All this talk about Sukkot, which we just celebrated, got me thinking about
dwellings and homes—especially this year.
See, I’m moving into a new apartment, but the lease hasn’t started yet. Unlike
our Jewish ancestors who wandered in the desert for 40 years, I figured I’d be
wandering for a little less—about two months—the gap between my residency at my
old place and my new place.
I either had to track down a sukkah—stat—or
figure something else out. Lucky for me, a generous friend asked me to stay
with her until my new lease starts up. Just as it’s a mitzvah to invite someone
into his or her sukkah, it’s a huge
mitzvah to invite someone into her one-bedroom apartment for two months to camp
out on her sleeper sofa.
To save space in the interim, I packed up two suitcases full of necessities,
and put all my other possessions in storage with friends across the Chicago
area. During my nomadic journey these last couple months, I’ve learned three valuable
lessons about people:
1. People adapt.
Anyone who knows me knows I like things tidy, which you may choose to
interpret as a euphemism for “compulsive.” I just like everything, literally
and figuratively—I’m sure Freud would have a field day with this—neat, stable,
and in its place.
Keys not in the “key spot?” Seems like a good way to lose your keys if
you ask me.
Pair of shoes haphazardly strewn outside the closet? Well that’s just silly.
Bed unmade? Not on my watch. Okay, work with me on this one—I’ve read
studies that making your bed is one of the easiest ways to boost happiness
levels, according to Happier at Home
author Gretchen Rubin.
But I quickly learned, despite my neat-freakiness tendencies, it’s
impossible to have things in their place when one’s possessions are packed away
in storage containers scattered across the Chicago metropolitan area. So I just
stayed cool and went with it.
We humans adapt to whatever is thrown our way—and believe me, in ways a
heck of a lot more dire than mine. Jews, in particular, have been forced to
adapt to new situations, surroundings, and homes throughout our history.
In extreme times—such as being expelled from Spain in 1492—we adapted. And
in less extreme situations—such as having a two-month gap in home rental—we adapt
to that too.
2. People don’t need a
lot of stuff.
laugh every time I think of the late comedian George Carlin’s classic routine
“A Place for My Stuff.” In his stream of consciousness-style act, Carlin
determines that everyone’s just looking for a place to put their stuff. “…That’s
all you need in life, a place for your stuff,” he says. “That’s all your house
is—a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t
need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile
of stuff with a cover on it…And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it
up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always
take the good stuff.”
hilarious as Carlin is, I discovered we don’t need as much stuff as Carlin purported.
With my stuff in storage, I’ve been living with a fraction of my possessions.
And, guess what? It’s sort of liberating.
After all, with less stuff, there’s less stuff to find places to put it all in.
And, referring back to my earlier compulsive confession, there’s less stuff to
make neat and tidy.
live in a hyper-consumer culture, where we’re constantly bombarded with
messages telling us to go out and spend money on the latest, newest, shiniest
2.0 version of everything.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: We don’t really need all that stuff.
turns out that fourth pair of denim “jeggings” I just had to buy is not the
necessity I originally predicted. And the sun continues to rise every day even
though my high school yearbook—the one with a couple very awkward pictures of
me and inscriptions from similarly awkward former classmates—is packed away in
a box somewhere. Finally, don’t tell John Travolta, but i indeed will survive a
few weeks without my Grease DVD (please
don’t judge me; I’m a woman without a home).
need food, clothing, and shelter—and
sadly many people don’t have that. We also need
great family and friends. But do we need
fluorescent magenta wine glasses (also in one of my storage bins somewhere)? Probably
3.People are really nice.
At least the people I know are. Through the Jewish grapevine, friends,
family, and even mere acquaintances discovered I needed a place to stay and stepped
it up immediately. We all know space is at a premium here in Chicago, and yet
at least a dozen people reached out to offer me a place to hang my hat. When we
read about all the bad in the world, it’s heartwarming to keep in mind that
most people out there are decent, generous souls.
Around the first of the month, my time as a nomad will thankfully come to
an end. I’ll hopefully be unpacking a box as you read this very column. Now, if
only I could find a place for these jeggings.