I hadn’t moved in thirty-five years. That’s thirty-five years in the same house. So how many ‘essential’ items does a family collect in thirty-five years?
If you follow along with either me or Kathleen you might have heard we moved to Montana. The same year, we sold the house my father and mother had lived in for fifty of my sixty-two years. Both houses, mine and my parents, were filled with memories and… stuff. There was stuff in corners, stuff in closets, stuff in the garage. You get the picture. The problem is that almost all of this stuff had a memory attached to it. To get rid of it was to cut some kind of tie to the past, some tie to that person or memory no longer here.
Of course, not every item had a memory attached. Some items had been moved around, from closet to closet, place to place, for years until finally finding a hidden recess in some obscure part of the house. There it sat and sat. Prior to the move our stated mission was to lighten the load. Take only the stuff we needed to make the move easier. And we did. We donated, sold or threw out lots of stuff. We only kept the ‘essentials.’
One of the complications of our move was that when we finally left New York we didn’t have anywhere to move into. Our new house at that point was a large hole in the ground surrounded by large rocks. Some might think this would be a major impediment to progress and the continuation of a happy relationship. Yes and no. We had to make a choice, what items were essential and what was REALLY essential. All the essential items went into a storage unit. The really essential stuff went into the RV and a couple of backpacks.
Fast forward six months. The new house is complete. It’s time to move in all the essentials that we have managed to live without. I opened a box of clothes yesterday. As they went into the closet, I couldn’t help but wonder why I kept all fifteen ties. I used to wear a tie to work back in the last century. Then I went into my rebel, I don’t care, period and stopped wearing one. As I write this, I can’t remember the last time I wore a tie. In case you’re wondering I’m still in the rebel period but have decided it’s not really a time period, it’s called getting older and simply not caring what other people think.
Coming off the move-in truck were boxes and boxes. It wasn’t just clothing, there was plenty of other stuff, from tools to paintings. All had been deemed essential in the loading process but now I had to wonder. We had lived very happily, and simply, with a minimum amount of stuff for the past six months. Hell, even our minimum is probably more than most people in the world will ever own. Did we really NEED all the stuff now filling the garage or could some of that stuff have gone to people who really did need it? Would that hardly worn sweater be better served in my new closet or on someone who might be cold this winter? I hope the answer is obvious.
One last thought though. I have been very lucky in life. I have been able to move past the position of Need to the territory of Want. So, some things are going to be kept- just because I want it. I might not need this item but it’s cool, or the memory is so positive, that I want it around. It makes me smile. My grandfather’s wine press, my old Highland High School Letter jacket and a T-shirt from my first Summer Sea Term.
Some things aren’t essential to life but they just might be essential to mental health.