I’ve been sorting, compressing, and culling all of my worldly possessions in preparation for the latest move. I’m familiar with the procedure; I could pack in my sleep. Even so, I stare at piles of Keep, Sell, Donate, Throw Away and I wonder how all these “things” claim space in our lives and what that means.
In the Keep pile, two stones. Plain, grey, round, no different than a billion other stones except these ones have “Kris” and “Fred” scrawled on them in silver ink. These stones were place holders at the Denman Island wedding of our friends Joe and Willow. I can remember that weekend clearly—the smell of barbecuing salmon, the sound of laughter as two guests performed a skit with flashlights up their noses, the taste of ripe blackberries picked from the vine. I will have the memories without the stones—they are not magic portals—but having the stones makes the memories more solid somehow.
In the Donate pile, a pair of steel-toed hiking shoes I bought at the local thrift store. These shoes have hiked through rainforest and desert, have trudged through piles of drywall and lumber, have given me blisters and protected my fragile toes from rocks and cement. I do not swing a hammer anymore and I bought a new pair of hiking shoes two years ago—lighter, more comfortable shoes.
I throw away, or recycle, much. I am not sentimental.
Sell? What we can and what we can part with. My friend Rita asks how much for the case of 300 CDs. All of them were painstakingly organized, numbered, and labeled. They entertained us from Port Coquitlam to Florida and on to the Bahamas. I say, “$10”. Our music is in the cloud now. CDs take up space. Rita is thrilled. Her husband likes to listen to CDs in his workshop. There’s a Norah Jones CD in there with our wedding song on it.
Come Away With Me.
I am a good organizer. I can fit items inside of items until our packed boxes seem full of Russian nesting dolls. Smooth transitions comfort me.
“You did your best with the time you had,” I tell myself when I remember those chaotic two weeks spent cleaning out my dad’s property. There was so much stuff. I was overwhelmed. In the end, we took seven truckloads to the dump—we couldn’t even give some things away.
Every piece of “junk” had a story, had a memory. I watched Fred toss Pinky and Blue Boy, hand embroidered by my Great Aunt Ness, onto the pile of garbage and felt like a traitor. Where was the honour in this?
There are a few things I wish I’d kept, I tell my friend Wendyle. You can’t go down that road, she says, it never ends.
I regard the growing stack of boxes in my back room. If I died, what would people keep and what would they throw away, and what would any of it matter?
In the end, we own nothing.