My Life on the Floor

Staring down at all my possessions, it’s easy to become judgmental. Too much. I have too much stuff.

It’s not ownership anorexia, it’s more a panicky feeling that I can’t carry everything I own with me in one armload. How am I going to travel stress-free with all this junk? How the hell did I accumulate it in the first place? The room’s a mess. Everything pulled from the closets and bathroom and drawers of my desk. Everything I own laid out in a grid, staring back at me like foot soldiers on parade, intent on destroying my sense of independence and mobility.

I start packing and it’s not long before I’m back in a comfortable space. This goes here, that goes there. These can be rolled and stored because I won’t be using them for a long while, but these need to be put in a small bag, added to my carry-on, kept close at hand so I can pull them out quickly when necessary without disturbing the Tetris-like internals of my packing setup. Things disappear into bags and the panic subsides. It all fits, more or less, and I can carry most of it without any trouble. The necessary stuff.

But there’s other stuff. Bed sheets and blankets. A fan, a heater. The desk and bed are on their way out, so they don’t count, but does the chair? Does the second camera I’ve only just realized I never use? These are things that will need to be given away or sold. Things I’ll need to emotionally disconnect from so that when I hand them off I don’t feel the strain of loss. The pain of anti-accumulation that, even after all these years, is still strangely painful. It’s uncomfortable to own, but can be even more so to discard. I’ll get over it.

My life is on the floor, and for the next month, so am I. Sleeping in the living room of a house that isn’t mine, on an air mattress that is (at least until I leave Montana in a month, when it, too, will be handed off to another owner). My stuff is just kind of there. Like me. A life that I’ve become accustomed enough to that returning to it is barely noticeable. Like visiting to a childhood hometown: at the same time unfamiliar and comfortingly predictable.

Update: April 9, 2017

I’ve had some weird in between periods like this one described here, where my rental period ends, but I’m still in the country for another months, or an opportunity arises so I need to stay in a given city for something like two weeks: just enough time that staying at a hotel is awkward, but so is accepting someone’s invite to sleep on a couch or spare bed.

You get used to fitting into those awkward spots in both space and time, but it’s still bizarre sometimes. And it forces you to always be a little bit aware of how much space you’re taking up.