Friday, February 5, 2010

-The best damn part? It matches my walls.-

I don’t like having shit in my house. I’m very anti-packrat and every few months I go through a purge and try to eliminate whatever is in my place that doesn’t get used, hasn’t been used, or is simply taking up space. Less baggage means less to worry about, and the fewer concerns I have the more focused I can be to the things that matter in life. Plus, let’s be honest, who wants to move a 15 pound bread maker that only gets used once every few years?

The fire was the ultimate purge. Ironically, clarity came best when the smoke was the thickest (also came panic, coughing, and a nasty smell that’s a total bitch to get out of your linens; but that’s this post). I learned exactly what I needed in life. The things that were most valuable were instantly known.

Here’s a complete list of what was saved: the cats; my safe which contained my social security card, passport, blank checks, backup hard-drive, etc.; my laptop which contained pictures, four years of school documents, all of my thesis work, and tons of blog info.

I was able to crystallize in about two seconds what I could not live without or what would have caused my life to not just turn upside down, but absolutely decimate it in ways that are akin to how major cities are treated in a film by Michael Bay.

These were the needs in my life. Defined, simple, and all of them able to fit in the back seat of my car with room leftover.

Now that I'm rebuilding I am assessing my other needs. My need for shelter and food has been been met and so I move on to my more superficial and occupational needs. Things like pots and pans, spices, furniture, a good bottle of wine or two.

Yes, a good bottle of wine or two. A day after the fire pounding a bottle of wine with a whiskey back was a need. Now, it's a need. (The wine, not the whiskey. Unless it's been one of those days.)

Some might argue that some things such as wine or a new Le Creuset pot (to replace the one lost in the fire) aren't needs but rather wants.

A good point. Yet, we have to remember that needs are circumstantial, circumspect, and what may seem frivolous to me may be requisite for another.

For example, do I need an electric mixer? Yes and no. Yes, in that my hobbies, work, and blog sort of necessitate needing one which, all and all, gives me pleasure which is an indispensable part of a healthy life. No, in that will life end without it? Of course not, though life without my Granny Smith green Kitchen-Aid mixer is certainly debatable. (My chocolate chip cookies bring gods to tears, so no, actually, it’s not.)

Pinking shears are silly to me, but to the avid scrap-booker, they are your tools. A heart monitor to a triathlete. Leather gloves to a gardener. Cocktails to Sandra Lee. These are all needs.

Of course, in all of these examples people can make do and move on, find solutions to the drama that ensues without their needs being met. Yet they make us whole, they may just be things but they're those little ingredients that make our situations just right. They don't need to be justified. Needs are personal and only we know what they really are.

In the end we know what our needs, needs, and wants are. Our needs are our family portraits, our needs are our tools or joys, our wants are memberships to the Cowgirl Creamery cheese club. (Though that might be just me.)

I've been lucky. My needs were saved. My insurance and the generosity of others have helped me meet my other needs, and to my surprise and gratitude a few wants. They've put life back into a state of normalcy albeit at a new address.

As long as we know what our real needs are - the ones that won't cause life to collapse in on us like a dying star - then we're well on our way to defining what our other needs are. Once those are addressed, we can move on to the bittersweet world of wants.


  1. I'm fairly sure that cocktails are essential to Sandra Lee's happiness, as your Granny Smith apple-green Kitchenaid is essential to yours. But you without your mixer wouldn't be boring, but I'm almost freaking positive Sandra Lee is kill-me-now boring without her cocktails...

  2. It always does take a major incident, such as a fire, to prioritize our lives. The trick is to continue to remember once the smoke has cleared (so to speak). Great post!

  3. It's interesting to try to think what I'd not run out of a burning apartment without. Obviously my cat, but beyond that, i don't know ... Maybe you need the catastrophe to really prioritize.

  4. My mother is a packrat, her mother was a packrat and for as long back as the maternal side of my family goes back the term packrat always seemed to follow. Being simply disgusted by the crazy hordes of chachka's (the yiddish term for crap) that fills my childhood home, I have, like yourself, become a purger. I clean and throw away hundreds of useless junk every 2 months and regift whenever possible (after all, it is a recession). However, the needs and wants can so often cross over that to some your wants seem more essential than your needs but, what you put so perfectly is that a need is a personal definition of the word. A need is something that you, in particular, couldn't live without because you have individual needs different from every other living organism on this planet. What a perfect post.

  5. I'm glad that things are coming back together. After each of my three breakins this year, I found it interesting the order that I checked my house: Cats, Computer (stolen in 1st break-in), Safe (w Mortgage paperwork + external hard drive with thesis data), Backpack (thesis notes not yet typed up since returning from field, stolen but recovered in 2nd breakin), and then my late grandmother's watch.

    Pets-Thesis-Memories. Very similar to yours, and I think most other grad students would feel the same way.

    Now, I do have a friend who keeps updated copies of her thesis in her friend's freezer just in case something should ever happen to her house when she's not there.

  6. Very cute mixer. I'm a terrible packrat and as I start to consider moving house in the foreseeable future I'm going to try to do some eliminating from my life.

    I would add that you should get yourself a beaterblade if you have a kitchenaid, saves tons of time and scraping!!

  7. I have to admit, I am a terrible collector. (Some people might even say I have too much stuff, but I say I need it all.) I'm pretty sure I'm never going to move again, so that's one reason I don't mind accumulating things. And I do have periodic clean-outs and give things away (so I can get more things!)

    I love the green KitchenAid. Karri from Karina's kitchen has that color too. Nice to see you rebuilding your kitchen.

  8. I've got a Cuisinart food processor waiting for me to pick up at Macy's. I never considered it a need until my old one stopped working. I would, however, leave it behind in a fire to grab the pasta maker.

  9. That is a BEAUTIFUL machine. Weak-in-the-knees beautiful.

  10. Great post!

    So what do I do if my wants and needs are in conflict? I need my husband, three children and two dogs.

    I WANT a clean carpet, no clutter and one horizontal surface in my home that has nothing on it.

    Not gonna happen unless all the items on the "needs" list suddenly disappear.

    What's a neatnik girl to do surrounded by all these wonderfully, clutter-prone attachments?

    And BTW, I too, am lusting after the color of your KitchenAid... Mine now seems so, PEDESTRIAN.


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