The Importance of Stuff

For the better part of the last 6 years, I’ve owned very little. I’ve moved a few times, and realized fairly quickly that I didn’t need, or even want, a lot of the things I owned up to that point. I spent most of my high school and college years obsessed with books. I love to read, but I’d put myself more in the book collector category during that time. When I moved into my freshman dorm, I’m not kidding, my desk was piled high with nothing but books. When moving time came though, I realize that it’s expensive to ship, and they charge by weight, and books are really fucking heavy. I culled most of the collection and hung onto just a few special ones.

I’ve maintained this practice of culling my possessions over the years. Most of the time, it is out of necessity. I have a small box that I call my Memories Box, where I keep little mementos that I know I’ll want to keep forever. This fits neatly inside of the larger Future Home Things bin that I’ve mentioned before. But for the most part, all of my worldly belongings fit into 2 suitcases, a backpack, and 3 plastic bins.

Modernity and minimalism preach to us that we need less and material items can’t hold a candle to experiences. My behavior over the years would definitely back that up, but over the last few months, I’ve had somewhat of a different realization. I think things are actually kind of important. What about when material items remind you of experiences? You ever hear someone lose, or ruin, a piece of clothing, only to hear someone else say “oh it’s fine, it’s just a _____”? I’ve been that person, you’ve probably been that person, and sometimes it is just a shirt or a hat, but what about when it’s not? At the end of the day most items are replaceable, but some are priceless.

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.

Rumi

Let me put this on the record: I absolutely despise Ryan Adams. This distaste existed well before I knew he was a pervert, but that’s another story. I don’t just not like his music, I actually kind of detest it. After Chris died, I received his Ryan Adams shirt, the one in this picture. It has seen some serious wear, as most of the red ink is now faded to a light shade of pink. It is one of my most treasured possessions. I’ve worn it across the world, and slept in it many a night. It has traveled everywhere with me these last 4 months. I’m even willing to allow the world to think I made this t-shirt choice because I’m some diehard Ryan Adams fan. His smell isn’t on it anymore, but it just feels right to have it on, and to have it near, wherever I go. If something happened to this shirt, I would absolutely lose my shit.

Fortunately it’s a bit hard to read at first glance

I recall back in high school when my brother had rented The Devil Wears Prada and made me watch it with him literally 100 times. It’s a fun movie, but there’s a scene where Stanley Tucci’s character scoffs at Anne Hathaway’s blasΓ© attitude towards fashion, and speaking of famous fashion designers, says “what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it.” That quote still rings in my mind when I think about clothes.

Clothes are often not just clothes, much as we’d like to think so. Think about the things you own. If a historian 100 years from now wanted to know about people today, and you specifically, they could probably gather a lot about you and your personality based on the items in your closet. Think about your t-shirt collection. Why do you own those specific t-shirts? Even if you don’t think they’re specific, even if you only have a collection of solids, why solids and not graphic tees? Maybe wonder why you hold onto that t-shirt from your trip to New Orleans in 2002? Why did you buy that cowboy hat over the sunhat? Hell, why don’t you own any hats at all? Whether you like it or not, you’re making a statement about yourself when you get dressed every morning.

Back when this shirt was more legible

The sunglasses he’s wearing in this photo were a gift I gave him the last time we saw each other. We had been wandering around one day and went into a sunglasses store. We were bopping around the shop and he tried on those Ray Bans and fell in love with them, but it was towards the end of his trip and he was like “I’ve spent all my money already ugh.” So later in the day, when he was at home, I told him I had to run an errand and I’d be right back. I drove to that store and bought the glasses.

The next morning, I sat on the edge of the bed and handed him the bag. I told him that for everything he had done for me, this little gift was the least I could give him. I remember the surprised look on his face, and then he started to cry. I was surprised, as it was the first time I’d ever seen him cry. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could have been more emotionally available in that moment. He gave me the usual “you shouldn’t have”s, but he was so happy, and my heart swelled that I could do something nice for him, something little that made him actually cry. For many years after that, I saw him rocking those glasses. He looked so swank in them. Every time I see them in a photo of him, I remember that moment.

Think about that, the next time you flippantly dispose of clothing or your personal items. I guess you can think of the Marie Kondo method, of keeping things that spark joy, but the next time you’re near someone you love, look at their clothes. Remember that that piece of fabric has been on their body, soaked up their sweat, rested on their skin, absorbed pieces of them. Walk into that closet and hug all of their shirts collectively and breathe it in and know that even when they’re not there, their things are, and that means something too.

Things can be just clutter, and I’m not saying you should hoard everything someone has ever owned because you love them. But things can also be talismans, things you put faith and love into. They can be relics of the past, reminding you of a special point in time. I’m finally at a point in my life where I’d like to not shove all of those special things in a tiny box. I’d like for them to have a place to live, a real place, in my life. I don’t know what happened to those sunglasses of his, but I trust they are in good hands. His shirt certainly is. As for the Memories Box, I think it’s time I dusted it off and cracked it open to see what needs to get some fresh air.

Happy trails x

Sam

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