Whittling down your life

I recently visited my old college town, an event which always makes me wonder what insanity would prompt me to drive back to hazy, traffic-filled Los Angeles. Why on earth wouldn’t I want to simply stay in a town where there are trees every two feet, they have honest-to-god bicycle traffic lights and campus is sprinkled with these things.

Then I realize the nearest Trader Joe’s is 20 miles away and I start to remember.

Still, almost all of my college roommates still reside either in Davis or in the very nearby area. One was kind (read:gullible) enough to offer her place to stay when I was up visiting. As was the case when we were house-mates, her house is packed with STUFF. It’s not necessarily cluttered, it doesn’t look bad, but I can see on the mantle the same knickknacks she had when we lived together. The downstairs bathroom has a half-finished puzzle on it with enough stuff piled on top that it doesn’t seem likely to be finished any time soon.

I couldn’t stop thinking about how much stuff I had owned throughout my lifetime, and what it might’ve all looked like had I not been continuously moving locations and apartments my whole life. It’s a lifestyle that necessitates the ceaseless minimizing of possessions; to keep streamlining your belongings to the bare essentials. Teddy bears get a lifetime exemption from this rule.

My roommates may have kept changing residences after graduation, but it was usually an upward mobility in the size of their living arrangements, whereas mine stayed more or less the same. Also, there’s a difference in what you choose to keep out for general viewing. Yes, I WILL hold onto that pair of ceramic dragons bought at a Japanese bazaar when I was 9, but they will be kept lovingly bubble-wrapped in a shoebox instead of being displayed on a shelf.

It could also just be a matter of personal taste. I’m the person who’s obsessed with organizing tools. I practically orgasm when stepping into the cool breeze of The Container Store. Naturally, I don’t necessarily put all of those tools into use, but the intention is there. That counts, right? Still, I have a lot of those moments where you wonder whatever happened to a shirt you used to own, or a stuffed animal that someone gave you for a birthday. Realizing they’ve been sacrificed to the Salvation Army gods comes with a minor feeling of sadness, even though it’s for the best. Do I really need to hold onto the Pound Purry I bargained for at a Hong Kong flea market when I was 8? Well…yes. And I have. It’s in my closet. But I did get rid of that San Diego Zoo t-shirt from high school!

It confers a larger sense of importance to the stuff I *do* choose to keep, I guess. But you definitely lose that feeling of nostalgia I got very strongly upon staying with my friend in Davis. It just added to the comfort of the entire place, and indeed to the overall relaxing feel of the whole weekend. Made it all the more awesome. :)

14 comments on “Whittling down your life

  1. thanks for the reminder of the strangeness that is Davis.

    i just spend a few minutes on googlemaps retracing my
    old jogging route..

    my friends used to always refer to the bike traffic intersections
    as the “dreaded fourth lights”..

    anyway.. kudos on the new-ish page.

    hope to see more of you in theGuild.

  2. Hey! Cool website! And nice post!

    I have a VERY hard time throwing out stuff, and every time I decide to organize things it takes me hours, mostly deciding what to keep or not.

    Anyway, hope you blog often! =]

  3. Welcome to the Blog-o-sphere!

    I’m a bit of a pack rat myself. I’ve still got a lot of stuff that I’ve acquired over the past number of years. I still have a few boxes left unpacked since I moved into my new digs about a year ago. I guess I could use some vacation time I have after SDCC to do some purging of useless tchochkes that seem to take up a lot of space. Anyone care for some ceramic Dutch houses from KLM? But yes, there are some momentos from trips taken that I will keep. I’ve got a couple of scrolls I picked up in Japan that I’d like to somehow get framed for display.

  4. I’m definitely a bit of a pack rat, but everything that’s kept has a specific story attached (hey, I’m a writer), so it’s as though my history is told in objects.

    At Christmas, as we decorate the tree, we tell and re-tell the tales of each ornament — sort of a way of reliving our best times together.

    I’ve moved a lot and gotten rid of a lot over the years, but what’s there — every object has meaning.

    It’s still cluttered, but it’s meaningful clutter.

    If a room is too spare, I get really stressed out.

    If a place has no books, I leave as quickly as possible.

    On tour, I’d buy books during the sit-down, and have a row of them on the dresser, then ship them home before the next stop and start all over again.

  5. I’m currently sitting in the one part of my room that is clean enough to allow a chair. I am surrounded by clothes and papers and DVDs and computers and guitars and books.

    I really like it here though.

    P.S., nice website. Enjoyed the blogginess. Keep it up!

  6. I spend a good seventeen hours a day cleaning up the little tiny folded pieces of paper Dane pulls out of his pockets at random intervals. The other 42 hours are spent closing the cupboards he leaves open.

    This kills me because I’m a minimalist and a neat freak. Of course my math skills or lack thereof kill Dane so we’re even. I guess.

  7. Site is looking very good. I’m looking forward to reading your blog.

    I’m not that bad at throwing stuff out. The only things I HAVE to keep (and it drives me crazy when others dont agree) are books and movies. Even if they have had various drinks spilled on them or even though I dont actually OWN a VHS-player to view them in, they must stay! The stories are still in them somewhere, I just can force myself to get rid of those.

  8. Many of my old Aggie classmate still live in Davis as well. Likewise, I have a hard time getting rid of possessions, but when I do it’s a liberating feeling. Those monks are onto something. Finally, I agree with your teddy bear rule.

  9. you need to blog more often =) i’m trying to restart blogging… but it’s hard lol. by the way, good work on the guild season 2! lol you cracked me up with the aggressive fps girl act =P

  10. It makes it hard to decide to keep or part with something. I have this issue myself. Moving around is also hard too, as you miss your friends.

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  12. There really is something about The Container Store that makes me want to take all my clothes off the second I walk in there. I used to work in retail, at Williams Sonoma, and always wondered what it would be like to work there instead. I mean, the discount! Getting to organize the shelves of organizing supplies!

    Yeah, this is totally making me sound wildly OCD, but as someone who is currently living in her 18th house/apartment, I’ve become infatuated with the process of owning as few things as possible and making them work in creative ways.

    But yes, of course, teddy bears are the exception.

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