Waking up in a home from the show "Hoarders" is my ultimate nightmare. In fact, the idea of amassing large amounts of anything totally appalls me. I could be in a reality TV show along with with Buddhist monks, victims of tornadoes and people who rent weird all-white houses in Hollywood where all of us deal with not having any possessions.
I used to own a book called "Material World: A Global Family Portrait," which had these amazing portraits of families around the world in front of their homes with all of their stuff extracted from their homes and categorized on their front lawns. Here’s my approximation.
Absolutely everything I own fits into three boxes and a suitcase. For a long time, not having a lot of things has been a sort of quiet source of pride. I never wanted very much stuff. And everyone is always talking about how virtuous it is, how cleansing to purge your life of possessions.
Once, when I was in elementary school, I went into the basement of a neighbor kid’s house. I stood on the staircase and looked out over a sea of crap so deep and vast that the idea of cleaning up such a mess was as difficult a concept as the infinity of the universe. At least five feet deep in parts, to wade into it could have easily resulted in death -- buried alive in a sea of old school projects and mismatched tube socks, choked by plastic doll hair.
Since then, owning large quantities of things typifies the brand of responsibility I have no interest in -- the kind which comes with a minivan and birthdays at the Olive Garden and lots of things made out of cheap, bubbly plastic -- the responsibility that seems more like giving up than growing up. Many major purchases in my life have been accompanied by the panic of being tied down, of being owned by crap that makes you nervous to leave it because of its value or sad with memories every time you look at it.
A few times, tired of my mattress on the floor set up, I’ve tried to settle down on my own. I’ve ordered furniture from ikea, collected dish drainers and bookshelves and arranged it all to look like something presentable, only to decide a month or two later to sell it all for a couple hundred bucks or give it away and take off for someplace new.
Stuff doesn’t matter I’ve thought, as I watched people carry it away.
And, truly, it doesn’t in most ways. But mostly, I haven’t been ready for it to matter. I haven’t had a place where things made sense, or a person to share it with. However, in the past few years I’ve begun to yearn for a home, a real home with stability. And these feelings, whether they be purely biological or foisted upon me from the societal pressure of rifling through too many Restoration Hardware catalogues, have made me seriously want stuff for the first time in my life. Domesticity crept upon me slowly, but is now quickly ticking toward its apex along with my biological clock.
To deal, I’ve started a small collection of things in the way that the girls who I never wanted to play with back in elementary school collected baby clothes. In one box, I have amassed my own sort of collection of unnecessary home items -- vases, wooden boxes, a Virgin Mary in a seashell, hand-painted nobs for my non-existent furniture, a variety of Microplane graters, a kitchen timer shaped like a pig. Things for the home should I have one which for now remain tucked away in my mom’s attic waiting for me to grow up.
I keep a running list in my head of other nice things I'd someday like to call my own -- a muffin tin, fluffy towels, a dresser, one of those things that slices avocados. Do these impulses make me selfish or just normal?
Does anyone have less than me? Or completely the opposite? I'd love to see other people's stuff!