For all of my adult life, I admit, I have liked my "stuff" and attached great importance to it. I have spent a lot of time accumulating my possessions and my clothes and my belongings, and I have throughly enjoyed and found joy and comfort in all of my beautiful things. Now, based upon my current situation, I am re-thinking it all and wondering, in effect, what is really and truly valuable.
Perhaps, in previous phases of my life, I have concentrated on the "gathering." It makes sense, somehow, that when you are young(er) and/or starting out in your "newly-married" life or your "first home" life or whatever, that dishes and clothes and furniture and such plays a vital role; they did in mine, for sure. I am especially sensitive, during this season of weddings of many marvelous young couples I am lucky enough to know, of the "stuff" they think they need (as indicated on their webpages and wedding registry sites, and of the similarities of their requests and the stores they choose to patronize), and I completely understand it all. Building a new family and a new life does mandate, I guess, wanting all new beginnings, and most of the young couples probably don't want the hand-me-downs from their families, preferring (proudly) to start their own life with their own needs and desires. Again, I can remember these feelings, needs and desires, and I have cartons and furniture in storage to testify to it all.
When I came to Italy in September for my "senior year abroad," I brought a large suitcase and a medium-sized one, both full of items I thought were absolutely vital for my every-day life. I had carefully (at least until I ran out of time) combed through my wardrobe (pretty extensive, apparently, since I always managed to fill every closet in every house or condo or apartment) and decided that I did need all of my "favorite" items -- who knew how many fancy parties and dinners I might be attending and who knew how many different shoes and purses I might need? I had to be prepared for everything!
And my toiletries were important, too, of course. I was convinced that I probably couldn't survive without my favorite shampoo or toothpaste or whatever, and I had to be sure to have enough of everything, including extras, since I couldn't imagine how I could survive if I ran out of my favorites. I had absolutely no comprehension of the possibility of replacing my 'familiar' with anything new or different.
And books, which have always been important to me, also found their way into my suitcases, not only filling them up but also, of course, weighing them down. I needed every guidebook I owned or had been given and every Italian language book I owned or had been given. What if I missed something?
In retrospect, I must have convinced myself that I was heading to some kind of alternative universe or third world country, where the natives just didn't use shampoo or toothpaste, didn't read and didn't know how to shop.
And now, after lugging my suitcases, bags and totes up many stairs and through many small doors and hallways, I am tired of the burden. I have slowly sent many of my belongings back to the States, imposing on good friends and good relatives to store them for me (I hope I remember where everything is!). I have gradually replaced most of my clothes with Italian goods, finding that not only are they different and more stylish, but also that they are more unique and more fitting in many ways. The jeans here are fabulous and fit me well, the tops are made of beautiful cotton and the designs are classic and flattering; I am happy. And the Italian lingerie is really fabulous -- gorgeous and sexy and stylish; Italian women, after all, come in all sizes, and most of them are not afraid to show a bit (or a lot) of skin, of cleavage, of underwear! My old bras and such just don't compare, somehow, and I have gotten used to the "new"; thus, my previously wonderful American-bought underwear is now languishing in a suitcase somewhere in the States, along with so many other items I had adored (and had found flattering) in my former life. Perhaps this is an indication that, once again, I had too much, too many pieces of lingerie or sweaters or shoes (and the shoes and bags here are, of course, just so outstanding -- that's a whole other topic, that's for sure!).
And I have still been traveling around Italy with too much -- too many books, shoes, shampoos, etc. Every time I move or even go away for a few days, the packing up process is challenging and time-consuming and I have to make some (supposedly) important choices -- which sweaters do I really need, for example? I am still committed to my large suitcase and my medium-sized one, and they each seem to fill up very quickly. Embarrassingly, I have had to call on my friends and neighbors to help; Giuseppina even had to help me stand on my suitcase in order to zip it closed, and getting my big suitcase down the stairs or into the waiting taxi has been really really hard. Perhaps I should learn from these exhausting and sweaty experiences?
When I left Florence with the intention of flying to Ortigia for a three week stay, I crammed my large suitcase with all kinds of stuff -- "necessaries" as well as extras, and decided to take only my smaller suitcase with me, filled with what would fit and thereby imposing limits on myself. I arranged to have my large suitcase put into storage (thank you, Riccardo!) in Florence (especially since he would come to pick it up and carry it down those terrible stairs for me), choosing to travel with one suitcase and a carry-on bag. My thinking was that, for a "short" three week stay I would only need the "basics," which somehow still were numerous. I have been living with two of almost everything -- jeans, sweaters, casual dresses, etc; I also have one skirt, one jacket and a number of various tops and lingerie, and I still find I have "enough" and wear the same things almost every day. I always have a washing machine available (no dryer, of course) so keeping my clothes clean isn't a big deal, and I wear my "favorites" over and over and over; to date, only I seem to have noticed, and I have received no negative feed-back at all (and why, honestly, did I expect anyone would notice?). And, surprisingly, what I do miss I can usually find -- at a farmacia or a book store or a clothing shop... amazing.
So, today I had yet another epiphany and realized that, for the remaining 2 1/2 months I have here in Italy, I could keep traveling lightly and somewhat simply, and I could relinquish everything that is now in storage. The big suitcase is full, I am sure, of wonderful things, but I can't even remember what they are, so I can't even remember what I am missing -- that must be the lesson! I have never before been able to pack lightly and don't even understand the concept of minimalism, but somehow this now feels just right. After all, how many of my beautiful bras or sweaters or shoes do I really need for a couple of months in the medieval mountain town of Spoleto? Maybe this is just one more example of how I can, even without wanting or knowing how to, adapt and evolve; after all, if I can sleep in a small bed and take a shower in a small space and cook in a small kitchen, perhaps my requirements are becoming flexible? I'm just not sure and am certainly not guaranteeing anything.