Relocating can be done in one of two ways: the extensive transportation of all of your worldly belongings from your old location to the new, or the systematic liquidation of all belongings, breaking down your home, your life, to a stack of bills in your pocket, which you use to purchase life’s essentials at your new location. As the latter is more affordable, Kat & I have embarked upon the harrowing task of selling, freecycling and donating almost everything we own. We’re boiling our lives down into what can fit into six large Rubbermaid bins, and purging the rest.
Through this process of purging I’ve uncovered a startling natural process that occurs within the closets of every urban dwelling in North America: Crapification.
Crapification is a lot like composting, but with the opposite environmental effect. Things that were once valued, even prized, have been transformed into crap that we can’t give away, and our home is just chock FULL of it!
Sometimes stuff finds it’s way into our home as gifts, an impulse buy or an exciting major purchase. When you first get it, its awesome – it’s that novel, new thing that you really like. But as time passes, the process of crapification takes hold. Your favorite chair gets a bit worn in, your cool jeans are giving you muffin tops, the hard drive on your laptop fills up with music files and maybe some porn. It doesn’t effect how you feel about that particular thing though, so maybe you hang on to it because you’re still using it, or you might need it one day. You still think it’s really cool – it’s not crap to you at all, that’s why you keep it. We develop emotional attachments to our stuff and we don’t even realize it, and this skews our perception it’s actual value.
This is why you see sofa sets from the 80s for sale on craigslist for thousands of dollars: the owners have not yet acknowledged the process of crapification. They paid thousands for it twenty years ago, and hardly sat on that furniture at all. Now they think it’s still worth thousands, and they can’t understand why there are no takers.
Now that Kat & I are trying to raise as much seed money as possible, we’re forced to face the cold, hard fact: Most of the crap filling our apartment has no monetary value at all.
It kind of effects how you look at your life when you’re filling the 10th garbage bag that week with donations to goodwill. When you don’t have a car and have to haul each garbage bag on public transit to the donation bins, you start seriously considering tossing the garbage bags right into the dumpster behind your apartment, but then what does that say about your life? What kind of person are you if everything you valued enough to pack into boxes and move several times in five years is suddenly potential landfill?
It’s also a blow to the ego to realize that most of what you own you, of what you value, you can’t even give away. The process of crapification is complete.
The worst has been my books – my beloved, dog eared, read-to-death paperbacks. I own so many books it’s just impossible to consider shipping them all the way to the Island. I consoled myself by imagining the new homes my books would find, the purses and backpacks they would travel in. Surely they were better off with someone who would read them soon, rather than collecting dust on my sagging bookshelf.
I hauled load after load of books to three different book stores in Toronto, and sold barely 10% of them. The rest of my books: recycling. It’s heartbreaking! I just couldn’t bear tossing them in the recycling bins. I left them in neat piles beside the newspaper stands, hoping that a few of them would get picked up by passers-by before they were swept away. I left a few more piles in subway stations for commuters. I hope the TTC special constables don’t call in the bomb squad to attempt to detonate the piles of abandoned sci-fi and classic literature. They’ve been a bit jumpy since 9/11.
I’ve also been realizing negative emotional associations to things I own and use every day. I have a cutting board with a built in knife drawer that I bought eight years ago when I was living with my ex-boyfriend. Shortly after I bought it, my soon-to-be-ex carelessly burned it with a hot pot of macaroni he was cooking instead of looking for a job. I was so mad at him at the time because I was doing my best to support both of us on a $9 an hour job, and making our bachelor apartment work as a somehow functional living space. The space-efficient cutting board improved the condition of our kitchenette, and it was in the apartment less than a week before it had become noticeably crapified.
Despite the burn mark, I’ve hung on to this highly-functional kitchen accessory for years, and now when faced with the prospect of letting it go, I realized that I still get a little bit angry every time I look at it, and I look at it EVERY DAY. It’s a relief to let that bit of baggage go.
All of this purging is turning out to be an exhausting and emotional process. In a regular move you’d just pack up all of your stuff and take it with you into progressively larger houses for decades until finally you are forced to face it when you down-size in your old age, or you get out of it entirely by dying and leave the task of purging a lifetime’s worth of crapified stuff to your surviving relatives. It’s not often in our lives that we are forced to look at our belongings honestly and admit that most of it is crap.
The scary thing is all of this stuff is what helps us to feel grounded and at home. As our apartment continues to hemorrhage material belongings, I’ve started to feel unsettled and disconnected. My home is rapidly melting away and turning into a crash pad.
After weeks of purging, we then turn around and go binge-shopping for things we will need out west but will not have an opportunity to buy once we arrive. We hit Mountain Equipment Co-op for rainy-climate clothing last week and spent well over a thousand dollars. Be still, my heart!
What on earth did we buy that cost so much money?
Well, we both needed coats for one thing. Our down winter coats, warm and expensive, would do nothing for us in the rainy storm season of the Pacific coast. We needed water proof outer shells with zip-out poly-fill linings. We needed rain pants, footwear and warm base layers. While we were at it, our ancient, threadbare back packs needed replacing too.
The sick part is that we need to go on at least one more binge shopping spree before we leave, since most of my clothing is office wear and completely impractical for the lifestyle in the west. I need another pair of jeans (for a total of two pairs that fit me) we both need bathing suits (you’d think one of the top surfing destinations in the world would have bathing suits for purchase, but no) bras (if Sears doesn’t carry a 36 E then the Ukee Co-op sure won’t) and underwear.
I’m also scouring craigslist and kijiji for second hand airline-approved animal kennels for the critter’s train ride. So far I’ve found two second hand, and I need a total of four kennels that will hold our four critters for four days and four nights.
We managed to find an off-season cabin to rent for the winter season which thank goodness is furnished, so when we arrive in Ukee we can put off the furniture binge shopping at least until spring.
So here we are, stripping our apartment and our lives bare, like the trees around us blushing red and dropping their leaves for the winter. I wonder if the trees out west will turn colours and drop their leaves for fall. I wonder if my new coat will hold up to the storm season. I wonder how my little dog will weather the rain, and how my cats will weather the train ride. I wonder how Kat & I will hold up to the transition. I wonder how we will have changed by spring.
I’m sure we won’t miss our kitchen gadgets and knick-knacks.