Stuff roots us to one place. It can also bring comfort when we are trying to settle in a new place.
When I was packing up my apartment in Florida before moving to South America, I was surprised and mildly disgusted with myself for having so much stuff. A crock pot my mother had given me in hopes of sparking my interest in cooking. Purses I rarely used but didn’t give away. Books about journalism that I was required to read in college, but were only collecting dust on my bookshelf.
Let’s be clear, I am not a pack rat. Nor am I particularly materialistic. In fact, I think I throw or give away a lot more than the average person. I hate clutter and I value experiences over tangibles. But when I was sitting on the floor of my 1-bedroom apartment, preparing to make such a momentous change, I couldn’t help but feel burdened by all my possessions.
I entered Colombia with one over-sized duffle bag, a backpack and absolutely no plan or job prospects. And while no longer having a meticulous plan for my future made me want to throw up, the notion that my life could now fit into two bags made it seem like anything was possible.
I didn’t need to rent a moving truck again. I didn’t need to strike deals with my friends to help empty my apartment. If you can move this couch out of here, you can have it. I only had two bags. I was unencumbered. I was free.
I’ve been renting a furnished room from a Colombian family in Bogotá for two months now. The longer I live here, the more conflicted I become when it comes to accumulating stuff. On the one hand, it’s nice to now have an umbrella so I don’t get drenched walking to the bus stop and a few new professional outfits to wear to work. On the other hand, I know the more possessions I acquire, the more difficult it is to be mobile.
Stuff roots you to a place. Stuff can also make a place feel like an actual home.
As I am building my new life in Colombia, I ask myself a few questions before I make a purchase. Will I use this? Will this somehow improve the quality of my life?
I currently have a bed, a dresser a dining table and a few boxes of clothes sitting in my childhood bedroom. My car sits outside in the driveway not being used. My stuff in Florida is my safety net, a way to gracefully transition if I ever need to go back home.
One day, I will tell my parents to sell that stuff because I will be certain I won’t need it. Until then, I will continue to root myself in Colombia one wall calendar or extension cord purchase at a time.