More often than I’d like to admit I spend hours on end just sitting on my couch looking at my apartment, mostly in disgust. It would usually end with me cleaning or rearranging. Only to sit back on my couch again and be dissatisfied with the results.
I live in a 660-square foot apartment with my boyfriend. It’s an open concept space where the kitchen bar looks out on to the rest of the living and dining area. Even my bedroom has glass doors so you can basically see everything from where I sit. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t messy.
I love it here. I count my blessings with how lucky I was to find such a big apartment in the heart of the city, and for a very reasonable price. I have everything I need. So why is it that my boyfriend can come home on any given day to find a different arrangement? Sometimes it’s just a few things here and there. Kitchen drawers re-arranged, the bookshelf on the other side of the table. And then, more rarely as it takes a whole lot of effort, all the furniture is in a different place. With one look though, it all goes back, as with many condos there aren’t too many configurations that work well.
Both of us fit here just fine. He didn’t come with many things. In fact, we always laugh every time I talk about purging and he looks at his things and can barely fill the space in his chest of drawers. So what is it that causes me to sit here for a ridiculous amount of time wasting away the days?
Too. Much. Stuff.
One day a few years ago my Dad and I decided to try to list every single place we’ve ever lived. Whether it was short term or long term, whether it was for a year of residence or for just the summer, it went on the list. His number was 23 at the time. My number was 21. Since then I think I’ve moved probably about 5 more times. Just think about that for a moment. I have lived in the same country my entire life, my Dad has lived in 3. I am 32 years old, my Dad is 60. Most people I know have lived in maybe 3 places and all their belongings are still in their family home with their parents.
You would think that I would be a minimalist.
After all the packing and unpacking and the usual challenges and headaches of moving it’s a wonder why I still have this much stuff! To be fair to me (but still just an excuse) my parents moved to another continent. When this happened, everything I ever owned was given back. Every photo, every keychain, every notebook, and every toy all came to live with me. This happened 5 years ago and somehow I’ve managed to fit it in to anywhere I’ve moved. And since I generally take care of my belongings it’s always been a struggle to get rid of things.
At the beginning of this year I felt my life changing. I no longer want to be attached to physical things. I realize that all those hours I spend just starring at it all makes me sad. It makes me think about all the dollars we spent on useless items and all the time we’ve spent on maintaining the inventory only to find something every now and then that we completely forgot about because it was buried under everything else we didn’t need!
For my generation, I think I’m a little behind. My parents moved to this country for a better life for us. Their generation focused on status in many ways – what degree they had, what kind of house they lived in, how many kids they had, what schools their kids went to, and the list goes on. They worked tirelessly to get there and we watched them do so. In my generation we were spoilt having had all this already set for us and now take it for granted. We don’t have the same value for it.
As a result one of two things happen: either we grow up with a terrible sense of entitlement, or we move towards understanding that material things do not bring us happiness.
When I was 16 my parents went through bankruptcy. So we moved from a 7 bedroom, 7 bathroom, hot tub owning, pool table gloating home on a 1 acre lot; to a 3 bedroom spoilt Canadian version of a shack. Like that, most things were gone. Funny enough it didn’t bother me that much at all. Maybe because I was the oldest or because of my age, who knows, but I’d like to think I adjusted very well. But it also meant holding on to whatever it was that we did have – as it brought back memories of what we once had. But this still did not make any of us happy.
Although I think I always knew all this, I think I’m finally ready to make the big changes. It will be a process, a long and liberating one. But move #27 is going to be far different than any other move in my life.