Boxed Out

****Written on 16 September but due to lack of Internet it was not posted until now****

The house is empty. Well, except for us, three suitcases, two cats, two cat carriers and an inflatable mattress. It reminds me of when we moved here little over a year ago. That was before the strata of cat hair defined our era in this flat. That was before I knew what the hell a gofio was. That was before I was a freelance translator and well before we found out that we would soon be Dutch, for all intents and purposes.

Four hundred and fifty one short days later we find ourselves again dealing with an echoey flat, bereft of the basic host of instruments and utensils that make living at home comfortable. For the last few days we have lived out of one small sauce pan, one medium frying pan, two spoons, two sets of chopsticks, two butter knives, two water glasses and one spatula. Very spartan indeed, but at least Leonidas didn’t have to sit on the floor while he ate. I guess it’s good to be king.

In moving here to Las Palmas I hastily put my entire life in 27 boxes. I had no furniture that I was willing to take. I donated my car. After three months when the stuff finally arrived I saw exactly how much crap I had filled my life with. We’re talking tangible crap. Not emotional or intangible crap (I’ve plenty of that), but the stuff you physically have to put into a box because you can’t live without it. Or can you?

Of course I can live without my quantum mechanics books. Just don’t touch them or I’ll cut you.

In our time here on the island I have gotten rid of an epic amount of crap. Mostly clothes and books (not the quantum mechanics ones) and I feel much better. It is for this reason why I was so surprised when I started the whole box dance again with my stuff. I was convinced that packing this time around would be a cinch. A few boxes here and there for the little crap I owned. After all, Amaia and I are minimalists now.

Box after box we packed. For hours. For days. Until finally we stood at the foot of Mount Crap looking up at Araña grooming herself upon the peak. What had happened? Where did all of this stuff come from?

I don’t know. But I have a theory.

China.

I haven’t worked out all of the details of the theory–nor will I–but there is a good chance I am not entirely wrong.

Amaia and I did a kind of scary thought experiment the other day just after the movers came. We had to put a value on our stuff for the insurance. Sure it’s worth something but it’s definitely worth more to us than it would be to any other person. We rolled a few numbers around in our heads and then thought, “What if it does get lost?”

Doing a mental inventory I quickly identified all of the things that would be very painful to lose. Out of a million things packed in a thousand boxes, I came up with four. Four. An album that my Aunt Treasure made me for my 21st birthday with pictures of my childhood. My signed Joe Montana football that my sister Jenny gave to me as a Christmas gift when I was 10. The suit I got married in and my bicycle; ’nuff said. Four piddly things; a clear indicator that I have too much stuff.

More surprisingly, the scary thought of the boat going down with 95% of our worldly possessions aboard was actually–refreshing. It was weird. Amaia and I had the same revelation at the same time. If all of what was in our boxes, if all of our stuff was gone, we would just start over again. It would be another beginning that I like so much. Of course in this hypothetical stuff rebirth I would be way more prudent with what I allow into my life.

That being said I will sift through my life when it gets to The Hague and start giving myself a “stuff haircut”. I will do this because it feels good not to be bogged down by your possessions; not to let them control you. I will do this because that is how I want to approach my foray into minimalism, and it is easier to cherish what you do have when your possessions complement but don’t encumber.

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5 comments

  1. All you need is love! 😉 Good to see you’ve discovered minimalism, now it’s my turn. Looking forward to your post about the first days in Den Haag!

  2. Eva

    Wow, this is what I’ve been going through for months. Before I left Monterey, I gave stuff away for months! I was able to fit all my belongings into my car to drive to Miami. It was refreshing. But after getting there, I realized that I still had way too much stuff, and I keep giving more and more away (mostly clothes). I find nothing more liberating than to be minimalistic, to the point where I questioned if I even wanted any bedroom furniture other than a bed 🙂

    Now I am in Germany two weeks after my dad’s death who was a worse hoarder than anything you’ll ever see on the TV show Hoarders (it’s crap, but you probably know what it is), and my body aches from working at his house every day having to sort through 30 years worth of crap. I literally just want to throw it all out, and I don’t have the patience that my brother has to sort it all into paper, plastic, scrap metal, batteries, etc. It might take months to get through it all (think huge three-story house with a basement, 3 large bedrooms, staircases, kitchen, living room, office and hallways all full of crap, mostly to the ceiling, there’s just little pathways in between). It reinforces my love for minimalism more every day!

  3. Hi Eva and André,

    Thanks for the comments and I am working hard on my first blog post from Den Haag about our first days here.

    @Eva, good luck with all of that. I have seen the show and can’t imagine what it must be like to sift through that. I guess it is a good reason to own only what you need, huh? Good luck and be strong!

  4. This is exactly what I like about moving. It’s not only a fresh start in terms of environment, friends and work life it is also a fresh start for you stuff. I hate packing and unpacking though. I would be very sorry if everything perished in the move of course, but I almost get depressed when I know I have to start unpacking. Welcome to the mainland.
    Tolken, who has moved with her family from Stockholm to Paris and back again, and then from Stockholm to Brussels.

    • Hi Tolken,

      Thanks for the comment. I like unpacking but I find it hard to get started. Usually the boxes intimidate too much and I get lazy about it. However, once I start, I usually finish (my boxes :)).

      Thanks again!

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