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I am writing this from a city bus going back from the Sweden’s greatest contribution to modern society: Ikea. For the next 40 minutes, I get to sit and swerve in a bus as it works it’s way back to the city, clutching to my over filled tote and some massively over sized frames I (mistakenly) offered to pick up for a friend.

Once again, I arrived with the thought of picking up only three items and left with far too many. A cactus plant to decorate the bathroom. Storage boxes for my office. This and that. None of which we really needed. You win this time, Ikea… Until next round…

Usually, I am pretty smart about this; looking at every single purchase and deciding “Is it worth carrying home?” Walking to the bus, taking the bus, the tram, walking home, the fourth floor walk up. (Actually, the worst part is pulling out and scanning my transit pass while my hands are horribly full. Today, two things fell out in the process- but I was pretty proud of my reaction. I acted like it was totally normal for a cactus to fly out of my bag and calmly finished what I was doing before picking it up. In the past, I would have been super flustered and embarrassed. At this point.. a flying cactus is totally normal on a bus from Ikea.) Pairing down and considering is something that I have made myself better at over the last two years. And it’s not something I want to readily forget when we return to the States- as hard as that may be with the readily available Targets, Costcos and vast parking lots.

As much as some days I wish I could load my groceries into the trunk of a car and drive directly to my door, I think this is one of my favorite aspects of ex-pat life: the necessity of carrying my goods. If I want it, I have to haul it. It makes me feel better about my consumerism; maybe my output as at least close to equal as my intake. Maybe I earned those reindeer meatballs at lunch… Moreover, it makes you stop to think about how much you really want something.

How much will it enrich your home, your body or your mind?

Neither of us eat junk food, so not packing back chips and soda is no change, but these days, our refrigerator -which is small to begin with- is full with only half a weeks worth of veggies and food, alongside an impressive collection of condiments and seasonings and whatever home made health crap I am trying that week.

Aside from food, goods need to be suitcase small, completely impermanent, or worth shipping Stateside at the end. For  both Jimmy and I, who prefer to invest in high quality, long lasting products, this is a tough one. I am far more prone to seeking the -albeit temporary- comfort of being surrounded my little personal things than Jimmy is. I think he will care less about the perfectly chosen cactus for the bathroom and may question why the hell I even got the storage boxes, but I am feeling the need to settle more into our place and feel like it is mine than I have before. Knowing that our stay here is not yet over- or perhaps it is just the impending darkness of winter-  I feel the need to personalize the stark white walls in an attempt to forget the fact that this is actually someone else’s permanent home where we temporarily reside. We are but a short story within this century old building’s walls. Little knick nacks can give off that façade for a little while longer.

I mean, I did pick out that cactus. Maybe if I can keep it alive, Jimmy will let me have a dog… ha! Next location….

But I have gotten better and learned to be more mindful. In leaving a full storage unit in the States, I have realized how much stuff we really don’t need. It will feel like Christmas  come early when we move back and get to open all of those beautiful wedding gifts that have never been used and the college apartment décor that has long since been loved, but I suspect that there will be a ton of things where we say “why do we even have this?”

So my hope is that after we make the transition back to big box stores and automobile ownership, that I can retain this mindfulness and consider each and every material thing as something precious that I must first carry on my shoulders.

UPDATE: Jimmy doesn’t like the cactus because it isn’t “spikey” enough. Typical.

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