Recently, when in between homes once again, I kept my worldly goods in storage for months. My entire life, all my memories, dreams and baggage was dormant in some distant warehouse.
With everything safely out of reach, it’s odd what you begin to miss. Clothes stashed safely in bin bags suddenly become essential. For months at a time, I hauled everything around in one bag (okay – it was a very large bag.) Briefly, I was tempted to jettison everything and start all over again.
When you know you’re moving around and won’t be needing that sack of winter woollies for a summer by the seaside, or your flimsy skimpies in the wintry north, it’s nice to know that they are under lock and key, and won’t be ‘borrowed’, or go mouldy with neglect. But it was strange not to have them lying around.
I own nothing of value. In fact I don’t own much at all. Oddly, it wasn’t the clothes I pined for, but random items, like books, and my collection of cheap green glassware, everyday things that I wanted to have around me for some semblance or normality. I felt as if my entire existence was borrowed, and I had to ask permission for everything. I began to miss random treasured possessions, like a large white bowl, perfect for greedy amounts of soup.
That was my introduction to the crazy world of storage centres. These vast warehouses safeguard household belongings, as people hover between house moves, or downsize. Storage centres are modern phenomena, created by the insecure nature of tenancies, and decreasing living space coupled with increasing acquisitiveness. When booking your space in one of these storage units, you must predict how many square foot you will require. I’d never thought about my life in those terms before. When I saw my tiny cupboard, I despaired. Is this the sum of my life? Is that all there is? And how would I fit everything in? (I was even more demoralised when it did).
I’ve always prided myself on not hoarding piles of stuff, in regularly discarding tat, and never collecting things. I am ruthless about the books, and music I keep. I never bought a video or DVD player because to do so would lead me along the evil path of assembling a film library (i.e. more stuff) which I will eventually wind up lugging upstairs at some point.
The thing is, after months with my life on hold, and with everything condensed into one bag, I began to wonder if I needed all that stuff waiting for me in some far-off warehouse. Should I keep it at all, when I’ve managed so well without it, especially when I love throwing things out? The idea of banishing everything to a charity shop, or a wild defenestration extravaganza to entertain bemused locals grew more tempting every day.
Once upon a time my worldly goods could fit into a small car. Then it was a large hatchback, albeit with plants, and blinds hanging out of the window. Soon, everything covered the floor of a small van. These days I own some furniture, so it’s a large transit. My entire life measured out in van sizes. How depressing.