I’ve always been pretty clean. (College roommates and ex-boyfriends: feel free to disagree.) I don’t know what happened: maybe I got used to the chaos of a campaign office, or was altered by the experience of living out of my trunk for most of December and January, or somewhere along the way things just got out of hand. Whatever the case, here I am now, underneath a mountain of crap, opening up the door to the back room of my apartment to show you all that I’ve been living like a pig.

What does this have to do with Pakistan, or with cheeseburgers? Nothing, except that I can’t pack for a year-long trip if I can’t find my passport or my wallet or my favorite lounging sweatpants. (You think I am joking about the wallet, but I’m not. I have just been keeping my drivers’ license and a credit card in the back pocket of my jeans.) And I can’t start writing about more interesting things like Pakistani food, the language barrier, different customs, adventures with camels, my collection of shalwar kameezes, and etc., until then either.

This room used to be my study. It’s where I wrote a lot of my dissertation (the rest at the coffee shop down the street), drafted up many marketing documents and articles, and brainstormed ways to get a nonprofit foundation off the ground. It has a great view of the backyard, the little vegetable garden that my landlord plants every spring and tends all summer, and a gorgeous weeping willow tree that he lops off every few years in an act that seems totally vicious, until it always grows back.

This room has now been rendered useless. You can’t walk a straight path through it, so I’ve just closed the door to keep the heating bill down, making it uninviting in two ways, cluttered and frigid. It’s a place no one wants to go–the room where roadtrips go to die.

I guess it’s not totally worthless, though. We can use it to take a quick tour of my fall and winter, using only piles of stuff as our signposts:

October: I go to Ohio for six weeks to campaign. It’s good fun and people send me lots of care packages, which is how I got this box, which I then fill with my stuff to bring home from Ohio. It’s still full of that stuff.
November: I head to Washington DC to start job networking. I decide to bring two suitcases for a two-week trip, one of which is filled with things so useless I haven’t needed them in the two months since. There they are, still in the suitcase.
December: I go to Frankfort, Michigan, to visit my grandpa for the holidays, priding myself on packing so light. That’s where the pride ends, in a rumpled dufflebag still full of winter clothes and a Christmas sweater.
January: I go to California to visit my family. When I come home, everything gets taken neatly out of my suitcase and placed in piles on top of the bamboo towels that I picked up at a great price in Michigan. (super soft, if you’ve never tried them) This is where everything stays.

January, part 2: I go back to DC to continue the hunt, go to the Inauguration, and interview for a job in Pakistan. I also order shoes from zappos.com, which provides me with a handy box to bring a bunch of stuff back to Boston in. I think you are getting the gist of the problem by now.

Why do I have so much stuff? Specifically, why do I have so much stuff that is so unimportant it can stay packed up in boxes or buried underneath bamboo towels and I don’t miss it for months? I’m not even much of a shopper; until recently I hardly ever bought clothes because the required wardrobe for grad school is pretty much t-shirts and those sweatpants I was talking about. And yet I still have way more than I need, which brings me to my current challenge: what do I get rid of and what do I keep? How do I pack up for a year but escape the piles? And most of all, what can I do to have less stuff in general? Kind of like a detox, but with your home instead of your body. This guy has some good things to say. A few years ago, I saw him talking for five minutes on Oprah, read his book, totally agreed, and changed little about my life. So I guess I still need some solid, real things I can do to cut the fat and go minimalist. Any ideas?

I know you’d rather hear about the camels, and the cultural transition, and that funny thing that happened to me at the Islamabad airport. But I’m still waiting to start this adventure, so for now you get piles of stuff in a messy room and a confessional that I’m hoping will inspire me to clean up. It can’t be glamorous all the time, folks.

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