Do you know what happens to all of the stuff of people who die without having anyone in their life? I didn’t, until I read the story about the lonely death of a man named George Bell (a long read, and well worth it).

Bell’s tendencies to over eat and to hoard pulled his world in close. He’d pushed many out of his life, and mostly kept to his 800 square feet. He died in his Queens apartment, surrounded by the clutter of a long life in one place – the “unedited anarchy” of his days. Without loved ones looking for items of sentimental or worldly value, his place was left to workers who are paid to pick through estates.

When I first moved to Indianapolis back in 2009, I didn’t realize I’d move three times in the span of a year. Each move was like pushing life through a sieve. I’d pared down, gotten lighter. It’s a lot easier to pack up when you have less.

When we bought our current house, we were consciously seeking a place we could stay in until the end of our days, should life work out that way. We’ve called it home for a year and a half, just long enough to see the beginnings of piles, things we may not use again tucked into the basement, a spare bedroom closet in disarray.

One of our 2015 art purchases. Boats by Phillip Campbell
One of our 2015 art purchases. Boats by Phillip Campbell

Despite the lightness I found by moving too much too quickly, I’m still seeking that balance of what to keep and what to purge – the dance of a collector who also like open spaces. Months after reading about George Bell, a pile of unread magazines in the kitchen triggers the thought: let this not be the start of unedited anarchy.

There’s a line there I don’t want to cross. It lies somewhere on a scale between curation and clutter. I’m not one to hoard, but I love the way I can see so much about a person by what records or books are on their shelves.

I’ve come to think of home as a place that should feel alive with stories. Aside from all of the utilitarian stuff of life, the things I keep should connect to a moment or memory, have some meaning, or bring joy. I want to be able to answer: What is the story of this thing?

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Habitat. What creates a sense of home for you? Explore space, artifacts or people who shape your habitat. When do you feel the most at home?”