I have never been a follower of those self-help gurus who specialize in de-cluttering, the kind who try to convince you to throw away most of your frivolous belongings by reminding you that people in Bali use only one knife to do all of their cooking, butchering, and yardwork, and if you happen to think that your set of Wusthofs is absolutely necessary, well then, you'll have another think coming before long.
No, that kind of mentality, which smacks of deprivation and Noble Savagery at once, doesn't appeal to me. There are small luxuries that I take such pleasure in that they are worth the extra money and the extra bit of clutter around the house, such as my knitting supplies and, occasionally, a shelf of books. Objects well-worn and well-loved take on particular meanings, and it is difficult to let them go.
Despite all of this, during our move on Sunday it became clear to me that WE HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF. Or, at least too much stuff for a one-bedroom, New York City apartment -- and we're not even in the expensive neighborhoods that force people to live in closets! No, we're rather on the outskirts when it comes to Manhattan neighborhoods, and yet we still have too many belongings and too little space.
So, while my husband and I spent several hours this afternoon caught up in despair -- would everything ever fit here? -- we soon rallied around and prepared ourselves for the tough decisions. You know, the moment when you have to actually throw something away. For ever. Yes.
Deciding what stays and what goes becomes a lesson in values, a sign of what is really important. Two sets of small plates, or only one? One yoga mat, or two? How many notebooks and spatulas and printers do I really need for this next stage of life? The answer, this time, is only as many as will fit into these 600-some square feet, only as many as will support me in the days and years to come. Our sixth apartment together, I hope that this will be my husband's and my last landing pad for quite a while.
This move reminds me of every time I have packed my bags and left the U.S. for an extended visit, trying to fit my entire life into a pair of suitcases and failing miserably when it came to putting that same life back into the same suitcases when the time came around to leave again. In the interim, I had changed and my lifestuff overflowed its carrying case.
Now is another time to scale down, pare back, live with what is essential. Who would have guessed that we would have acquired so many things in the last two years? Or, alternatively, that New York would have been so generous to us, both then and now? -- For it is by some generous act that we are staying here in this small apartment for another five years, each of us poised to begin doctoral programs, eager and waiting and resigned and trembling, shedding off the old to let in the new.