Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Measure Of The Van

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.

11 comments:

Boff said...

Fear not RenterGirl! Worldly goods aren't everything. Focus on your friends, family, interests etc...
What we have doesn't nominate who we are.

tannage said...

I think there's a tendency to measure your life by what you own.. and by that measure it'll always be depressing because there's never "enough".

Having so little worldly possessions is in fact, a huge achievement and I applaud you for managing so well. I've lived out of a suitcase before and I don't think I managed half as well as you have.

the reaper said...

'Having so little worldly possessions is in fact, a huge achievement'

I agree wholeheartedly.We have a garage full of s*** that we wouldn't miss if we never had it again.

the reaper said...

and that includes some hideous IKEA cupboards that she bought with her ex.

The fact that they were cheap is no excuse.I ahte that shop.

Anonymous said...

I've lived for years out of a backpack when I was single and traveling from contract to contract. I've always thought people have it backwards:

You don't own things. Things own you. The more crap you have to worry about the less free you are to just get out and go enjoy your life.

RenterGirl said...

I know it can be liberating not to have hoarded and collected. I do neither, and it's easier. But there are some things I need, and like, such as my books. When you do live out of a suitcase, you do begin to wonder what's necessary. I know of people who keep their houses full of junk like old furniture and unworn clothes, just because they can't bare to let them go. And IKEA is over rated with regards to quality sometimes, Reaper, but the phrase 'her ex'. I'm sensing baggage in more ways than one...

the reaper said...

'You don't own things. Things own you. The more crap you have to worry about the less free you are to just get out and go enjoy your life.'
great post anon.use a handle then we know who you are.

RenterGirl said...

I know Reaper. I don't mind people choosing anonymity, but they could help by using a fake name.

Stewart said...

They say your junk expands to fill the available space, well I finally got around to BUYING a place 2 years ago. Before that I'd always rented but I do live in Japan so...
Naturally friends saw my 'big' house and volunteered to give me some furniture - probably cheaper than having the council cart it away - Japan doesn't allow you to take rubbish to the tip yourself. 5 years down the line (or whenever I decide to leave Japan) I'm going to have an awful problem - the last time I moved I needed a 4 ton truck, but that was 2 years ago. Shipping the whole lot to the UK costs £2000 but thats just moving the problem to another location. Perhaps I should ruthlessly rent a short-term place, move all my furniture and the stuff I "don't really need" and then disappear...?

RenterGirl said...

Can't you pay the council to collect it? Or did your friends give you decent stuff? You're right though: people accumulate enough stuff to fill their space. except for me. My house had emptiness, which was nice.

Stewart said...

I could get the council to take the stuff away, I guess. But I'm sure it'll prove necessary when it's gone. All those Japanese houses filled with empty spaces are only for the Home and Garden magazines and owned by people with more than one house. 99% of Japanese family homes are chock full of stuff.
One useful thing is in many parts of Japan, house prices have fallen continuously for over 10 years, otherwise I'd never been able to buy my house, even at a mortgage rate of 1.5%. UK prices have always seemed just out of reach.