On the way out of my city I often pass a large self-storage center. Rows and rows of nondescript units are lined up like barracks at an army base. I often wonder what is inside those storage units: treasured heirlooms, vast collections of National Geographic, broken and tattered belongings that someone doesn’t want to give up?
I note the sign saying Self-Storage and wonder: How many selves do we lock up inside with those possessions?
Whether or not we rent a storage unit, we do tend to define ourselves by our belongings. The colonists revolted against the Stamp Act of the British Empire by boycotting British goods. This first major, coordinated protest against imperial rule in America not only turned the colonists into Americans, but also defined Americans by what they did or did not buy. To be American was to wear homespun clothes. Material consumption and possession have continued to be the means by which we define ourselves.