A Place For My Stuff

I finally got around to viewing some of the commercials from this year’s Superbowl, and this one just left me feeling unsettled.

About five months after I got back to the US, I talked about the level of insanely overwhelming choice in grocery stores here.   At the time, I was still shopping the way that I did in Germany- one or two canvas bags of food at a time.

Since then, I’ve expanded my shopping a little bit, but not very much.  I still carry canvas bags into the grocery store, but sometimes I take plastic bags away with me also.  My grocery habits are more expansive than they were while I lived in Germany, but they’re still nowhere near what they were before I lived overseas.   I’ve actually taken photographs of every load of groceries I’ve purchased in the past sixteen months, so maybe I’ll come back to that in a future post.

Since I got back, I’ve gotten a car and an apartment and all the trappings of American life-  I’ve purchased a television and a vacuum, a microwave and a toaster.   I’ve populated my apartment with furniture, although a large percentage of that furniture came from Ikea.

Here’s the thing, though-  I’ve never felt truly comfortable with simple accumulation.  Those who have known me for years know that I had a slightly anti-stuff mindset even before I lived overseas.  I’ve always gone through cycles of decluttering, and of getting rid of stuff.  My aversion to just accumulating belongings is borderline pathological.

Perhaps that aversion is part of why the Rocket Mortgage commercial leaves such a terrible taste in my mouth.  It’s more than that, though.  This commercial represents everything that I think is wrong with America’s consumer-driven, greed-centric culture.

“Buy a house so you can fill it with more stuff so you can support the economy so more people can buy houses that they need to fill with stuff.”    Lather, rinse, repeat.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but that cycle of buying and buying and buying doesn’t make me feel good.  Even without getting into the environmental effects of this cycle, or the politics of finance, it just feels skeevy somehow.   Buying to support buying to support buying feels so pointless, and basing a business model on the idea that other people should spend their money that way… well that just seems evil to me.

What do you think, readers?  Is there a Mr. Burns type behind this whole endeavor?  Or am I just overthinking it?

May your wheels never break. 

BigRed
Goodbye, Big Red, your time in my life is at an end.

I purchased Big Red when I was about to move to Germany, and I knew that I would have to live out of a suitcase for a month or more while the rest of my stuff floated across the Atlantic Ocean.  This suitcase is gargantuan-  it comes up almost to my waist, and I’m a fairly tall individual.  It has a strong extensible handle, and four spinning wheels that make it a dream to maneuver around airports.

For most of my time in Europe, Big Red sat in the corner because it’s just too huge for most trips. For a suitcase this large, it’s just far too easy to break the fifty pound limit the airlines impose.

The first year I visited Florida after moving to Germany, I used Big Red. I had rented a convertible for my birthday, and the suitcase couldn’t be loaded into the car unless the top was down.  It was just that big.

Since I returned to the U.S., I’ve been storing other suitcases inside Big Red, like those Russian nested dolls.

The thing is, I’m never going to travel in quite the same way again. I will never need a suitcase quite this large again.   That part of my life is over.

I’ve found you a home, Big Red- a home with someone who is only now discovering their wanderlust, so that you will still get to travel on.

Goodbye, Big Red. May you continue to be Samsonite-tough for many years to come.

Blank Canvas

Hello, old bloggy friend.  I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long.  I thought I would be able to maintain my previous rate of bloggery, but then things just went sort of sideways.

January was kind of crazed.  My responsibilities at work increased in a pretty massive way.  My apartment hunt occupied much of my time.   Amelie and I took a brief trip to California to see Information Society and Book of Love.  We spent a day at the Magic City Comic-con in Miami.

And then, in the first weekend of February, I moved into my new apartment.   A bed was purchased.  Belongings were moved.  We took a detour to Orlando for our anniversary, and spent the day in both Universal Studios theme parks- Spider-Man, Optimus Prime, Homer Simpson, and Harry Potter were all in attendance.

On the fourteenth of February, we emptied my storage unit.  For the first time since early 2011, everything I own was in one place, under one roof.  I was finally able to unpack everything and inventory.  I finally see just what survived the various downsizing runs that occurred during my time in Germany.

Now that I know what I still have, I can see much more clearly what I still need.   On the day that I moved in, I brought the stuff that was with me at my brother’s house, along with a brand new bed, couch, and two bar stools.

After the storage unit was emptied, I had my Muppet-fur carpet from Germany, along with my beloved coffee table.   That coffee table is the only piece of furniture from my old house to survive the four years of storage and downsizing.

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My new apartment is 617 square feet, with a tiny balcony suitable for a pair of chairs.  For my German friends, that converts to just over 57 square meters- larger than my German apartment even though it doesn’t feel like it.

I love moving into a new place-  the apartment is a blank page at first, waiting to be filled and personalized.    I get to make decisions about which cabinet to put my dishes into, and which wall is best for a bookshelf.  I get rid of still more of the things that I have stored because I will never use them again, and I purchase a few new things because I don’t own them any more.

When I moved in, some of the first mundane home-making purchases I needed to make were a front door mat, a cookie sheet, a shower curtain, and a toaster.  I love purchasing that sort of ordinary stuff to round out a new house.

So that’s where I’ve been for the last two months, bloggy friend.  I’ve still got more stuff to say about the repatriation process, and I promise to write more often as we go forward.  Now that I have my own lovely quiet apartment again, I feel like I’m starting to get caught up on things.

It’s a marvelous feeling.

What You Own

On the rainy Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I spent a long chunk of time  in the parking lot of a storage facility.  I was waiting for the delivery of my stuff from Germany.

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I shipped eleven boxes of stuff to Regensburg in November of 2011, and brought back eleven boxes and a carpet.  I have no earthly idea how I managed to keep the number of boxes the same, because quite a few things were bought and sold in those three years.

Yesterday, I moved all the stuff I had stashed in my brother’s storage unit into a second storage unit which contained my shipment of stuff from Germany.  Once I was done combining all the stuff into one storage unit, I had a good look at what was there.  This photograph shows everything I own, save for a small closet’s worth of clothing, my laptop, a coffee table and mirror still at my brother’s house, and my car.

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Everything I own, aside from the car, can be placed into a five by ten foot storage unit, with room to spare.   It seems a little light, doesn’t it?

The old me, the version of Steven who existed before living in Germany for a few years, would have lamented that it seems like I haven’t accomplished anything.   I even wrote about packing and storing my belongings in an introspective post just two years ago.  Now that I’m back to staying in my brother’s spare bedroom, it’s going to be at least another two months before I’m ready to snag an apartment of my own.  For now, the majority of my stuff will remain in that storage unit.  Old Steven would actually be kind of depressed at the situation.

That was then, and this is now.  In the last three years, I visited 23 countries I had never visited.   I made friends all over Germany.  I may not have collected much in the way of personal belongings, but the experiences I’ve collected are irreplaceable, even if my terrible memory means that I will have to re-read my blog to see just what I’ve accomplished.   Today is my 42nd birthday,  and starting right now my repatriated life is basically a do-over.  I bought a new car nine days ago.   I finally have all of my belongings in (more or less) one place, even if I can’t pull them out of storage just yet.  I’ve got a stunning new (but not really new) girlfriend.  In another two or three months, I’ll be ready to get a new apartment and start filling it with stuff.  (I’ll need a bed, a desk, and an internet connection.  Everything else is negotiable.)  Forty-two is gonna rock.

Since it’s my birthday, I reserve the right to fill the rest of this post with random stuff from my recent comings and goings.  First up, my Thanksgiving dinner plate.  I’m not sure why everyone takes pictures of their Turkey-day plates, but I’m no outlier here.  Clockwise from the upper left, it’s turkey, yams and marshmallows, cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and some stuffing in the center.  Yes, that’s the cranberry from the can.  Shut up, I love it that way.  I even love the little can-shaped ridges that show up in the sides of the cylinder of cranberry.

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I’ll go for the bonus points here, and also show you my dessert plate.  On the top row, there’s a chocolate and cream cheese brownie which is more cream-cheese than chocolate, “twisted and evil.”   Next up is a tiny pecan pie.  A pie-lette, even.   And on the bottom is a slice (and I use that term loosely) of chocolate pudding pie, a family tradition.  There was also pumpkin pie, but I can have that almost any time.

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I mentioned the new car in the last post, but I didn’t have a proper picture of it yet.  Here’s one, taken in my dad’s driveway.  His driveway gives good photo-angle.  You still can’t see the pretty blue color of the car though; that only seems to show up in photographs when it’s raining or overcast.

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While we’re on the subject of the car, I took a photograph at a specific mileage because a) I’m twelve years old, and b) I knew many of my friends would also be amused.  (Cara, I’m lookin’ at you here.)

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That car was a birthday gift from me to me.  My niece is turning four this weekend, and I bought her some Bavarian bears before I left Germany.  I’m glad my shipment arrived in time.

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Moving on with more randomness,  I’m utterly fascinated by the things people decorate their houses with in South Florida.  Amelie were walking through the neighborhood the other day, and we stumbled across a house where the owner was proudly flying an FSU 2013 Champs flag, and had decorated their tiny front lawn beneath the flagpole with… well, it’s better if I just show you.

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On that same walk, we attempted to photograph a very friendly cat.  As you might expect, this was the outcome:

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I’ll leave you with this video of the Turkey-day fire on my sister and brother-in-law’s patio, as observed by someone who just figured out that his phone has a cool slow-motion mode.  Check it out!

How was your Thanksgiving?  Did you film anything in slow motion?