The first was September 11. After the horrific events of that day I realized that what was most important to me wasn't career, but family. I was in New York at the time, my guy was working in the area, and those moments when I couldn't reach him were the worst of my life to that point. And while there was so much more that happened on that day - and so much worse to so many people - and I don't want to minimize any of that, to keep on point here I won't go off on that lengthy tangent.
But it was the first time in my life that I started to realize the true importance of the people and beings in my life over the need for success in career. I had been so focused on achieving career goals to that point that I never took time to embrace what might have been lost.
And so I started coming home earlier to my overstuffed apartment to play with my cat and spend time with my guy. I made an effort to connect with my parents by phone each week.
And it was then that I looked around at my environment and realized how unimportant all the stuff that filled my space was. Because if the world were to fall apart, there were only two things in that space that I would truly mourn losing. Not the stuff.
The next event that changed my outlook on life and stuff was the passing of my cat. It was unexpected and absolutely devastating. I'm not one of those people who see their pets as children, but she was such a bright light in my life and one of my very best friends.
After her passing, coming back to an empty apartment (my guy always worked later than I did) was just that - coming back to a 425 s.f. space filled with stuff. It was a box. A crowded, cluttered box. It wasn't home. She was home. My guy was home. The apartment was just a place. My stuff didn't make me smile when I walked in the door. My stuff didn't give me a reason to walk in the door in the first place.
I couldn't say hi to my stuff. My stuff didn't need me. Most of my stuff didn't even bring me joy at all.
The third event that put me on this path to less were pests. We'd been living in our apartment for a number of years and had all sorts of neighbors who perhaps weren't as diligent about keeping things clean. (I may have had clutter, but I was all about cleanliness.) It was New York City and while we were lucky enough (mostly) to avoid roaches, we were unfortunate enough to have (unknowingly) gotten carpet beetles thanks to some neighbor or other that brought them into the building.
I'd never even heard of these detestable creatures. But they became the bane of my existence over the next two years. Because we moved not realizing they'd hitched a ride on one piece of carpeted cat furniture we brought. And while our new space was 1,200 s.f. and barely filled, it made me paranoid that all the stuff I had from our old space was somehow compromised or could become compromised. Because carpet beetle larvae like things like fabric and paper and cardboard. And much of my cherished mementos were cardboard and paper and fabric.
It was this "tragic" event that made me realize that hanging onto stuff - even what I'd considered meaningful - was a burden. It was an emotional burden, a financial burden, and a physical one. I had to worry about my stuff. I had to maintain my stuff in a way that it wouldn't get damaged, destroyed, infested. I had to buy stuff to contain my stuff.
The final event that set me on this path was moving across the country. While I'd known from previous moves that possessions got whittled down, opting to drive across the country with only a small trailer tow with all your things meant something very different. Out went the bed, sofa, lounge chairs, unneeded kitchen supplies, oversized TV, dressers, bookcases, and on. We only kept a few easy-to-move pieces of furniture, household items, electronics, books, films, and clothes, and all remaining mementos that I couldn't part with.
And it was so freeing to have so little to worry about. Everything had been checked and packed and sealed carefully. There was no possibility of damage or breakage or bugs. It was nice heading off to a new future with my guy, two cats (yes there were now two) in tow, and very few belongings to stress over.
Being homeless (temporarily), jobless (temporarily), and without a clock to watch made me appreciate the simplicity of just living and being and experiencing. I would never go back to a life ruled by stuff.
I should never have said never. Fast forward to one year later..
To be continued...