This is a long-form response to this discussion on Metafilter (since I don’t want to sign in to yet another website this AM)
At 5:30AM August 22nd 2007, after a couple weeks of selling and giving away our stuff, and loading a trailer over the past two days we thought that it would take us about 2 hours to finish getting rid of the stuff in our house. Over the next 6 hours we would struggle to get the last remains of our lives out of the town house we had lived in the entire time we live in the United States. Hopelessly in debt and under the schedule gun, we had left the house empty but dirty. We had filled entire dumpster with what we couldn’t give away along with the area around it (with beds and furniture) and a trailer incorrectly filled with the most precious things we could bring with us. We had sweated through the last remaining bits of our home and still had several hundred miles of driving ahead of us, after my last “day” at the office.
When we did the same in Canada march 1st 2002, we had used the 14 foot long truck from U-Haul and had still left most of our furniture behind to be taken by a nice polish family, along with several computers, a whole kitchen and a whole hall closet full of “stuff”. When we finally arrived in the United States, we had only what we could carry in our luggage with us. It had taken us 8 hours to clean out our house and the friend I had promised to pay for coming to help us showed up after 7 of them. We had needed his help badly and he expected to be paid the full amount for his minimal work. I was too tired to disagree and he happily took his money after doing almost nothing. He was unemployed at the time, having lost his job in the same downsize that had taken my entire office out.
When we moved into the Apartment we would eventually leave in 2002, we had the contents of one room. It was all we had in the world. Enough “stuff” to fill one room. My old roommate cleaned out the bits we had left behind and gave it to me in March of 1998. We sat in a restaurant and shared the last meal we ever would, I haven’t seen that roommate again, and neither have most of the people we both knew. In this case, Jen and I trashed out a friendship.
When I left my first apartment in 1996, I left behind all of the goods that my parent’s had gifted to me to make apartment life better, my desk, my furniture, cutlery, a vacuum cleaner, dishes, a microwave and random things. All left, all listed with prices and resale vales to cover a bill my old landlord had given me for a backed up toilet. 80 dollars. The landlord had rejected the notion that I be allowed to have Jen stay overnight or on the weekends, she was living with me, but the landlord had wanted her to pay rent while sleeping in my one room. She moved into her own place, but visited frequently, the landlord felt she was over enough to pay rent (how many times have you heard that line from a parent) and so he actually called the police over it. The police asked me if I wanted to charge the landlord with harassment and urged me to move. I moved.
When we move on, we leave some of our stuff behind, its inevitable. We live anywhere long enough and we leave an indellible mark, beyond the stains, on a place. That townhome in Eugene might not have the pencil marks on the underside of the counters anymore, but it probably still feels like a home that as loved. When I leave the condo i live in now, it will probably feel like leaving home again. Sometimes a trash-out is the only way to say goodbye to home.