I recently read an article written by Adrian Chiles for the Guardian where he reflected on his belief that as a society, we have too much ‘stuff.’ I won’t lie to you, that article sent me spiralling. As I read Chiles’ reflections on how we, as people, have continued to stuff the planet full of things we don’t actually need – hello, random lockdown purchases – I realized how truly emotionally charged owning and buying things can be.
Two months ago, I moved to France, and in the two weeks before I moved, I had to narrow down all my worldly possessions to fit into my luggage – a 20kg suitcase and a rucksack. It was a lengthly, thought-provoking process as I struggled to whittle down twenty years’ worth of living to abide by the Ryanair baggage guidelines.
Since I’ve come to France, I’ve experienced weekly pangs of regret as I ponder the things that didn’t make the cut – my fluffy dressing gown, my Nutribullet blender, all seven of my Harry Potter books; the list goes on. I tearfully picture these beloved items collecting dust in my bedroom – that is, if my sister hasn’t stolen them for herself. With each visiting family or friend, I’ve made various requests for items to be reunited with. From my friends I requested my winter coat, (leave it to me to severely underestimate Autumn in the south of France.) From my boyfriend, my electric toothbrush charger. Now with my parents’ visiting, I’ve made requests for the newest Salley Rooney novel and a box of Barry’s tea – the core essentials.
Reading Chiles’ article made me realise just how obsessed with ‘stuff’ I really am. I have genuinely had tears come to my eyes as I thought of all the things I’ve left behind, feeling as though my whole life, as reflected in the objects adorning my bedroom, had all been abandoned.
When did my relationship to my possessions become such an emotional issue? Why am I getting weepy over the thought of not having my favourite throw blanket here with me?
Chiles points out in his article that it’s not uncommon for people to resort to storage facilities to store the sheer number of useless possessions they have racked up over time. This rings true to me. Despite my desire to be reunited with my ‘stuff,’ if I even attempt to bring any more things into my undeniably tiny French college apartment, my roommate and I will have quite the obstacle course to face in the mornings as we try make our way through to the kitchen.
So, for now, I will try to be a bit more critical when compiling my list of ‘necessities.’ It’s safe to say I’m living in luxury now, compared to the first few days in my new apartment, when I slept with a towel as a pillow, without even a duvet to my name. In the future, I will try and adopt Chiles’ philosophy and, in an attempt to live more simply, figure out which are the truly essential things and which are the disposable dust collectors. I’m pretty sure about which category that box of Barry’s tea belongs to, though.