For the last 12 months we have lived without. Without a junk drawer. Without excess. Without clutter.
In our corporate apartment in D.C. we had the items provided by the housing company. Basically that consisted of a small frying pan, 3 pots, 6 plates, bowls, cups and glasses, six forks, spoons & knives, a kettle, and a few kitchen utensils. We supplemented those items, at least in our kitchen, with a few things that for us are “cannot live without,” including our cast iron frying pan, a Le Crueset pot, my coffee maker, our knives and a couple of my favorite wooden spoons. The rest of my kitchen went into boxes and was shipped off to storage.
There were certainly moments when I wished I had some item or other – a muffin tin, a bread pan, a rolling pin – but for the most part I made do. Admittedly I didn’t cook as much as I used to, and what I did cook was not as adventurous or experimental, but no one in the family seems to have come to any harm.
Many FS people we talk to believe that one benefit of Foreign Service life is the ability to shed “things” every couple of years. In 23 or so months we (by this I mean the “royal” USG we…) will pack up and move ourselves and our stuff somewhere else in the world (and we won’t even know where for about another year!). So, essentially, every two years or so we are forced to take stock of what we own, what we need, what we don’t need, and, ultimately, what we want to drag to the next post.
I’ve met several people in the last year who’ve told me they got rid of all their “stuff.”
“I don’t care about ‘things,'” they tell me.
I think if B had his way we would be in the “get rid of everything” camp (though I’ve been to the homes of some of those people and they still seem to have plenty of stuff…)
So I’ve been thinking a lot about why I DO care about things – at least some things.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that I care about things above people, or experiences, or just about anything else, but I do care about the things that make me feel comfortable. The things that make my ever changing “residences” into my ever changing “homes.”
On Friday we received our HHE (house hold effects). Four huge wooden crates filled with our stuff – and our mattress wrapped and sitting on top. Things, things and more things.
And I was deliriously happy.
Could I have lived here – or anywhere – without all these things? Absolutely.
Do I want to? Not particularly.
So I spent the weekend unpacking and revelling in STUFF.
MY STUFF! Our lovely blue chair that is so comfy to snuggle into and read. Our throw pillows which almost (but not quite) disguise the deplorable embassy provided “gold” couches which have seen (many) better days. Our stainless measuring cups. Our art. Our photographs. Our bed (I could almost cry thinking about the joy I will feel when we finally get rid of the embassy provided queen size bed and set up our bed…ah, King Size Bed…how I love and have missed you…).
I know it’s absurd on many levels, and if all the stuff in those crates had fallen off the boat they came on I would really only have been sad about the irreplaceable photographs and art. BUT, that doesn’t mean that I’m not happy that they didn’t fall off the boat and are now sitting in what would otherwise be a very impersonal house making it feel, smell and look like home.
We did take a break from unpacking to drive out of the city for the first time to a place called “Chez Tintin.”
The draw of “Chez Tintin” has nothing to do with the random statues of the iconic Belgian cartoon “sleuth” Tintin and other characters from the books. The real draw is The River. Le Fleuve Congo. The location overlooks rapids that have stopped many a traveler from the Atlantic (though they are not the huge rapids that forced many early travellers to portage from miles below Kinshasa into the city (then called Leopoldville)). One day I’ll attempt to describe the drive and the location a little better, but for now a picture will have to be worth 1,000 (or less) words since there are still boxes waiting for me to happily discover the “stuff” they contain.