Stuff is only stuff until you let it go (Part 1)

boxes and suitcases ready for moving

I’m sitting on the floor surrounded by sheets of music, overwhelmed, exhausted, flooded with memories of the past.

I don’t know which, if any, to take with me.

It’s official. I’ve rented a place in Charlottetown, PEI. I’m moving.

And I’ve decided to take only what fits in my car, which means that anything that isn’t essential has to go.

But how do you do that when everything has meaning?

I’ve moved six times in the past nine years: each time to a subsequently smaller space, and with each move I’ve Marie Kondo’s the shit out my possessions.

Anything that didn’t bring me joy? Gone!  Anything that brought me joy but wouldn’t fit into the new place? Gone! Anything, I could not longer store. Gone!

As I’ve downsized from a huge two-bedroom plus basement to one room plus a small den in someone else’s apartment, I’ve let go of a lot: dining room furniture, living room furniture, kitchen furniture, mirrors, lamps, clothes, books and more.    

As I write this, my life’s possessions amount to a car, a bed, dresser, desk and about 16 boxes of stuff: half of which I’ll need to sell, give away or discard before I leave. 

But this stuff isn’t just stuff.

It’s memories.

It’s hopes and dreams.

It’s the person I was and once wanted to be.

It’s the friendships forged, the things accomplished, and equally the friendships neglected, and the projects abandoned.

It’s not just sheet music, it’s my ex-husband playing U2 on the guitar on our first date, and the singalongs my upstairs neighbours would have, and that time we performed at the Rivoli in a parody band.

It’s not just free weights. It’s the friends I met through the gym where I taught, and those weekends we would go out dancing at the cougar bar and get out-of-towners to buy us shots and feel young and hot and free.   

It’s not just a shelving unit. It’s the basement apartment I took convinced my boyfriend at the time would soon ask me to move in with him; and then being heartbroken when I realized that wasn’t going to happen.

It’s a set of noise cancelling earphones and that night I DJ’d a party in the woods in the middle of summer when it felt like the forest was levitating with the dancers.

It’s the book I wrote when I was dating coach and opening that first shipment from Amazon and feeling so proud and my boyfriend at the time taking me out for a fancy dinner to celebrate.

It’s me stripping in my 20s, and starting a short-lived web design company in my 30s, and going back to school for journalism, and doing videography, and trying stand up, and getting married, and writing a play, and getting pregnant and having a miscarriage, and finally finding a steady work, and making new friends, and getting a divorce, and starting a new business, and leaving my job and finding love and losing it again and again and again.

And as I go through this stuff, I fell like I’m travelling at light speed through time: trying on and discarding identities as quickly as one might try on outfits before a date, all the while knowing that it was never that easy at the time.

Long ago, I decided my life would be about accumulating experiences rather than stuff.

In 51 years, I’ve accumulated a lot of experiences.

The stuff that remains brings me back to them.  Yet, as I sort through it, it also brings me to the present and the question “Who am I now?”

Because I can’t take it with me.

I can only take what fits in the car.

And so, I have to decide what to keep and what to shed and what matters now.

And what matters to me now isn’t what was but what still is:

if not in material form, in its essence.

And so, I am taking with my desire to inspire and elevate, my love of music and dancing and, above all, writing.

I am taking my ability to make new friends, and to create things and the knowledge that I need to be less hard on myself. I am taking the lessons of relationships past.

I am taking 51 years of wisdom and knowledge.

And I’m taking my kettle because, God knows,  I’m really going to need a cup of tea when I get there.

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