On Moving, Stuff, Home, and Gratitude

As I was riding the bus home from work the other day, I realized that I am only just now starting to feel that Chicago is making an imprint on my identity. Gillian and I moved our lives, our stuff, and our cat here two and a half years ago. We have always loved our home here, feeling that our neighborhood, for all of it’s challenges, was a good fit for us. I can now claim my place in this city; I am a Chicagoan and I love my home here.

During my time in California, I had a pretty transient life. I lived all over the Bay Area, finally adopting Oakland as my home. All of the various moves in the fifteen years I was there, though I hated the process, made me keep my possessions to a relative minimum. When you move, you have the occasion more frequently to cull your life of stuff.

Mind you, we have our fair share of stuff, and I have been reminded each time we move how much books weigh. But I am finding that, with some effort, Gillian and I have both become mindful about the stuff that we bring home, even as we stay in one place for a time. We’re not perfect, but we’ve made a commitment to ourselves and each other to downsize and make sure that everything we own has important meaning and usefulness.

As a member of this mall culture, I am just as prone as anyone to covet what others have, to feel deprived when I don’t have the latest gadget.  The other day, Gillian and I went to the grocery store and filled up our cart with all kinds of things that we were convinced we needed and wanted. At the end of the trip around the store, we took inventory of what we had collected, and decided to put several items back that we didn’t really need. We still came home with enough for several meals to get us through the following couple of weeks, and though we didn’t leave with that bottle of wine or that jar of honey, we don’t feel the least bit deprived.

Our new rule of thumb when it comes to stuff: When we bring something home, something else must go. I want to own stuff, I do not want stuff to own me. I’m not there yet, but the daily practice of mindfulness is helping me to live more presently with gratitude for what I have.

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