After working with Doctors Without Borders for nearly two years, I made the ultimate commitment and sold my house. I would live the nomadic life and travel from one assignment to another. Between assignments, I would avail myself of the good graces, spare bedrooms, and hopefully high-speed Internet of friends and family. It did not make sense to pay a mortgage on a house I never saw and spent nights worrying about. Nights lying awake wondering if the roof was leaking or if the vintage-era electrical wiring had combusted and burned the house down.
I was living in Malawi when I made the decision. I asked a friend to manage the logistics of the sale and my brother to take responsibility for legal documentation. Surprisingly, they both said yes. Let me tell you, life as a nomad is not possible without the support of friends and family. Every day I wake up and my first words of gratitude go out to them. My next words of gratitude then go to the “The Closet”. People frequently ask, “How does one live such a life?” “Well,” I tell them, “you can’t do it without “The Closet”.
“The Closet” is a storage unit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was originally a 10 x 10 square foot unit and now, after a recent upgrade, a 10 x 12 square foot unit. Let me tell you, size does make a difference. In The Closet are my worldly possessions; all those items I look forward to unpacking and enjoying at some point in the future.
Artwork and photos that make my heart smile. Overstuffed chairs perfect for long days and nights of reading. A kitchen table with memories rubbed deep into the woodgrain. An avocado green dresser as old as I am, with flower petals for handles and according to Dad, “rates two good kids”. Books, an odd collection of kitchen utensils, the chicken shaped potholders crocheted by my grandmother, and some of the finest glassware ever received as gifts.
In addition to storing possessions, The Closet has a second purpose: it serves as a supply station. Whenever in Albuquerque, the city I use as a base for my nomadic operations, I return to The Closet to swap out clothes, restock toiletries, stash treasures, and reconnect with my stuff. Throughout history, nomads have left behind things they eventually come back to. I am no different. Whenever I push the rippled steel door that protects my possessions from the world up and out of the way, I feel a sense of homecoming.
During the recent upgrade to a larger unit, I sat down with the movers for a serious discussion before we began moving stuff in. I explained that this would not be the usual “stash and dash” packing process they might be used to. I was going to use my extensive experience in the matter (over five years in the smaller unit) and had given the layout considerable thought. Together we would create a highly functioning layout that gave me access to any conceivable item I might need in the next few years, in a comfortable setting while taking advantage of the sun’s positioning. I wanted it all; ease of access, comfort, and the warmth of the sun during the cold months.
The movers immediately recognized that I was someone who knew her stuff and appreciated that by the time they arrived, everything was packed, ready to go, and clearly identified. “Non-priority” items were to be placed at the back of the unit and “priority” items were to be placed towards the front in an accessible position. I then put forth one more challenge: create a living area in the unit. An empty space large enough for a chair and small table; a place I could sit in the sun, enjoy a cup of coffee, and catch up on phone calls and administrative matters when I came to resupply.
We spent the next three hours transporting my worldly possessions and strategically placing them in The Closet. It was a team effort in which all opinions were welcome and final placement decisions agreed upon by full consensus. We considered both safety and preservation issues as we stacked furniture ten feet high and took advantage of a built-in shelf for the fragile glassware. We were focused, we laughed, and incorporated the wisdom of Ron, the facility manager who unexpectedly joined us in the process.
Today my heart sings in gratitude for the professionals that made a vision come true. The Closet is truly the highest functioning supply station I have experienced. I would imagine it is second only to the one serving the International Space Station but can’t confirm, having never seen that one for myself. What I know is that when I go to The Closet to resupply, I have access to all things I consider a priority in a material sense and a spacious and comfortable environment to relax in while there. The team even placed a few extra chairs that are immediately accessible should I have visitors. The Closet is open and you are most welcome.