Couples and their ‘stuff’

It’s not the most romantic of impulses, but the economic cold snap ofthe past year has increased the temptation for couples to huddletogether and split the rent.

It’s not the most romantic of impulses, but the economic cold snap of the past year has increased the temptation for couples to huddle together and split the rent.

It seems like a good idea on the face of it, taking the relationship to that mythic “next level,” simplifying the logistics of life and all that. There is, however, the matter of your respective baggage, and here I refer only to the physical stuff. Two peoples’ possessions must somehow be combined into one place.

George Carlin famously pointed out that a house is nothing but a place to keep your stuff. He also noted that while your stuff is simply called “stuff,” someone else’s is generally referred to with one of his (pre-HBO) Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.

This distinction is much on my mind now, here in the middle of Operation Shack-Up. A stack of boxes packed with deferred decisions looms in our bedroom. We have earnest conversations about shelving and storage. I worry about resentment of my stuff growing into resentment of me.

I have many unspoken questions. Where are we going to keep all my CDs? (And why, as an adult male, do I own so many friggin’ CDs?)

The accumulated detritus of two lives will always take up too much space and threaten the domestic peace. We’re both what are vaguely called “knowledge workers.” In practice, it means we’ve got more books than shelves, and our living room, with three computers, now slightly resembles a call centre.

As a veteran of many moves and many apartments, the solution, when in doubt, is to pitch it out. Every time you move, you must justify lugging that box of old magazines one more time or finally give it the heave.

Mercifully, last weekend was Give Away Weekend in Ottawa, when the citizenry are encouraged to put their “gems” and “treasures” out on the curb to see if anyone else wants them. Reduce, reuse, unload your crap on the unsuspecting. Good stuff.

Somehow, though, amidst all this out-with-the-old, you absurdly end up shopping for new stuff, joining all those glum, strained couples at Ikea in navigating that fiendishly designed Swedish merchandise maze for more clutter.

All these stuff-related trials, though, can perhaps be seen as tests of your ability to compromise, revealing either what junk you’re willing to live with, or what prized possessions you’re willing to throw away, in order to be together.

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