Summer holidays are coming to an end in Australia. With the beginning of new semester approaching I found myself searching for a place to live. University halls promise comfort to exchange students, excusing them from doing certain chores and offering company of people similarly lost in an unknown country. However, it’s easy to become lazy when surrounded by exchange students and fail to befriend local people. So, I have settled for living with two Australian guys and a cat in an apartment above mechanic’s workshop in an industrial suburb of Sydney. See, that holds a promise of authentic experience.
However, my two new flatmates lived on their own for quite a while. Some rearranging was required to find some space for me between piles of books, boxes of unknown content, vinyls, milk crates, bits of electronics of unknown origin and purpose, random pieces of furniture, plants and cat toys. So I have joined them on all-day quest to move furniture, get rid of things that are not need and find a home for things that are being used.
In thirty-five degree heat of Australian summer we have emptied one of the rooms by moving all of its contents out in the corridor and living room. Once we were finished we were trapped in the room by all of the boxes and bags blocking the way out. I have ended up ruining a few spider households vacuuming, while my flatmate moved around an ancient wardrobe standing on little wooden lion paws. The cat didn’t make things easier by jumping around in panic, terrified by all of the sudden changes. Once the furniture was rearranged, the true challenge began. We have spent hours going through contents of various boxes and making decisions about their destiny. We have found about ten different hats, books on Freudian psychoanalysis and clash of physics and religion, two model boats, a collection of bottle caps and Pokemon cards, six Rubik cubes, a ring with my initials, a typewriter and endless posters with movie stars. Even after putting away half of it for donation, we still ended up having trouble finding space for what was left. And this is when I have learned how to make shelves out of milk crates, which can be easily dissembled and used for moving. Whole process kept us busy until late hours of the evening, however we have succeeded in making the apartment a livable space for all of us.
I have been moving around a lot since I have left my parent’s house at the age of seventeen. As a result I need to be very conscious of how much I own. I must be able to put all of my belonging in a single suitcase so I can move somewhere else again. Therefore, I have trained myself to avoid keeping anything that is not absolutely necessary, I do now own anything that holds any sentimental value. It was quite strange and entertaining having to deal with endless piles of things, which origins and purpose were puzzling even for their owners. And I have realized that while my belongings are truly impersonal, in the belongings of my flatmates contained is their life story. Boxes full of childhood pictures and old teddy bears whisper stories about their childhood, while piles of books and notes and artefacts tell a story of their adulthood. I feel like it was worth the effort to get to know the people I will be living with a little better.