With all that moving around, I don’t own very much right now. About a year ago, as I planned for this most recent relocation, I sold off all the furniture I had taken years to accumulate and packed the rest of my belongings into storage. I felt as if I’d been cut loose from something that anchored me in place. Since then I’ve lived in furnished accommodations—hotels, sublets, shares. The few personal items I wanted to use—toiletries, clothing, utensils—moved with me in several medium-sized plastic containers that I could manage myself.The fact that I have a storage unit baffles me. What, I frequently ask myself, is in there? And why do I need to hang on to it? I know a part of the answer: a lot of papers—I’m a writer and I like to keep what I’ve written. It’s not replaceable. And books and records and souvenirs—even a box of rocks and shells and geodes—that I’ve accumulated. The reality is that I could probably leave it all behind and my life would not be significantly different.
So then, why do I own these things—the ones I keep and the ones I store—and what does it mean to own them?