Photo by: Robyn Woodman

Voluntary Homelessness

For about a year I have been living half-time on another continent. Straddling the blurred lines between Americanisms and Italianisms. Moving back and forth every few months with as much ease as one does with this bi-continental dance. Throughout I have kept all my worldly belongings in Portland, in my apartment.

In the beginning I would rent it out. Usually to business people with short term projects in town. Preferring my space to the Extended Stay in the Industrial District, they felt right at home nestled in my cozy studio, less than a block from the most coveted shopping district in Portland. Good for me, good for them.

Then a few months ago I added a roommate of sorts, to the lease. She lives there amongst my belongings when I’m in Italy and I have the option of taking it back when I’m in the States. Good for me, good for her.

Except I found that I don’t want it back.

When I think of my space and my things, I don’t feel nostalgic. I don’t find myself thinking, “Wow, this has been fun and all, but I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed again.” Which is nutty, since my bed is the zenith of sleeping delight.

No bed feels like my own bed. On the flip-side, every bed I sleep in feels like my own bed. At my friend’s home in Seattle. In our apartment in Italy. In Orange County at a housesit I have next month. On the blow up bed I can set up at will, that lives in the trunk of my car. Shrug. Apparently I’m wildly adaptable.

When in Portland I feel a vague sense of familiarity when I’m surrounded by my photos on the walls, the nubby throw blanket on the back of my leather chair, the vintage hardware cabinet in the kitchen. It’s as if I saw pictures of a friend’s apartment on Instagram and I recognize some of her things.

Last week I found myself thinking, “When I move to another place, I’m going to sell everything. It will feel great to start fresh.” I started a mental calculation, moving through the space methodically sorting and taking boxes to the secondhand store.

Two days later everything fell into place. I received a message from my roommate with what she termed “good/bad news.” I figured the good news was she had a new opportunity and the bad news was she was leaving the apartment. I was right. But not really.

There was no bad news. At least it didn’t feel bad to me.

I had already made the decision to start fresh. Why not go one step further and give myself the ultimate freedom and sell everything now. Why burden myself with keeping a space for my stuff? For what, a handful of shirts I hadn’t worn in over a year? For a bunch of random beauty products that are probably out of date? For silverware I purchased from Target 12 years ago missing 2 forks? Nope.

Instant relief flooded through me, like the cool side of a pillow during a hot summer sleep. It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

From one point of view I won’t have “things.” A spot. A place. A zipcode, neighborhood, or a bed to miss. But I wasn’t missing it anyway. Was I?

On the other hand, there’s a far more expansive point of view to consider. Rather than one spot, I will have many. I have the stuff I really love, with me. Both inside me and inside my small suitcase. The shirts I wear over and over that feel great on my skin. The small cosmetics bag I replenish regularly. The photos I love so much on my phone, on my Instagram account.

Living without a dedicated space isn’t for everyone. I totally agree. It’s not even for me — not all the time. But right now it is. And I’m going to just go with it.

I feel intense freedom with this decision.

I’m so fucking delighted for what’s coming my way. I have no clue what it is. But it’s an electric feeling in the back of my head, in my heart, and all around me.

Thank you to everyone that is journeying along with me.