I’m sitting on my sofa, staring at the 24 boxes and bags that are scheduled to be picked up for charity tomorrow. The three towers of brown boxes practically reach my head as I stand next to them! I touch them gently and feel the soft texture of the cardboard under my hands. I mentally prepare myself for the moment tomorrow when I will have to say goodbye to all of this. There is nothing in these boxes that I will miss. There is nothing in these boxes that I can’t replace some day down the line. But I can’t help but feel a sense of overwhelming sadness and fatigue as I ponder the idea that I am giving away a piece of my life tomorrow.
The concept started off easy enough. I leave in about a month and a half to travel the world and I have no idea when I am returning. I had a whole apartment filled with furniture, electronics, and possessions and I needed to get rid of almost everything. Nothing was of high quality, with the exception of a few items. The plan was to sell the larger items and give the rest to charity. No regrets. Well, all I have to say is easier said than done!
I realized as I started to pack things up and try to give them away that this wasn’t just about getting rid of what I owned. This was a symbolic ending to a major part of my life. You see, I moved out on my own 6 years ago with my ex and we had purchased almost everything together. Nothing was particularly expensive but many hours and trips to Ikea were spent finding the furniture that would work for us. It was all ours and not just mine. The furniture, the plates, the glasses, the bedding, the curtains – it was all for a life that we were planning on living together. He and I both had traditional plans in mind: marriage, kids, and our careers. Unfortunately, these didn’t happen the way that they were supposed to. Because of complicated circumstances I ended up with everything after we split three years ago.
And now, everything must go. How do I put a price on these things? I look at my light brown kitchen table and I think of all the meals we ate together on it. I think of the board game parties that we had. It was the place where I sat and told him that it was over, and where I cried when I realized that my life would never be the same. I look at my worn-in blue couch and think of all the nights I spent curled up on it, watching the snow fall outside of my living room window. I think of laying on it and being held by people that I’ve loved. I look at my tall dresser that I’ve had since I was 9. I remember the time I put my poor cat in one of the drawers, went to school and forgot about her – poor cat (and she only had one eye to begin with – what a trooper)! And I think of my bed…fond memories of curling up under the covers on a cold morning. I remember loving those moments in the morning when I was awake but not ready to get up…relaxing in the softness of my pillows and just enjoying the brief sensation of simplicity in life. How can I possibly come up with an amount in exchange for these moments in my life? A hundred dollars? Fifty dollars? Half of what I initially paid? Regardless, charging any money would be cheating people because they will never know my things as I have known them. I wonder – can inanimate objects possess an imprint of the experiences they witnessed?
I’ve put some furniture online (Craig’s List, Ebay Classifieds, Facebook) but haven’t had much of a response. This left me with a period of feeling put off for awhile. Why wouldn’t people want these things that are a part of me? I realize now that money isn’t what’s going to help me get through this change in my life. I just need to know that these possessions of mine will be put to a good place. That these things I’ve earned through years of hard work will be enjoyed and valued by others. I can’t move on in my life until these things are gone.
So I went online and researched possible places to donate too. Unfortunately, I live in a town away from everything and so the Salvation Army was not willing to come out and see me. Then I found the United War Vets Council Charity. They were willing to come to my house and pick up most small items (but unfortunately no furniture).
It’s taken me a good solid week to go through it all. Every day I would teach, then come home and pack for a few hours. I would start to think of friends that would want certain items. The thought of my things being thrown away was just too much for me to handle. For the first few days I was a packing beast. It was almost a game to see how much I could really get rid of. Now that it’s winding down I feel the lids of the boxes closing over a significant part of my life.
Now, as I gaze at my tall boxes containing my cutlery, Christmas decorations, towels, blankets, clothes, glasses, plates, VHS tapes, and wall art I feel the tiredness of the whole ordeal sinking in. As I scrambled to pack these things I didn’t allow myself the time to let this all sink in. Now that I have, I can’t help but question myself. Was quitting my job the greatest idea? Is going off into the world on a whim, with no real plan the right decision? But as I tiredly turn away from my things I remember that it is too late to turn back. The ball is already in motion and I have no regrets. I guess it’s okay to have moments of fear.
Of course, I still have lots of furniture to go. But slowly I have had friends offer to take some off of my hands, some even willing to pay a bit. The kindness that they are showing truly fills my heart. I figure that I will be making another charity drop off eventually, but I know that it will not be as significant as this first act.
I thought that my trip and adventure would start the day I boarded the plane from JFK to Dublin, but I was very wrong. My journey will truly begin the day I shut the door of my empty apartment for the last time.