In the first few months after I returned to the United States, I remember feeling bombarded by stuff. By stuff I mean things, material items. Home décor things, outdoor patio things, kitchen things, clothing things, electronic things, billboards with pictures of things for sale, iPhones being held in my face with more pictures of things for sale.
I like buying new clothes on occasion, and I’ll keep admitting that. One of the first things I did when I got home was buy a new pair of blue jeans because I had been living without a pair of blue jeans for three years. And it felt GOOD to wear those new blue jeans, and I still enjoy wearing them today. But all the other stuff I was surrounded by gave me a headache. Even my own stuff.
For the first ten months, I was living out of the two bags I brought home with me from South Sudan, staying with family and friends in different places. Even while just having those two bags with me in various places, I got sick of seeing my own things. I would reorganize a lot, and tidy up my things in an effort to feel clean. My brain was overstimulated in the wrong ways, and I was basically freaking out about all the stuff.
Besides the two bags full of things I brought home, I had about seven plastic tubs (like two-ish by three-ish feet, at the largest) full of other things stored at my mom’s house. When I finally worked up the energy to face those things again, I pulled the tubs out of storage and started going through them. Again, I felt gross. I would open a lid and think, why in the hell do I still have THAT? I started throwing things on the ground and making piles for donations and garage sales.
And when people would offer me things, it was difficult to hide what was happening. Of course they meant well and figured I needed some nice, new things since I’d been living in the middle of the desert for so long and my clothes smelled like death. And of course, at the time I couldn’t quite articulate what I was feeling, eloquently. My face would contort and I would say something I thought was ok, like, I probably won’t use that but thank you.
And then when I finally moved to San Clemente, after living in a friend’s living room for another two months and freaking out about my things and reorganizing them, I got into my own place. And I thought briefly about some things I “needed”. Then I got a few things I actually needed, like a bed and pillows and towels and a skillet and utensils and some bowls and plates. It took me a while to take out some of the things I brought home from East Africa that I love, like woven baskets and shells I collected in Zanzibar – to decorate.
I’ve been in this lovely little place for about a year now, and I recently purchased my own welcome mat. It has a sun on it and says, Hello Sunshine. Did I need it? No. Just like I don’t need most of the things society tells me I do. But I like it, and it brings me a little joy when I return home to this place where I’ve been trying to nest. And I hope it brings joy to anyone else who arrives at my door. I still have mixed feelings about it, though.