The last few days, I’ve been clearing out my old Brooklyn apartment to make more space for our friend who has been subletting it since I moved to Santa Cruz five years ago. Rent went up, his girlfriend moved in, and so the time came for my stuff I’d been storing there to go. When I first went to Santa Cruz, not knowing if it would be a permanent move, I brought a few suitcases and shipped a handful of boxes. The majority of my belongings — books and journals, clothes (When did I think it was a good idea to wear that?) and all kinds of miscellaneous items — think pug paperweights and costume jewelry — were still living in Brooklyn. A wall of boxes thoughtfully pre-packed by our friend awaited our arrival for the sorting. In two days, we had to decide what to get rid of and what to ship. I decided to get rid of most things and it felt SO GOOD. After five years away, looking back on all the belongings that spoke to who I was in my twenties and early thirties, I was able to reflect on the past and how much I’ve changed, how much things have changed.
The great part of it all was that as someone who has had a tendency to hold on to stuff, be attached to the story I thought it would tell me about myself, I was able to throw things away easily for the first time in my life. I moved around a lot growing up, so I relied on notes, notebooks, cards, photos, and random items to remind me of who I was and where I’d been, who I’d loved and been friends with, who had loved and befriended me. For the first time, I was able to part with a lot of those things, items I’d had for years: a card an ex had written to another woman on a vacation he’d taken with me, that I stole from his apartment after one of our many breakups. I’d stolen it as a reminder that he cheated, a reminder to myself to stop trying to go back to that relationship (reader, I married him – no surprise, it didn’t work out). High school yearbooks and pictures with people I’d long fallen out of touch with. Notebooks where I recorded pre-smartphone, pre-Internet, even, schedules, thoughts, and ideas. Photos and love notes from past relationships. Lists of writing goals and letters from graduate school critiquing my manuscripts. All these and more were the kinds of things I held on to, that I needed to hold on to.
Some things ended up on the sidewalk with a FREE sign. One couple who stopped by to browse and take books said they knew I worked in media/entertainment based on the books I owned (David Rensin’s THE MAILROOM: Hollywood History From the Bottom Up was on top of the giveaway pile) and that my name was Liza (some letters from book review editors I wrote for, etc, inside some books) and I owned a pug (pug paraphernalia). We talked about the surreality of being able to read someone’s identity from a pile of stuff they left outside.
We dropped a few things off around the neighborhood — a little dish collection to the Thai restaurant downstairs, books to various dropoff points, some clothes into a donation bin at the laudromat. Leaving little gifts around to be discovered or found, hopefully used.
Today, tonight, and this morning (the ridding went on until after midnight) I parted with them more easily than I ever could have imagined.