It’s like clockwork. We do it to ourselves almost every year. We pack up our lives into cardboard boxes, disrupt the stability we’ve worked so hard to achieve and throw it all away like it’s the key to an ex-lover’s apartment. Except we’re not breaking up with a person, we’re breaking up with a space.
It’s emotionally draining, physically exhausting and at times financially comical. The goodbye is always tainted as we curse ourselves for the accumulation of random things we’ve collected over the past year that we need to throw in a box only to unpack again next week and toss in another random drawer to sit there until next year’s moving day. We do it to ourselves again and again in hopes that the blinding image of a shiny new apartment is not just a mirage in the distance.
The US Census Bureau reported that in 2010, 37.5 million people 1 year and older had changed residences in the U.S. within the past year. Shocking. They also noted that almost half of us move because of the desire to live in a new or better home. Sure, some of us do it because of family concerns, marital status or a change in job location. But most of the time, we just want to keep movin’ on up to that deluxe apartment down the block.
We all have leaseophobia – a chronic fear of signing a year lease that lacks the option to sublease. As soon as that space starts to feel like home, we come up with some reason why it’s just not good enough anymore. We loathe when a friend asks us to help them change homes, but there are no excuses to get out of it because we know we’ll need the favor paid back when our lease ends in a couple of months. So we suck it up, put on our work boots and cross our fingers that we’ll get a free meal out of it.
That’s why I decided to consolidate my entire existence into a backpacking bag the size of a small child last year. I’ve moved eight times in the eight years since I moved out of my parent’s home in 2006; and frankly, I’m a little over it. This time, I guess I sort of moved due to marital status, or lack thereof. For me, I wanted to live alone, and I’m in a city where that is actually, for now, somewhat affordable. That and shotgun living just wasn’t cutting it anymore. When I found a one-bedroom with a washer/dryer, a pink bathtub and a sublease option that I double-checked three times, I was sold. Note to self: a backpacking bag and some random bedroom furniture do not furnish an apartment.
Now I have space I don’t know what to do with. I can walk around naked and no one cares (except the neighbors who will probably be buying me curtains soon). The only clothes in the dryer are mine and all of the food in the fridge is fair game (even if that only includes a case of Rolling Rock and a carton of eggs with a questionable shelf-life). If there’s a mess, it’s no one’s problem but my own. And that’s pretty darn fabulous.
Except I no longer have roommates to keep me in check. To let me in when I forget my keys, wake me up from oversleeping, remind me that I left the oven on or call me out on not doing the dishes. There’s no milk to steal when mine runs out, or some toothpaste laying around for me to borrow. And I’m learning how many little things we need to function that I’ve never really had to buy for myself (e.g. a vegetable peeler).
But it was time that I ended my dependence on the many housemates that I’ve desperately relied on for so long. For a while, I was eating all meals with a plastic spoon, using paper towels for toilet paper, and pointing the showerhead toward the tile wall so that I didn’t flood my bathroom due to the lack of a shower curtain. But there’s no one here to judge me but myself. It’s a big step toward adulthood in my book, you know, learning how to take care of yourself. And that’s the only book that matters. Because it’s all relative, right?
I’m sure I’ll get it together by this time next year – probably around the same time I decide to move again. And if I don’t, that’s fine too. It’s one less box I’ll have to pack.
Joey Albanese writes about the twenty-something generation in New Orleans for NolaVie. Send him any questions or tell him the answers at firstname.lastname@example.org.