Packing. An uniquely miserable human endeavor. Miserable–and yet revealing. It’s revealing in what you take. It’s instructive, in its misery.
The first time I (truly) moved, a first-year senior, it was a remarkably miserable affair. I’d somehow accumulated, over the course of a year, a staggering amount of “stuff”. I had a fire-engine red picnic table. A full-sized beer pong table (made of an old Kenyon Noble sign). A kitchen table. A dishwasher (with hand-made enclosure). Two desks (one made by hand by Mike Shappell as a youth. Yup. Mr. Shappell of Cheyenne East amazing-teacher fame). Couches. A lawnmower. A (300 lbs of poorly-tuned glory) piano. And endless sundries.
It took a full week, that move. I moved as much as I could in countless carloads–then borrowed a friend’s truck for the rest. And so I began to learn my lesson.
Each move there’s been less. Each move, there has been things left behind in storage. And the lesson of leaving things behind has been how little those things are missed. (In an 8′ x 10′ unit of stuff, my coffee pot is the only thing I recall missing.)
This move, I’ll do it better. I’m taking only my tools–the tools of my various trades. I’m taking my gear (my skis, my kayak, my rope). I’m taking my ties, suits, slacks. And, I’m taking my kitchen. (Oh, and my actual “tools”–the socket set from my parents, the torque wrench from that sad motorbike.) And that’s it. My worldly possessions, reduced to what can fit in and on a blue Subaru Impreza wagon.
In truth, I find there’s only two things worth taking with me. One’s weightless; the other impossible to move according to your volition. By the former, of course, I mean memories, experience, skills. Experience builds you up. Skills get you paid, keep you safe. Of the later, I’ve observed that relationships and people are hardly immobile–but most often move according to their own logic.
It’s a paradox. I moved carloads and carloads of “stuff” while a poor college student. Perhaps I clung to those things because they were hard-won comforts, with respect to being a poor college student. The paradox is that, now that I’m better off, I need less stuff. I need nothing, truly–not even the shirt on my back–so longs as I have my Visa debit card. If better-off still, I could do without even my tools. “Stuff” is endlessly replaceable. You pay only the transaction costs associated with its acquisition and disposal (and, with the modern advent of Craigslist, those transaction costs are lower than ever).
Perhaps, when I move again, I’ll be sufficiently wise (or sufficiently affluent) to go scorched earth on all material possessions. Leave the car. Leave the ski boots. Abandon the books.
In the meantime, I pack. I pack, and I think: what’s worth owning? What do I own that lifts me up? What do I own that weighs me down?