Darling what you have is enough

19 09 2011

I am trying to find my way clear.

More prosaically, I am trying to rid my apartment of unnecessary and unwanted things, and consolidating the rest into ever smaller, more tightly packed, containers.

This is a years-long process, one aided by moving (which I am not) and abetted by restlessness (which I am), and constrained by the dimensions of my junior one bedroom in lovely Prospect-Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn.

I didn’t really start getting rid of stuff until I left Minneapolis for Montreal. And, christ, what a vast amount of crap I hauled from Madison to Minneapolis to Albuquerque and back, and through all my apartment moves within Minneapolis. My friends bitched about moving all my boxes of books, but the real waste of their efforts was in moving paper and files I’d never look at again, clothes I’d never wear again, and assorted other nonsense that I kept for. . . no reason whatsoever.

I got rid of a lot of that when I left for Montreal, but, alas, not enough, a fact hidden by my beautifully large and sunny 2 bedroom apartment in that feline city. All that I had couldn’t fill that space, which seduced me into believing that all that I had was not too much.

I shed a bit more on my move down to Somerville and another large apartment—this time with storage space in the basement. Granted, most of what I kept in the basement were storage containers for the things two floors above, but, again, I found clothes to donate and tables to sell and books to give away.

The move to New York was. . . problematic in 18 different ways, among which was not knowing when I’d get my own place and thus, not knowing what I truly needed. Paid storage, the bane which appears a blessing, kept me in excess lamps, extra chairs, and the Buddha knows what else. Once I moved into this junior one bedroom in lovely Prospect-Lefferts Garden, I determined that anything which I couldn’t fit I wouldn’t fit, and as a result, got rid of those excess lamps, extra chairs, and Buddha knows what else.

Still, I tire of my things, want fewer things. The problem, of course, is that my desire to trim down runs into the recognition that I have already shed the easy excess, and that what remains may just be necessary.

Are all these books necessary? To me, for now, yes. I may at some point decide they are more trouble—and they are trouble, seeing as how they appear to multiply out of their shelves—than they’re worth, but now, today, I would be cutting off limbs to cart them away. (Okay, yes, there are some I don’t want and have designated for removal, but those are the few which will make hardly a dent in the many.) And my 800 or so cds? Well, shit, I have them, and while I haven’t bought any new ones in years and may never buy any again, that I haven’t put them all on my hard drive (and have no plans in the immediate future to do so), and that I long ago discarded the jewel cases and reduced them to two-and-a-half boxes, means that any space I’d save would not be worth all that music I’d be giving up.

Pots, pans, dishes—necessary. Clothes, shoes, jackets, hats and mittens—necessary. And while I stopped buying t-shirts, flannel shirts, or any oversized men’s shirts over a decade ago, my disdain for waste and willingness to wear clothes until they fall apart, as well as the fact that I’m pretty much the same size I was half a lifetime ago, means that I still have some clothes from half a lifetime ago. And I won’t get rid of what few business suits I have because, well, I might need to wear those damned suits and I don’t want to have to buy all new stuff.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this. Clearing away the detritus of my undergraduate and graduate years was a pain in the ass, involving hours hunched over a shredder and multiple trips to the recycling bin, but akin to raking up thick layers of leaves on the ground. Then came the digging into the dirt, then the hauling up of stones and fill, and now, now I’m at the hard rock, chipping away, chipping away.

I need the rock, of course, can’t keep chiseling my way down to nothing—not yet. Someday I may be comfortable with nothing, but today I’m trying discern how much something is enough without being too much.