Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Philosophy of Things

I've been thinking a lot lately about the stuff that we own—the belongings that we've acquired over time, the keepsakes that we can't part with, the detritus that we really should get rid of.

Our belongings are currently scattered from Australia to Colorado to two houses in Virginia. There's no order to that madness either. My treasured collection of books is at my parents' house, the plates with the dragonfly design that we bought on our honeymoon are at Drew's parents' house, all of our photos and artwork are in storage in a friend's basement.

The scene at the end of a rainy day yard sale, right before we left for Australia.

Right before we moved to Australia, I became intrigued by the idea of narrowing my belongings down. I flipped through the book The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno, where he whittled his worldly possessions down to 100 items. Andrew Hyde floored me with his extreme minimalism, living for a year with only 15 things.

After putting most of our stuff in storage, we moved to Australia with 4 suitcases, only 7 boxes (one of which contained a computer), and a guitar. Not a lot of things. Mostly, it was clothes, camping gear and rock climbing equipment. We had a limited budget for moving expenses, so we had to think carefully about what we packed and what we left behind.

Somewhere between 10–15 books made their way into our boxes. You might think that's crazy. Why waste valuable space and fill our boxes with heavy books, thus making the shipping costs higher? The only true answer I can give you is that we're both readers and books are essential to our wellbeing.

One book that came with us to Australia was my first edition hardcover of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I packed it in the hopes I would be able to meet him while living here (he's Australian), and I had that opportunity last week when a friend and I made the 7-hour round trip drive to Sydney to hear Markus speak. The event was co-sponsored by the Australian Society of Authors and the New South Wales Writers' Centre.

Signed at last!
My friend Elle wrote a great post on her blog about how inspiring Markus' talk was. It was most definitely worth the 7 hours of driving.

At some point, our time in Australia will come to an end and we'll have to make the tough decisions about what to pack and what to leave behind. Looking around our bookshelves, I see certain books that I know will make the long trek around the world and find a new home in our old bookshelves that we will take out of storage.

There is one book in particular that I know will make the journey. It's another first edition, this one already signed by the author. Going Over by Beth Kephart is one of my newest favorite books.

Going Over is about a pink-haired graffiti artist living in West Berlin in the early 1980s. Her name is Ada and she loves a boy who lives on the other side of the Berlin Wall. It's hard to sum up the book in just a few words—it's about counter culture, about artists and rebels, about Berlin and its people, it's about the ties of friendship and family that bind us, and the sacrifices that are made in the name of love. And, like all of my favorite books, it made me cry.

I snapped this shot of a Canberra graffiti artist at the Art Not Apart Festival.
If you were moving halfway around the world, what would you take with you?


  1. Yay for books. Your love for reading is contagious. I hope the move back isn't too difficult. Are you going to do another sale? I wish I was there to help. Hugs.

  2. Yes, books are so essential to our well being. I try to let them take up more space in my heart than in my very tiny apartment but it's hard. So super cool. You met Markus Zusak. I love The Book Thief. I'm off to buy Beth Kephart's book today!

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  4. That's sooooo awesome that you got The Book Thief signed, how neat!!! (sorry for reading this super late :)


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