me a photo in Spring of 2013 of the new storage set up for my bed which he had most creatively come up with. Thank goodness for parents, eh? (I sitting on this exact bed as I write this post right now)
A sweet and simple note my dad had evidently left on my pillow one night, along with some honeysuckle. I so glad I kept it long enough to photograph it and remember it.
My sister and her husband are always in a state of culling their stuff. The four (they have two adorable little girls aka my nieces) of them live in the lovely but sadly ridiculously expensive neighbourhood of Kitsilano (okay pretty much all of Vancouver is ridiculously expensive now) so there are four of them in a relatively small space. If stuff isn vital, it needs to go. But, one idea of theirs that I always thought was brilliant is that whenever they get rid of stuff (well the important stuff) they photograph it first to remember it. I started doing this when I was in Hamburg and I took pictures of every card and postcard I was sent while I was there. It the message that we want to remember, it the memory, not necessarily the thing itself. For those trying to do a stuff cleanse, I highly recommend this technique.
This is something I could never throw away when I was a Gap student on the Isle of Man, some of the grade two boys were so proud that I learned to say certain words with a British accent that they made me this to certify that I had learned to speak English Priceless.
I managed to get rid of at least eight ten boxes of stuff and yet I feel like I could have done even better. I tried so hard to be harsh with myself, and I have to say, getting rid of things is really satisfying, but taking the time to appreciate the memory of them before we let them go is also just as important. It through my stuff and the sorting of it that I have seen how much I changed this past two years, and what parts of me I want to keep as well. I remember the moment I found my old kitchen stuff and I got a serious thrill at the idea of having my very own kitchen again, and exploring my culinary love more deeply. I also found so many books and tantalizing stories waiting in bo adidas shoes xes and begging to be read. Some of them I felt ready donate, some of them, I don have the heart to let go of yet. In this rapidly digitizing world, which I do love so much, I still need the feel of a book between my hands once in a while. I also don have the heart to get rid of funny things like a story that a good friend of mine wrote and illustrated for me, which prompted a re reading that led to tears of laughter. That kind of stuff is worth keeping.
I laughed when I found my old awards from field hockey and horse back riding which ranged from aggressive player, to courageous player, to a trophy for Can you sense a theme?
I don have some magic answer on how to pack (I sorry if you read this post th adidas shoes inking it was a how to guide), what to get rid of or what is worth keeping. But I think I have learned in the last couple years, strangely and surprisingly from my relationship with stuff, or without stuff, that in order to truly move forward in life we have to first look back, reflect, process, feel and appreciate what we have gone through, even when it is uncomfortable and only then can we let go.
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