From 2012-2014, for a variety of circumstances, I moved 4 times. Nothing makes you more intimately familiar with your stuff than moving. Having gone through the process 4 times in 2 years, I can honestly say that there is nothing in my apartment I don't consider to be functional or beautiful. Everything I own at this point, I love enough to pick up and schlepp to my next living situation.
Living alone has also made me very aware of what stuff I consider important to have as well as the things that apparently I can do without. Books, art, a dining room table - non-negotiable, must-haves. Other things like a sofa are less important. Truth be told, every time I get close to purchasing a sofa I start imagining the plane tickets I could buy with that money instead and then I do that.
Some dear friends of mine recently purchased a big old victorian house, because you can do that kind of thing here in Pittsburgh. They purchased it as is, meaning they got it for a steal, even for Western PA standards, but it also means the place needs some serious work and is full of stuff from the past several generations who lived there.
We went over there this past weekend. It was my first time seeing the place and we started going through the piles of stuff, loading most of it into contractor-size garbage bags and discussing which of the furniture seemed cool and salvageable.
We came across boxes of family photo-albums rotted together, news paper clippings announcing the assassination of JFK, a mink stole with feet and eyes that for a second had us convinced we had stumbled across an animal that had died in the closet.
There were other remnants of people's lives. A passport with a black and white ID photo. There was one stamp in it, she had visited Ireland. A mortgage for $2,000 for the house from the 1920's, back when mortgages were actual pieces of paper. Pieces of luggage I love to look at, but know I would hate in practice - lugging on planes and through cities with no wheels. A lady should always be capable of handling her own luggage.
And of course, going through stuff like that makes you think about the fact that someday people will be going through your stuff, whether it's your family, or total strangers.
What will that be like? The evidence of my life is so different. My love letters are emails. My photo albums and scrapbooks have been instagram for a number of years now. Even my journal is a word document. Will my grandkids hack my gmail account to learn what I was like as a twenty-something in the early aughts?
I kind of like the idea that when I'm done, there won't be as many trash bags to fill, but rather it will disappear with me. Into the cloud.
That being said, when a different friend who is moving several states away posted a question to Facebook asking if she should take boxes of old journals with her or burn them, I didn't hesitate in commenting that I vote she keep them. I think it's important to keep the documentation of your becoming, I said. So maybe I'm more sentimental then I'd like to think.