I have too much stuff. I know – don’t we all?
I had to go to my storage unit yesterday – which reminds me of an extremely messy little studio or bachelor apartment, covered floor-to-ceiling with boxes (several overflowing from not being taped properly), the rest of the unit sprinkled with filled-to-the-brim garbage bags which took over when I ran out of boxes on moving day in 2009. Originally, the boxes had been labeled. But as my permanent marker lost its ink and I lost time to pack, more and more boxes went unmarked, not to mention the Hefty bags.
So going to storage is a constant game of Memory – was that box in the upper right the one with my winter sweaters, or was it the box in the lower right? Each visit to storage is a reminder to have more permanent markers and boxes (and time) when I move again.
Thus, I hate going to storage. The mere thought is overwhelming and I had postponed the trip the last several weeks. Okay, months. But with the colder weather looming, wearing flip flops won’t cut it in the L.A. forty-degree night weather, nor will they work in the Chicago winter. So I had no choice but to go dig out my winter clothes from my pack-rat-packed 8x8x8 bin. (Yes, I have thought about living there. No, the storage owners don’t allow it.)
Going to storage is like any other unpleasant task we must do: work out, diet, dishes… Once we start, it’s not so bad. Yesterday, once I started playing Memory and sometimes actually guessing correctly, storage was actually fun. I found all kinds of clothes I’d forgotten I had: a blue sweater dress suddenly in one hand, a pair of jeans with embroidered red and purple flowers in the other. It was like a fabulous garage/estate/rummage sale rolled into one, that would open and close whenever I decided to make the trek there, and was like shopping for free (if you don’t include the monthly fee I pay). Forget Cyber Monday; I had Storage Sunday.
Funny, I used to love going to storage. When I first started couch-surfing, I used to go about once a week. Often, I would not even trade out clothes but just visit my things as though they were display at some museum and I was the only one with access to The Natalia Collection. A few months in, I had decided that visiting inanimate objects was a little odd (not to mention not fuel-efficient for as sparse a city as L.A. and how far my storage unit seems to be from everywhere else), so I started to only go when I needed “new” clothes to couch-surf with, like exchanging a wool coat for a spring one, casual clothes for dress-up ones. As the months went on, I realized I was picking up more clothes at storage than I was leaving behind, my car becoming full of suitcases – and I could only wear one suitcase worth of clothes per week, right? After all, I was staying with a different person every week; how would they know what I’d worn the previous one?
So I started a logical clothing rotation, making sure to stick to one suitcase and that it would have a good week’s worth of clothes, with a few extra tee-shirts packed in for an emergency – a sudden stain or misplacement (at the beginning, I often tended to leave clothes behind on people’s couches).
I also started to bring along empty garbage bags with each trip to storage and made it a point to fill them with everything from clothes to curling irons for clothing drives, Goodwill, or friends.
Sometimes, however, the more I looked at my stuff, the more nostalgic and homesick I became for a home, my home, not just any home. At one point or another, in this old apartment or that one, each of these things encompassed a part of me in some way. When I spotted the handcarved wooden cross I’d gotten in Poland with my grandma when I was seventeen, I missed the wall it once hung on, in my old bedroom in L.A. in 2009, the one I had insisted on individualizing and painting four colors: red, fuscia, deep turquoise, and golden yellow, like Rainbow Bright had haphazardly tossed her paint pail up in the air, seeing where the colors would land. As loud as that room was, I loved it (even if I did have to sleep with an eyemask on if I dared take a nap in the daytime, the hues trying to keep me awake).
When I saw two red candle holders I’d gotten at a garage sale for a quarter, I thought about the dinner party I could have with them adorning the table — someday. As I cradled the Nutcracker Christmas tree ornament I had gotten in Germany once, I imagined it hanging from a tall, sturdy, Blue Spruce – somewhere. As I blew dust off a framed picture of me and a college boyfriend, I thought back to sometime.
I wondered about these somedays and somewheres and sometimes, when I would have a table, Christmas tree, and keepsake box to put all these things… I pictured how they would look in my future apartment, how I would look in it. Where would it be? What would it look like? Like the 2008/2009 version of me, would I want to paint the walls in Neon Crayola colors again?
Other times, I pictured getting rid of all of these things, starting fresh, clutter and pack-rat-free. If I have lived without these things for so long now, I obviously don’t need any of them (though a couple of sentimental things would be nice). (By the way, the 2009 me would never have written such a sentence!)
As I reached for a box in the upper right corner, which I mistook for Summer Clothes, a cotton avalanche of long underwear mixed with hats started to fall on me, my very own storage snowstorm. Not wanting to be buried alive under my possessions, I slithered away, grabbing a few pieces of winter garb hanging from my hair, then brushed the remaining clothing off of me and quickly shoved it inside the unit, slamming the door closed. Like any shopping spree or sale, there was a catch – trying to find one sweater often resulted in finding much, much more. As I locked the unit, though I was glad to have seen my stuff and to “find” my winter clothes, now I’m happy to leave it all behind again.
But for how long?
Do you have stuff stored away for someday, too?