I am never, not ever, satisfied with my apartment. And even tonight I sit pondering about whether to move this shelf or that plant—if I angle my couch diagonally maybe finally it will feel right. I’ve been looking for that right feeling for about two years,
… as though there is some perfect combination of furniture and household items that will make everything okay,
as though there is some perfect combination of furniture and household items that will make everything okay, if only I could just figure out what it was. Maybe with enough experimenting I will happen upon this magical configuration and then I can finally be at peace. I am a restless soul in this apartment, with my constant rearranging, and though I feel like Sisyphus laboriously rolling my rock uphill, I continue to do it week after week. And, like Sisyphus, I know somewhere (not so) deep in my psyche that my labors are equally as futile.
My apartment has grown to mythical proportions
My apartment has grown to mythical proportions, taking on far more meaning than a dwelling ever should. Because my apartment—just as my bedroom was when I lived with roommates and earlier as a child with my parents—is the physical manifestation, a metaphor if you will, for my mind. In times of distress it falls into chaos, my stuff strewn across floor and furniture abandoned until I should need it again, at which point I panic because I can’t find it anymore. It fluctuates between this condition and a very infrequent state of immaculate cleanliness in which I go mad and binge on cleaning, folding, sweeping, vacuuming, organizing. I want to take control of my apartment the way I want to take control of my mind; with an iron fist and absolute discipline.I WILL get my shit together.
I WILL get my shit together.
And this rigid cleanliness is really just a blank slate on which to pile more of my chaos; the neatness and the cleanliness is not sustainable because one day soon—tomorrow, in fact—I won’t feel like doing the dishes or folding my laundry and ergo it will not get done. And chaos will ensue.
The rearranging is ineffectual; I won’t like it in a week. I always do (not).
But I believe that I am on my last few rounds of rearranging and binging, of acting on feelings only of dissatisfaction to elicit change, because I’ve started to figure out that the reason I couldn’t keep things in a decent state of order is because I have too much stuff.
I mean, I love stuff like I love beer…
I mean, I love stuff like I love beer… but (as with beer) just because I love it doesn’t mean it’s good for me. About a year ago I came across the idea of minimalism as a lifestyle and it really struck me that living with less didn’t mean living less. And if I wanted to be able to actually live in my apartment without constantly thinking about what needs to go where, and when it needs cleaning, et cetera, et cetera, I needed to let go of a lot of my stuff—the things that weren’t serving me anymore, some that never had.
Some of the things I had were décor items, unextraordinary but cute, and if properly utilized could look very nice. I collected these items for years, snagging them up at garage sales, TJ Maxx, the clearance section at Target. And I bought them on the premise that I might need them some day, and because I was poor the only way I would ever have nice things is if I bought them NOW, while they were on clearance. It’s the same way I’ve gained sixty pounds since graduating; I spent so long fearing that if I didn’t eat the free burrito and eat it now, I might never have another opportunity to eat a delicious burrito again… it’s the survivor/hoarder in me.
At some unknown point in my youth I was imbued with this uncertainty and fear that tomorrow I might lose everything so I’d better hang on all the tighter today.
So I kept all those knick knacks, ill-fitting but conceptually cute T-shirts, the vases, and so on and so forth
…pining for what a younger me dreamed might have been.
pining for what a younger me dreamed might have been. Letting go of those items was letting go of my dreams, because I finally realized that this is where I live and I can’t make the best of it with memories of clearance sales past, nor can I change it to be what I once dreamt it might be. Reality acceptance. Tough stuff.
Other items I had just in case, again fearing that tomorrow I may never find another tube of toothpaste although I haven’t used this one in months because I don’t like the way it tastes. Nope. GONE.
Over the past year I have eliminated about half of my stuff and there’s more to go.
In short sprint bursts I have taken five or six trash bags of stuff out of my apartment and brought them to Goodwill in one go. Four or five 66-quart tubs have left me, in addition to the two sitting in my hallway waiting to be delivered (stuff deliverance). And there’s more to go. My apartment is no longer bursting, but I am unconvinced that everything I possess I still find to be either functional or beautiful. My litmus test for whether it stays or it goes is this: Is it truly useful to me? Does it bring me joy?
If it does neither it will be gone from my life, and soon.
This, however, still does not address my unhealthy obsession with rearranging, but it helps to have less stuff to rearrange, less clutter, more clarity. At some point I will have to accept that my apartment is the way it is and if I want that to change I will have to move. And that’s where the metaphor ends. My dissatisfaction with the biggest thing in my life will be revealed as dissatisfaction of my life. And this cannot be so easily fixed with a move.
At some point I will have to leave the familiar demesnes of my apartment…
At some point I will have to leave the familiar demesnes of my apartment—the place in which and on which I have been fixated for years, now—and go interact with the real world. I am almost certain that the day when I finally feel satisfied with the way my apartment looks will be the same day that I—having healed enough from many, many wounds—will be ready to go out and face the world again, to throw myself into the thick of it, and to truly start living… this time on my own terms.