I recently read a Huffington Post blog about de-cluttering, the kind that makes you feel ridiculous for having clung onto the variety of crap that weeds up tiny apartments: memorabilia, kitchen gadgets, archaic forms of media. The reading propelled me into a jettison frenzy, combing the house for stuff. Stuff I haven’t worn since two apartments ago. Stuff I never read and—let’s be honest—am never going to make the time to read. Stuff whose initial freeness convinced me that I could find a use for it. An expedition permeated with moments of waving an object in the air and asking, “Why do I have this?!?” before shaking my head and dropping said trash into a recycled paper bag. It’s liberating.
And because it’s so liberating, I’ve kept that Huffington Post blog an open tab on my desktop for three weeks so that every time I open my laptop I am reminded to throw something away. I have since parted ways with the following items: a stack of paperwork pertaining to a defunct 401K account, two pairs of unworn earrings I found tucked into my checkbook wallet, copies of my grad school application (on paper and compact disc), a box of < 500 since-updated business cards, that backup bottle of eyeglass spray cleaner, and a package of don’t-actually-hold-your-hair bobby pins.
In an effort to keep this going and make it more entertaining , I’ve decided to post about every moderately significant object (in size or merit) I discard. This is both an exercise in letting go and a testament to the wisdom that writing is the best form of remembering. In this case, not remembering the object as much as its history, or sometimes my history of believing in its necessity.
Here Lies #1: The Green Suitcase
The green suitcase is the first suitcase I ever owned. I purchased it from Target in 2005. My choice was based on its shade: an electric neon green, the same green of a pair of shoelaces I had cherished in high school. I was twenty-four, living in Rhode Island, and preparing to travel south to a wedding in North Carolina with my then-boyfriend and a handful of his friends that I didn’t really care about who didn’t really care about me either. Five of us left at midnight and drove the twelve hours in a minivan with a little television mounted to the ceiling. It was June and we hit hot traffic in D.C. I leaned my head against the car window, watching steam rise from the pavement and make Monets of the landscape.
Our hotel had a pool and my boyfriend had disappeared to attend to wedding party responsibilities. I happily spent an afternoon reading The DaVinci Code on a complimentary towel. One of the friends said, “I’m just not into popular fiction.” I defended my book choice by saying that I was taking a summer art history course. We gracefully fulfilled every stereotype we had assigned each other.
The wedding was held in a swank ballroom at the University of North Carolina. Finely framed portraiture scaled the walls and the sounds of a live string quartet came from somewhere unseen. The brides maid dresses and groomsmen ties were the same shade of green as my suitcase. This made me realize, for the first time, that weddings didn’t need to be stuffed full of unjustifiable and painful tradition. The whole event was a confluence of tattoos and old money, swirled in this surprisingly tasteful fashion.
A beautiful Southern porch stretched off the building and faced an immaculate lawn shaded by oak trees. I spent much of the evening out there, sipping something nonalcoholic, leaning against a stone railing and staring at the campus, thinking about being someone else—a bridesmaid, a UNC student, a banquet waitress. I didn’t have it bad; I just had it bad enough to be curious.
The green suitcase occupies half of the top shelf in my hallway closet—prime real estate in a three-room apartment. It is on wheels but at some point lost the feet that counterbalance its weight; now one must lean it against a thigh or a counter for stability. It has since been relegated to relocation purposes, carting DVDs or audio equipment from one apartment to the next. It’s green still glows from among darker closet hues, but that is not enough to necessitate its stay. In its absence, that green will remain—in a dish towel, a vase, a set of nesting measuring bowls—tracing a neon stripe into the future.