The Psychological Consequences of Moving

I spent most of my waking hours yesterday packing up my dorm, a process which left me hungry, tired, and rather nihilistic. By the end of the day I had two boxes full of things to donate to Goodwill, but I was screaming to just get rid of it all. I’ve developed a bad habit of throwing unwanted objects in a drawer and forgetting about them or holding on to a pair of shoes I’ve never worn solely because they’re my only pair of dressy brown sandals. Yesterday I finally realized — all those times I claimed to be a non-materialistic person, someone who doesn’t associate much meaning with objects, someone who could travel the world with only a backpack of belongings, I lied.

I didn’t think I was lying at the time; I genuinely believed I was that person, but now I know I’m not. I have more clothes than could fit into a single large suitcase yet every morning I feel as if I have nothing to wear. I’m antsy all day if I don’t get the chance to wash, blow dry, and straighten my hair, and don’t even get me started on my excessively large collection of coffee mugs. I’d be lost without my guitar and my laptop and I definitely couldn’t survive without a make-up mirror. How did I become this person?

This pack rat habit of mine can be traced to my childhood when I would hoard stuffed animals like mad. My mom eventually tired of it and boxed up all but ten, and if I ever wanted one in storage I had to choose another to swap with it. I still have a box full of stuffed animals in the attic back home that have too much sentimental meaning for me to part with.

Why do I stockpile all of this stuff? It generally makes me unhappy when I have to sort through it, and if I put it in a box in my closet I’ll probably never take it out again. I’m wondering if I should just start dating things with the last time I used them, and if I don’t use an object in over six months I toss it. It blows my mind that there’s a whole industry devoted to holding people’s things so they don’t have to look at them. Storage units can get pretty pricey if you want A/C, and they can be found everywhere, especially in a college town. I’m getting one myself to hold all the things I won’t need over the summer but are essential to dorm life.

I guess I can understand my own attachment to things. Things are relatively reliable, unlike many people. That’s part of the reason I’m so hesitant to give personalized gifts to my romantic interests, because who wants the guilt of deciding to toss out or hold on to a pair of underwear that says “Property of Loryn” long after the relationship has ended? (Not as if I would ever do such a tacky thing, but you get my point.) It’s sad, but sometimes things last longer than relationships, or even friendships. There’s a commonplace floating around Facebook (I think it’s from a commercial) that claims bras are like good friends: supportive, hard to find, etc. which gives me hope about the materialistic values our society upholds. Sometimes I think our society is becoming too commercial, but if a company is comparing their product to a good friend, we must still be alright.

I know I won’t ever go so far as to choose possession of an object over a friendship, but the things I hold onto do weigh me down. This morning, I took my boxes full of Tupperware, kitchen items, shoes, and clothing to Goodwill and left them with a bored young man at the drop off doors. I felt so free I rolled my windows down and blared the radio all the way home. Sure, it’s great to know someone else will benefit from my unused things, but really, the best part of dropping off that box was simply knowing those things were out of my hands and couldn’t anchor me down anymore.

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