I have spent a considerable amount of time, extremely intermittently, 'moving' over the past several months.
Due to a convergence of events which include traveling for work (I have spent 2+ months in five different cities on both coasts in the past 24 months!), my mother moving out of her house, and me moving out of my LA house-- I have been much encouraged to 'get rid of stuff.' And here begins the quandary.
I used to give my friend Adam a hard time because he was so good at getting rid of stuff, I sometimes wondered why the objects themselves didn't mean more to him. Letters, cards, photos, etc. It turns out I was reading him wrong. He is constantly streamlining his belongings and yet he holds onto and invests more in the friendships he maintains from growing up, etc. than anyone else I have ever met. Which seems like the important thing. And he gets photograph printed. Which is just way too rare and awesome.
Personally, I have a very hard time throwing things away. The sunflower Susanna left me in our shared locker at Boston Ballet in 1991? It's on top of the bookshelf in my bedroom in my mom's house. ...The set of pajamas I tried to sew in 1993. Every letter Nick Farrell wrote me between 1992 and 1998. Photos and drawings and collages and all those triangle-folded notes from high school. My typewriter. My old pointe shoes. The tulle I wanted to save for a costume. The other tulle. Every Vogue and Sassy magazine from 1992-1997. The endless christamas lights I must save for parties and shows... It just gets to be too much! And yet, how do you know what of get rid of and what to hold onto?
My sister and I used to mine the room my mother grew up in for clues and artifacts from when she was our age. We would delight in cryptic letters and take pictures in her old clothes. I am so grateful there was something left there for us to uncover.
I really enjoyed the 7 1/2 month period I spent living out of a suitcase last year, and I know that was largely a function of not carrying around so much baggage, both figuratively and literally. Now I live in a 5th floor walk-up and every time I'm about to acquire something I ask myself if I really want to carry it up all those stairs, and then carry it down again at some point in the not-too-far future. But I also feel so tied to the stuff that is sitting in boxes in my mom's house. It's not just that I want to have certain books around me, I want to have THOSE books, with the notes in the margins and the dog-eared pages. I want to be able to unravel tightly-wrapped notes and travel as if through a wormhole to my mind circa-1995. I want my daughter or grand-daughter to be able to slip on my old pointe shoes and feel where I stood.
I actually threw out Susanna's sunflower just recently; it had almost turned to dust, but I'm glad I saved it all these years. She got it for me when I was having a bad day and sometimes when that happens now I remember what she did, and I can see it there in the locker bursting with color and life, and it makes me feel better. If I had thrown it out as soon as it faded, I might not have remembered.
Full disclosure: It is a snowy day here in NYC and a sort of day-off before a very busy spell. I just listened to This American Life #199. It's called The House on Loon Lake and it's a really good one.