Two years ago, my house was robbed. They took my laptop, a couple of digital cameras, and a whole bunch of jewelry. I've replaced everything that could be replaced and long since finished mourning for the things that couldn't. It was annoying, yes, but no one was in the house at the time, and, as my brother said to me when I told him, it was bound to happen living in DC.
I've been thinking about that time as I'm working on getting rid of most of my stuff before the move. I like to think that I don't have that much stuff, and that I can get rid of it easily. I'm not interested in taking my furniture, and my kitchen stuff isn't worth the box I would pack it in. I spend hours fantasizing about dumping it all and starting from scratch on the other end. But there's an awful lot of stuff that I can't get rid of.
I have souvenirs from my trip to Italy, and a box of stuff from my work covering the 2008 presidential campaign. I have silly little gifts that my mother sent me over the years and a floppy stuffed dog that my best friend brought me when I was in the hospital in High School. I could never get rid of those things.
But there's also notebooks from undergrad, and a box of Christmas decorations that haven't seen the light of day since 2006. And original boxes for EVERYTHING (thanks Dad). And I can't seem to get rid of these things either.
Lately, there's been a lot of news coverage of "hoarding" as a disease. The Washington Post magazine devoted a whole weekend to uncovering the roots of one reporter's problem. And just flip on TLC and you'll see show after show of people drowning in their stuff. Some of it meaningful, some of it pure trash. But what about those of us who keep neat, orderly houses, with hidden stashes of stuff in closets and under the bed? What about those of us who don't necessarily hoard things, but don't live lives of total austerity either?
What is my irrational attachment to those college notebooks? What are the chances that I will ever need to look back on my notes from "Foundations of American Political Thought"? (Sorry Prof. Kersh). Why can't I get rid of some of the silly little things that my mother sent me, and keep only the ones that I really like or have special meaning?
In the end, practicality will rule the day. It all has to fit in the back of my Subaru wagon. And if it doesn't, then it may have to find a new home with someone who can appreciate it and not hide it all under the bed. If it was all gone tomorrow, what things would I miss? Probably not very much of it. After all, it's just stuff.