On Getting Rid Of Stuff

by Alexandra Molotkow


I bought this brooch at a thrift shop because it was so ugly it seemed alive. It also seemed cursed. But it looked like it needed a pal, and I felt that by touching it I’d claimed it, so I bought it. Now that I own it I’m afraid to give it away.

Right now I’m packing up my apartment and getting rid of stuff. I’ve always been more of a hoarder than a collector — I accumulate things for fear of not having them. I don’t measure my life in terms of stuff, but I worry constantly about how stuff affects my life, and I’m incredibly ready to live without it. The less junk, the better, because I’ve got a laptop and there are laundromats and it’s 2015 so why are we embodied even?

The hardest part about packing hasn’t been choosing which stuff to get rid of, but accepting the fact that my things will be out in the world. Not because they’re mine, but because they’ve got me all over them, which feels like a curse in reverse. I want the part of me that owned them to die.

A little background: I moved into this studio apartment in my early 20s, and always assumed I’d be leaving any day for a bigger place (rents were much cheaper in 2010). So I never put much effort into making it a place; over five and a half years it just became a place from having filled up with me. It functions as a storage unit, and feels like my guts. The smell disturbs me when I get back from vacation.

When I first moved in, my attitude was: COME OVER! Everyone’s invited! Sit on the floor! Now I feel as though my space is personal, and I shouldn’t extend the invitation to just anyone. A studio apartment is a bedroom, and a bedroom is a world the way a theater is — although a bedroom is the opposite of a theater, which is why it’s something to hang out in someone else’s. Sometimes it’s a reason to not have sex, and sometimes sex is just an excuse for it.

Clearing out your shit is a reckoning with who you’ve been. For instance, I was once the kind of person who wrote margin notes in pen because Oooh my thoughts are just SO urgent and because What are physical things anyway the True Book exists on the Astral Plane. Also because I really valued raw, spontaneous human whatever. I thought every thought was worth documenting, and every stage of life needed souvenirs, and flaws were charming and unfiltered states “truer.”

Now I have stacks of books I’d love to give to friends, except they’re filled with the most excruciating, self-serious marginalia, about I dunno, “the work,” and I don’t want friends to see them any more than I’d want them to see me naked and yawning. Maybe they wouldn’t care, but I do.

People who don’t know how to Internet think the Internet has made us oversharers. The Internet has made us better sharers, which means knowing what not to share. It’s partly strategic, and partly instinctive — the more public you are, the more intense you become about actual privacy, as well as waste management. This isn’t a good or a bad thing, because there is no Authentic Self, you silly hippies!!! Only good and bad decisions. You’re supposed to make yourself more appealing, but you don’t get to just be your sculpted self, either.

There’s this illusion that physical things matter less, but the opposite might be true. They accumulate like scum, and reveal you whether you want them to or not. I worried this brooch would be mine forever. But you can’t take it with you; someone else will get it.

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