I’m sitting in a t-shirt by a pool behind a house in LA. I like visiting other people’s houses, especially when those people are related to me. I’ve seen three of one brother’s houses and this is the first one of the other’s. House-owning has been a bone of contention between myself and others. I just don’t get why anyone would do it. Of course I’ve been very lucky with landlords, but I’m very happy to rent and have never considered the other thing. Seems like a nightmare of endless chores and responsibilities. I lived with a woman once who was very proud to own her home. For a time there was talk of us buying a house together. But I could never see the point. It was one of the reasons we broke up.
If I play my cards right, I will never even own a car again. The knowledge that, once I return from my Western sojourn, I can drop the vehicle I’ll have put over four thousand miles on and never think of it again, is immensely satisfying. The whole concept of ownership feels more and more suspect as the years pass.
I learned about Swedish Death Cleaning before leaving on my trip. It’s a thing I’ve been talking about for awhile but have never had a good name for——the idea of leaving as little mess as possible for friends and loved ones when you pass. A goal has crystallized lately of having nothing when I’m ready to go. To leave an empty room. The Swedes have branded and marketed my wish.
This is the polar opposite of what our society is geared for. Ownership is the American Dream. It’s a dream that reminds me I’m a foreigner. I wish it was as simple as becoming an ascetic. A monk in a bare cell. The trouble is I keep making things. Generating more and more crap that will have to be disposed of one way or another, sooner or later.
It’s an impossible situation. Perhaps that’s the human condition: wanting one thing but doing the opposite.
I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to own things. If I did, I’d be out of a job. It’s mostly an internal thing. I can’t shake the image of an apartment full of paintings, books, records, and worn furnishings that no one will want. Workmen hauling it all away to the landfill.
A friend and I visited an apartment like that a couple weeks ago. The dead woman’s nephew invited us to pick through her studio and take whatever we wanted. She’d made art for probably fifty years and, judging by the amount of unused supplies, planned to work for fifty more. This stuff cost her many thousand dollars but to the nephew it was just garbage to be rid of so he could put her place on the market.
At least, when my time comes, whichever relative draws the short straw won’t have to sell my house. They’ll thank me for being a lifelong renter.