I am touching all my stuff. I have a lot of stuff. I have so much stuff I feel guilty. Some of it is not worth touching. Most of it is not worth keeping. But I am touching it and keeping it. I feel guilty so I am talking about it. People give me boxes to put my stuff in. I feel virtuous when my stuff is all in boxes. I can't use any of it in my daily life that way though. For instance I won't know where my spatula is when it comes time to make pancakes. I am moving to a better place. I wish I could be bringing all better stuff but I will be bringing other peoples' boxes full of my same old stuff.
I can't help but draw psychological parallels or be feng shui'ed into thinking about this on a deeper level. The fact that I have had bronchitis since Aug. 6 and am congested and bringing stuff up (sorry) does not escape the metaphor of all the congestion and old stuff that is clogging my house. I wish I could just get it into boxes or out of my life forever. I wish I could just cough up all the dumb things I have done or weird ways I am and put it in a box and tape it shut tight. I wish somehow that I could pack all my troubles in an old kit bag and smile smile smile (as the old song goes). But I have a lot of stuff. I've done a lot of stuff. I've been too afraid to do a lot of stuff. So I am stuck with a lot of stuff.
I think I am a hoarder. I love the thrill of matching a toy leg that was lost under a chair for 3 years to the amputee who has been ridiculed by her Barbie peers for 3 years. I love the thrill of using something someone else would have thrown away years ago. I have a problem. I like to hold on to stuff and I don't like to lose stuff. I saw this on both Dr. Phil and Oprah so it must be true. I went on both websites and then for extra credit googled in "Obsessive hoarding disorder" and spent hours of valuable throwing into boxes time looking for what box to put myself in. It made me feel good to know I had an illness. (Re-read that sentence with the mind of a 7 year old to see how messed up that is). After I got over the relief of being absolved of blame for being a stuffer, then I was looking for a step by step way to make myself stop being this way. In the end I had to formulate my own plan to battle this crippling disease. 1) admit I am a hoarder 2) Stop Hoarding 3) Suck it up when after throwing stuff away I feel bad that it is gone 4) Don't look back and wish I still had what I threw away when that inevitable day comes that I find that I did in fact need that black flappy thing that attaches to the round part 5) realize that I still have way too much stuff and did not get rid of enough stuff then rinse and repeat.
I wanted a box to put myself in because it would have made me feel better about being myself. I think that when people do their spiritual/mental packing they start out realizing they want to go to a better place. So they look around at all their "stuff" all over the old place and feel guilty and uncomfortable enough to find someone to talk to about it. There are lots of people eager to give people boxes to put their stuff in. Their stuff seems to fit that box so they put their stuff in there and put the label that best describes them on that box. Unfortunately, some people stop there.
If I find I am a compulsive Stuff-a-holic, or a gifted Stuffer or suffer from Stuff-osis it is comforting to know I am not alone. I can read all the stuff about all the stuffers and find comfort in knowing that if others are the same and I do not judge them, maybe I am not as shameful as I thought. Feeling as though my stuffing is a public menace (because psychological stuff can be inconvenient and ineffective) I might share with others the reason I am stuffy as a public service gesture to warn them. Often times I might find grace. Sharing it beats stuffing it in other words. It also beats working hard to integrate your stuffiness into your life and using it to better the world around you. That was harsh and terse. I don't mean that in a shaming sense. After all this is my stuff we are talking about here. You have your own stuff to worry about. I think that a box can make you feel neat and tidy. The label on the box can give you closure about what is in the box. Then when people come into your life you can tell them what you are right at the get go (this can be used to make yourself sound good or excuse yourself for being bad). When you have a box, you pretty much have a label for everything and a place to put everything. "A place for everything and everything in its place", "cleanliness is next to godliness" neither of these verses are in the Bible, by the way, unless they are covered under the verse "lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil".
I can not live in boxes. I tried it once. The apartment complex I lived in had decided to remodel my unit to accommodate the handicapped and they packed everything for me while I was taking care of my toddler and finishing up the last semester of my degree. It was only short term as I was moving back in a month so I just left everything in boxes. As a break from studying for finals and as a guilt offering for my son, I decided to make pancakes. I had everything I needed to make them except the spatula. That was in one of the many towers of boxes that were covered in one word labels. I had a half a dozen or more boxes labeled "kitchen" but they were hiding somewhere in the sea of other boxes and other labels. To make it worse, when the packers came the house was not clean so my pillow was in a box marked "misc" along with bathroom supplies. After more than an hour or two I just sat down and cried and cried over not having a spatula to flip my son's pancakes with (though I did finally find my pillow and my toilet bowl brush).
I don't think you can move freely about when you live with boxes. I think when your stuff is in a box, no label can accurately portray everything in that box. I think when your stuff is in a box you can not readily access something if you are wanting to use the thing from that box in a creative way. Like say I was looking for a pitcher to dump water in the tub while cleaning it (this is hypothetical of course, I never clean my tub that's why I married my maid. You've heard of "marry maids" haven't you?) Would I look for that pitcher in the box marked "kitchen" or "bathroom"? Or if I got it out of the "kitchen" box would it be ok to use it in the bathroom or even in the yard or at the beach for sand castles? Of course it is easy to get around this metaphor but when you are talking complex human brains it is not so easy. Let's say I want to join the stuff club meeting. That I could do, I am a stuffer. Let's say I want to run in the "less is more" olympics, well no way; that is not consistent with what my box says. Let's say I meet someone who is suffering from stuffing, well I have an instant bond. What if I find out later that that stuffer is throwing things away, does that threaten my bond? What if I find out that all stuffers die of some really bad thing, then I live in fear. What if I find that all stuffers are genetically superior to pitchers (not the kind being used to clean the tub this time)? Well I think we can see where that gets us. Bad stuff happens when you start putting people into boxes, or box cars as the example I am thinking of led to.
We need boxes. They help us move to a better place. We just need to unpack them and integrate them into our life. If we have people over in our new place and there is no where to be without stumbling over an old box then they won't have any place to sit and get comfortable with us. If there is always a box around our most precious belongings, our guests will never be able to see through the box to know us. We are all different and have different things to explore in our homes and in our hearts, the box gets in the way of that no matter how much we like the tidy symmetry and the concise labels.
In the end we can't take our stuff with us. It seems to me that the point of life is not to corral your stuff into boxes but is instead to have it all out there in the open but useful and available for others to share, borrow or learn from. We are all weird. Face it. In fact, the ways someone is weird is what we miss most when someone dies. Weird is funny. Weird is real. Real is human. Humans are loveably weird. When life is done, I think that we will not score any points (if there turn out to be points to be scored) by how we organized all our stuff into neat little boxes but instead by how many pancakes we flipped and who they served.
(Does this excuse me from packing tonight?)