27. Possessed by possessions

Beep, beep, beep, beep. The truck was parked right up the front door with expertise. This blunt craft of precision ended the street’s clinical silence. Disturbing neighborhoods was our specialty. No morning began quietly, no residential street was safe. The noise served two good causes: work and making money. Killing two birds with one stone was done by relocations. At this project, the neighbors were quite far away. So I was glad that no one around us was dead awake. There seemed little reason to do so in that particular neighborhood, though. At first sight, everyone had feathered their nest. Biscuits and coffee were therefore provided. I almost choked in a cookie while inspecting the house. Damn, what a castle. All areas were crammed with stuff. This will give us a run for our money, but oh well. Hard work is no sin, as we showed. Two removal vans were filled in no time – just as the tight schedule demanded. The man of the house had a quick look and got caught by surprise. “Christ… That’s so much stuff! What a man can possess ay. Is that really all mine?’ Err… yeah…

His words were no exception. A pattern of predictable reactions emerged over time. Someone’s background, age, personality or the like made no difference. As a removalist (mover), I sat at the front row of the grand show. The regurgitated script was nothing new under the sun. I could draw it out blindly. Clients experienced it very differently, though. This was always the confrontation with materialism. The abstract becomes crystal clear in a glance. Bang! There it is in the spotlight. All of a sudden, hoarding is no longer something that only happens to others. Ignoring or denying is no longer possible. He stared at it with a loss of speech. Something clearly bothered him. I recognized his awkward stance all too well. At first, I wanted to play a stand-up act of George Carlin out loud. Yet I let it go on second thought. He stopped at a bridge which I’ve already crossed. Hundreds of removals brought me to the other side. Over there, some questions and answers accompanied me. Some unconscious habits and subconscious beliefs came to light, which in turn illuminated other motives. Gradually, I became more and more minimalist: first in the material sense and then in the immaterial. It went by itself. Steering, seminars, courses or self-help books were unnecessary. I increasingly got into de-cluttering, downsizing, de-consuming and an information diet without forcing it. The ‘usual’ felt stranger, weirder, more unnatural. A seed had germinated, the roots spread out. Forget the trends, this fertile ground will remain.

The supervisor interrupted my reflective daydream. Hey, jackass. Keep working! He was right. Words don’t move everything. With rolled-up sleeves, I picked up where I left off. After the first delivery on the new address, we returned to do the rest. It was a never-ending job. We carried enough out of that place to open a preschool, liquor store, gym, library, DIY store and furniture retailer. Even for us, the amount of stuff was quite abnormal. Dozens of unopened and dusty boxes from a previous relocation embodied the distinctive lows. This is no longer an actual usage of resources. Forget about rational considerations. This is having something for the sake of it, having because you can, having to fill the void. That compulsive having detracts things or possessions at all. And that’s an unnecessary waste. Tools that make life easier are practical and convenient. They have added value. Basic needs are fulfilled, creations are made, creativity is expressed and efficiency is achieved. That’s all great. What it’s all about is the thoughtless hoarding that’s (still) so widespread. That overshoots the mark. Then it’s just a mental parasite, a cultural delusion. It shows how comparative luxury is. Luxury often develops into a perceived necessity, which in turn creates new expectations and obligations. A black hole of collecting, shielding, maintaining, cleaning, replacing, sorting and more collecting is lurking. It swallows you whole. Game over. An endless hunt in which no shot is fired ain’t no fun. This is a path in which nothing real is captured or something significant is achieved. 

We hastily devoured a lukewarm pizza after sunset. Alright, let’s carry on and smash it. We left the party at half-past nine. Tomorrow is another day, see you then. We went home for a hot shower and a catnap. Survival is a necessity, living is optional. Welcome to the unattractive existence of ‘work, eat, sleep, repeat.’ Luckily it only happened in phases to me. I was only there when it suited me. No more, no less. Yet that work had its charms to be fair: working on new locations almost daily, doing something tangible, doing honest work with genuine colleagues, enjoying paid sports in the fresh air. Suits, jargon, office politics, ‘games’ and meddling managers were all lacking. Perfect. I just wanted to be busy with my hands. Keeping the tame sitting-existence at bay. Feeling that I’m actually doing ‘something’. That’s why I thanked for a living which involved non-stop sitting at a desk. But who knows, maybe it will come someday. Time will tell. I simply immersed myself in this socially accepted hoarding for the time being. I carefully studied it without any bonding. Whether or not to participate isn’t always a choice, yet to what extent is. Observe and learn. Let others be possessed by possession. Work creation, dissatisfaction and infinite growth are sacred after all. Pile it all up. Play the game, increase the score and be a real ‘winner’. Only then you’re in with the big boys. 

Monopoly disappears in the box after all the senseless owning and acquiring, there was nothing at stake.

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