Stretching Into Your Potential

Lesson #1 of moving: You always have more stuff than you think you do. That’s because humans stretch without realizing it.

I lived in a tiny, 24-square-meter apartment for five years, but what I carried out of that flat today was almost enough to fill an entire van. From one day to the next, I don’t think I ever felt as if anything had changed about the place — but feelings aren’t reality, and so a little here, a little there eventually adds up.

What’s one more shoe box? One more suitcase? One more book on your shelf? In the moment, nothing. But when you move out, these are the things you find in nooks and crannies — and that might force you to rent a bigger truck.

Of course, when we’re forced to pack all our belongings, we lament this dynamic. “How did I rack up so much stuff? Couldn’t have made do with less?” While requiring more physical space is annoying and often costly, our habit of stretching into our environment isn’t a bad thing in and of itself.

When you acquire things for yourself or for your home, it’s a sign you feel comfortable. You’re growing into and with the place. How could it possibly stay the same for five years? You won’t, and neither will your home.

More importantly, however, you also stretch into the various roles in your life. On your first day at work, you don’t know how to complete any of your regular tasks. Three months in, however, you’ve long started making your own tweaks to certain processes. You add a little here, a little there, and make the work your own. The same applies to new friendships, being a dad, and becoming an artist. Your character will have some basic setup, but all the nooks and crannies? You’ll have to fill those as you go, and you’ll do that as naturally as breathing — and that’s a wonderful thing.

The next time you move, try to remember what each item meant when you first put it in its place. Did it help you grow as a mother? Was it a sign that you’ve started living healthier? Appreciate the stretching, and even when it’s time to let go of some possessions, you’ll feel grateful rather than annoyed.

Some people will roll their eyes when you set up personal photographs on your desk, but while their purpose is simple, their meaning is deep: You can take up as much space as you need to be who you want to be, and you’re capable of becoming so much more than you think you can.