Debra Swersky
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My Stuff

The day after I got back from Rwanda the movers came to “Cloud 9” (the nickname for my apartment) and packed up / carted away all of our stuff. I went from “life in a suitcase” to… “cleaner life in a suitcase.” This time around in packing I avoided the khaki pants, the dri-fit shirts, and my professional, I-am-in-Africa shoes and opted for colored jeans, my favorite shirts, and the basics.

As I went about my daily routine this past week, still living on Cloud 9, without all of my stuff I realized that my life is remarkably unchanged. Aside from sleeping on an air mattress and eating off of paper plates, everything that I do on a day-by-day basis is the same, what’s missing is the “stuff” that fills my apartment: furniture, extra clothes, paintings, etc. What’s now bothering me is:

If I can live for a week without wanting to access the stuff that is no longer in my apartment, why am I even wasting time transporting it to Dallas? 

Of course, I still have one more week left to go on Cloud 9 without my stuff, but I’m much more aware of the items that I access and the items that I would like to access. Trust me, it’s not many. 

I’ve shared this concern with a few people this past week as they’ve asked me how I have been coping without all of my possessions and a couple people have asked me, “Well, what is one thing that you have in a box, that you wouldn’t access everyday, but that you would want to save?” I didn’t necessarily struggle to come up with an answer to the question (answer: the signed ballet slippers that my friend in Spain gave to me when I studied there), but my answer did raise two other thoughts:

  1. Now that I’m saving the item, what am I going to do with it?
  2. Now that I’m saving the item, do I need to hang onto the other stuff that I saved with it? 

My answer to the first question is, display it somewhere meaningful. My answer to the second question is, no… probably not. It’s the singular item that will trigger the memory, and remind me of the date/time/stories.

Coming back from Rwanda and seeing Cloud 9 in its current physically empty state reminds me of the houses that I saw in our little neighborhood (made out of mud bricks) in the Southern Province and the people that lived in those houses. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to look inside those houses, but I’m relatively confident that they resemble how Cloud 9 does today. What they likely had were items that were used daily and not much else… none of those “I forgot about those boots” or “what were you saving that old camera for” or “you’re never going to read that book again.” 

Here’s what I imagine… I imagine that the inhabitants of those houses have everything that they need and that whatever items they have that they don’t need regularly, they love. And, if all they have are the items that they need, then I imagine that they are surrounding themselves with people that they love. And that’s a beautiful thing. 

I’ll remember those people when I’m unpacking all of my stuff… and by unpacking, I mean clearing out (a lot of) my stuff.  

Debra Swersky