For as long as humans have been able to accumulate stuff, that stuff has needed a place to be stored. Food has obvious benefits from being stored; one no longer has to worry about finding it every day. With a sedentary lifestyle, aside from growing your own food, one of the only other things you have to worry about is how to store it.
Winters used to pose a very serious challenge for humans. Long before refrigeration, people had to come up with ways of storing food for lengthy periods of time. Otherwise, they’d die.
Many of the first settlers of America found an ill fate in the harsh New England February and today, if it wasn’t for supermarkets, so would we. The New York area is home to milder winters than New England, but the point remains: with lack of a growing season and lack of local farms and lack of knowledge on how to grow and store our own food, if things suddenly changed tomorrow, and all the food disappeared from supermarket shelves, what would we do?
Check That Expiration Date, Man, It’s Later Than You Think
Many of us would probably go home and scour our cupboards, crawlspaces and cabinets for all that extra food we keep in the wings. There might be a treasure trove of canned and jarred goods, boxed pastas and macaroni and cheeses, frozen meats and TV dinners. With the help of food scientists and a series of chemicals, airtight pouches and preservatives, food never lasted so long or tasted so terrible.
Originally, what I had in mind for this essay was stuff, the ever flowing explosion of objects and trinkets and appliances, clothing, books, media, bicycles, boxes, papers and toys (from when you were seven) being stored somewhere in the attic or basement or garage of your house or elsewhere. We’ll get to elsewhere in a minute. It seems we store a lot of stuff that we really have no need for.
And it’s not even so much that we want it anymore, it’s that we can’t part with it. Or don’t know how. There comes a point when you have to realize the usefulness of something is worn out, that it no longer serves a purpose, that keeping it around is more to the detriment than the advantage.
But there’s a mental aspect to this as well as a monetary and the two are heavily entangled. Children of the Great Depression know what it means to save, but that is an outdated value. It is nonetheless important in today’s world but with the availability of so much garbage being passed off as products in the consumer market, buying requires a heightened sense of saving and spending. One must save those items that are actually worth saving and spend money on the right items.
There’s so much stuff that a person can buy that they need to be careful. True, people must make mistakes in order to learn but the next thing you know, you wind up storing an ab roller you thought was a good idea but then realized you had no use for an ab roller and an ab roller really doesn’t do anything anyway, you only got swept up in the commotion of the purchase and now can’t stand the idea of parting with it because it is depressing that you were tricked and it is depressing that you failed, because if you get rid of it, you’re not only admitting defeat on exercising and admitting a sense of poor judgment and decision making, you’re also thinking you were just trying to do something good for yourself and indubitably, you would have been better served burning your money so you wouldn’t be having these thoughts in the first place.
Storage facilities have been popping up across the country like fast food joints. Can you believe that some people have so much stuff that they need an extra space to cart it all to in order to forget about it? That they actually rent out a place to keep all of their garbage?
Rather than part with it, they would rather spend their time driving out to the industrial park, or winding down the back-country roads of some forgotten farm town to have a place to dump all of their stuff. How could any of this stuff be useful if it is in such a remote location? Do they just drive out there to stand amongst it, to sob and feel nostalgic?
Memory as Storage
Storage is crippling if you don’t know how to deal with it. What a person stores and how they store it speaks magnitudes. You become what you store. For me, a crowded physical space leads to a crowded mental space and vice versa; I am constantly emptying my mind and life.
When we are born, a mind and life is like an empty teacup. Over time, it gets filled up but the flow never stops. Long after the teacup is filled to the brim, the liquid keeps pouring, overflowing the cup and running down its sides, covering the table it’s on and splashing onto the floor; there’s no way to contain it all. There’s only so much we can take and to have too much is to have nothing at all.