Sometimes when I have a daunting task ahead, (like the many stacks of papers surrounding me that need grading) I find myself finding more pressing issues to take care of, issues like organizing my closet, vacuuming my car, getting my eyebrows done, and scrubbing the bath tub. The semester that I wrote my Masters thesis, I had the cleanest and most organized apartment I have ever lived in.
So today I did manage to accomplish a lot of important tasks, and among those was my paper grading quota for the day, so I can confess to all of this in good conscience. As I was busy organizing sweaters and hair elastics, I got to noticing that I am the type that cannot stand clutter. Now, I am not the most organized person in the world, but I also don’t like having too much stuff around. It reminds me of a commercial where Bethenny Frankel is showing off her closet and says, “I’m not a keeper. I mean, I’m a keeper, but I’m not a “keeper.” That’s something that I wish I said first, because it does describe me (and my sense of humor). I have a habit of impulsively discarding of things. Sometimes if I am just not “feeling” something in my space, I get rid of it. I can be quite fickle, too. Sometimes I will dig through my closet for an article of clothing, only to remember later that one day the color didn’t speak to me and so I got rid of it.
My roommate is the opposite. She and I aren’t close; she was subletting a room in her 2 bedroom place at a time that I needed to move out quickly. Anyway, she is the type that has a lot of stuff, stuff that I don’t understand why she keeps around. She has her reasons, and I am sure that the items have some sort of sentimental appeal. She keeps wine bottles, bottles that to me don’t seem all that great because they weren’t a particularly special bottle of wine. She talks about wanting to do something creative with them, except that she never does, she just stock piles them. I finally had to find a hiding place for them because they were taking over the counter. I like to think of myself as a creative person as well, but unless you’re going to make something with the bottles soon, they are just trash sitting on the counter.
And that makes me wonder if I just lack sentimentality. I don’t keep many mementos, and much of my sentimental stuff is locked away in a storage unit. I don’t feel sad without it. In fact, the only reason I keep the storage unit is to hold all of the books that I own until I find a place big enough to hold all of them. But really, most people have stuff around their home, pictures on the walls, knick knacks or whatever. I have a lot of shoes. It does make me wonder if I am a dull person. Or a blank person. Or that I have attachment issues. And that I lack drive when it comes to decorating.
The people in the apartment next to mine recently moved out, and they caused our property manager a lot of grief because they left behind a lot of gross trash (along with a filthy apartment). The sad thing is that it took them a long time to move, and they left piles upon piles of trash around the dumpsters that they filled (gross!). I am pretty sure that they were like those people on that show Hoarders. I have never been able to sit through an episode of that show, because it freaks me out. The idea of being practically buried alive under junk is horrifying. Perhaps the idea of being stuck or too tied to a place is my problem?
I think that when people fill their surroundings with stuff, they do so to try to establish permanence, like they want to feel tied to a place. Perhaps that is what it means to make a place a home. People often say that objects make them feel nostalgic, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that the etymology of nostalgia comes from the word for “home.” So having stuff makes people feel like they are home, but I have to wonder if stuff actually makes a place a home. Maybe the whole idea is an illusion; you know that Thomas Wolfe famously said “You can’t go home again,” and perhaps he is right. The whole idea of home is an illusion, but surrounding oneself with stuff makes that illusion seem more real. Maybe the idea of home that we are looking for faded away with our childhoods, and we spend most of our adult lives looking for ways to recreate the feeling of security that a home did when we were children. And so maybe stuff just doesn’t quite do that for me.