I’ve got a little personal project going at the moment. I’m trying to get rid of my crap.
This is different then the normal “Spring Cleanings” I try to do every now and then (even when its not Spring), where I just merely re-organize some things, then maybe donate a few shirts, a really old jacket, a few VHS tapes and 2 books. (Yes, I still have some VHS tapes. No VCR though… but some tapes.) No, I’ve come to the point of stepping out of Denial River and realizing that ain’t cutting it no more. Because, frankly… I’ve got a lot of stuff.
Now, I’m not a “Hoarder” (like the ones on that depressing and disgusting TV show. I’ve never watched the show, only the promos, and I know that’s what it would stir up in me. No thanks.)… Nowhere NEAR that bad. That is a huge extreme, that I have to believe is still leagues away from me. I mean, someone who’s a bona-fide “Hoarder” saves freaking newspapers with the full intention of reading them *someday*. Come on, it takes 3 minutes to read the funny pages, and that was when some of them were still worth reading. (I stick to online comics now, anyway.) Who cares about the other crap, especially when it’s outdated? No, that extreme is one I can’t understand.
I will concede… that I’m a bit of a “Pack-Rat”. I can throw stuff out… I just tend to be pretty selective of it. I do like to keep things that have a small emotional or nostalgic value. Neat little knick-knacks that I acquire from cool little stores or as little gifts from friends. And books! Oy vey, I love books. The smell of them, the act of turning the pages, the idea of being absorbed in another world. Especially if they’re old, and hardbound… and the age is showing on the yellow hue of the pages. It’s a romantic notion to me, and I love them. Bookstores are a weakness for me, and I get sucked into them often for browsing… where I’ll at least be leaving with something from the bargain bin. The large majority of these books I’ve collected over the years… are still waiting to be read.
Board games… I’ve mentioned in the past, that I sort of collect them. Many of them I haven’t played… but all of them I’ve wanted to, and had the utmost intentions of doing so. It’s just that… Life gets in the way.
I do confess I tend to keep magazines around longer then I probably should. I had a collection of Maxim magazines going for a few years… and this started in 1998 (the issue with Alyssa Milano on the cover, I saw it in a large poster ad in New York… and the horn-dog side of me said, “Must… have….” It must have been the subliminal-mind-ray-advertising… Or her boobs. One of those.) But after a 3-4 year stack of issues started getting more and more annoying to move, I started ripping out the “articles” I liked and throwing away the rest, in an effort to reduce the stack. It worked… for awhile. But before you start thinking, “Pshaw… just another perverted male doing anything for lame bikini photos”… keep in mind that, although you’d be completely right with that statement, I had a much bigger collection of Men’s Health magazines. Those issues really did have good, useful articles… as compared to “articles”, if you catch my meaning. Even today, I still read Men’s Health, and only read the cover of Maxim as I’m walking past it in the bookstore. (Unless it has Jennifer Love Hewitt on the cover… then yes, I’ll buy it. I may have a decent amount of willpower, but not THAT much.) But after a certain point… I started ripping out the useful stuff in the Men’s Health issues to try and reduce the stack. I’d even divide them into big yellow envelopes for ease of use later. Recipes in one, fashion and grooming in another, health and fitness in another, etc. Eventually, those too have gotten to be a little too full.
And as someone who loves movies… of course I have a hefty collection. Been collecting DVDs for 10 years now, and my tried-and-true technique of waiting for movies to drop down to the bargain bin has given me a lucrative collection to be reckoned with. And even though we all marveled at how “thin” the cases are (especially compared to VHS tapes, and they are)… they still add up. I have always had a problem when it came to storing my movies and shows. (And you’d probably be surprised with how many of them I haven’t sat down and watched yet.)
The same went for my CDs and music. In fact, this was the first thing I started “condensing” back in the late 90s. I was getting ready to move to California, and knew I’d be carting as much as I could in my little SAAB and driving 3,600 miles away. As I was also determined to spend the large majority of my time working on Grad School stuff, the idea of “minimalism” was starting to be very appealing to me. I wasn’t even planning to bring my collection of VHS tapes (this was just before DVD came out) or a TV. I was serious about not wanting to even have the time or opportunity to get sucked in to a show. (Though, as an apartment-warming gift, my dad bought me a TV anyway. Figures.) But I couldn’t leave my tunes behind… that’s my SOUL, dammit! But I sure didn’t want to cart all those discs. So… I acquired 2 of those large disc-folders, the ones that held about 100 CDs at a time, and filled them up, and put the empty plastic cases in storage, along with everything else I didn’t want to take to California. I even condensed several discs (ones that only had 1 or 2 songs on them that I liked) into mix CDs to save more slots. I even had plenty of room left over in them for when I would acquire new music as well. I still have and use those folders for all music CDs. I even eventually tossed out the empty plastic cases (but kept the inserts and booklets), as I’ve found the folder method too convenient.
I even keep some old shirts and clothes, fully aware that I’ll never wear (or even WANT to wear) again. Such as:
-My old Cub Scout uniform from when I was 10. I made it to Webelos rank, and got the little sleeve pin-tassel-things that you use to pin the merit badges/pins onto… but my family moved before I ever got to earn any, so it’s bare to this day. (Something tells me this won’t fit me, but I haven’t tried, so I can’t say for sure.)
-The black long-sleeved shirt from Senior Year in high school… with the large numbers “93” on the back and the names of every member of the graduating class inscribed therein. I freaking HATED high school, have managed to successfully block out many of the memories… but I’ve kept that shirt. I don’t know why… and I only wore it twice, if that. (You can’t really wear that around in college or beyond without looking like a total toolbox. “Dude, you’re not in High School anymore… move on.”)
-The blue vest I was given when I worked at Wal-Mart for a summer (and never gave back). I don’t think they even wear that style anymore, so I couldn’t even infiltrate them anymore. (Well, maybe… I should look into that…)
-An apron, and embroidered polo shirt from the first restaurant I worked at. I haven’t been there in 16 years. That place doesn't even EXIST anymore.
-The paint-splattered shirt from when I did that weird-ass Tennessee Williams play. I was bummed when I didn’t fit into it anymore (or rather, when it ceased to flatter my figure), because I liked wearing that around. Gave me a stylish, “artsy” look. I’m pretty sure the t-shirt itself was from the 70s, but the paint splattering was original, courtesy of the costume department, who were happy to give it to me after the show.
-My loincloth and vest-jacket from when I performed in an 8-man version of Midsummer Night’s Dream (same costume department, same elation to get rid of a costume piece that wouldn’t be used again)
-A jean jacket with “Hard-Rock Café – Save the Earth” embroidered on the back. (Christmas gift from 1993… all the kids in the clan got one, and I’ve still got the group photo to prove it.)
Hell, somewhere is even my graduation robes from High School, College, AND Grad School. Why why oh WHY??
I’ve always liked the idea of going minimalist… and everything being neat and clean, and easily staying that way. I’m just total crap at actually pulling that off. By contrast, I never liked the idea of “When I was no longer a child, I put away childish things”… screw that. I like my childish things. They’re fun, and make me smile. I don’t want to get rid of something *just* because it was made for an age demographic I’m no longer technically a part of. Nor will I pretend something’s not fun. That… I’m pretty good at.
But the stuff that sits in the garage, or in the back of my closet… isn’t giving me any enjoyment by being static. And I have such a small living space, I just don’t have the room. So, I’ve been inspired lately to give it a more earnest try. The actual catalyst was a short article I read over on the website TheFrisky.com, from a few weeks ago entitled “I Got Rid of 90 Percent of My Stuff, And I Feel Fine”. While there are several other things from the past year or so that made the idea of having less stuff very appealing… this was the first thing that just flat out threw it into words, directly. (Sometimes, we need that.)
Now, I don’t know if I could eliminate 90% of my stuff… but I have a modest goal of getting rid of at least 40%. And while I’ve been plugging away at it… I’m thinking I could do even more then that.
First place to start… books. I have a series of shelves in my bedroom tucked in the corner of the room, behind the door. It’s definitely the most cluttered part of that room. So, I started pulling out books that I know I’ll never read, and stacking them. I also pulled out a bunch of old role-playing games, mostly stuff from college. So, I put those in another stack. The normal books will be donated… the RPGs, I’m going to try Ebay. (While I’ve bought plenty of stuff off Ebay, I’ve never sold anything… so I don’t even know how to set that up. Guess I’ll learn.). If I can’t get anything for them after a few weeks, I’ll donate those as well.
Then… some board games. Wasn’t looking forward to it, because I like my board games. But when I look at them, and know full well that when “Board Game Night” does come around, my friends and I usually pick something else… so that starts its own pile. My rule on the board games were… “I’m keeping my CLUEs, that’s non-negotiable.” Because I love the game CLUE, it’s my favorite. And I’ve got several spin-offs and variations. (I’m a sucker for mysteries.) So I went through the others and managed to clear out about 10 of them so far… a good chunk now sitting at Goodwill waiting for new owners. But you know… I’m starting to look at some of those CLUE games… and starting to wonder if I could get rid of those too. Because the variations aren’t like the original game… they just have the CLUE name and “expand the story” with their own game. A bit unnecessary, but they’re neat. I’d have to keep at least 3… the standard version, my Haunted Mansion version I got from DisneyLand, and Clue Master Detective (a version from the late 80s with more rooms, suspects and weapons, but plays the exact same). But the others… just might be going. Including the newest version with the “revamped and updated” rules… which aren’t that great, and I suspect Parker Brothers will eventually get rid of anyway in future incarnations of the game. But maybe my non-negotiable rule is going to be more flexible then I originally declared it was going to be. We’ll see.
Then, the DVDs. A while back, I started doing with my movies what I did with my CDs… putting them in those big folders that holds 100 at a time. I picked up several of them, and divided them up by genre. Sci-Fi in one, Asian Entertainment in another, Horror in one (actually that’s 2 folders filled up now), Musicals and Plays in yet another, Comedies, Adventures, Drama, Cooking Shows, etc, etc. I also grabbed larger ones for my TV-on-DVD shows… also divided up into genres. I even painted on the front of each one for ease of identification. Sure, having numerous folders is a bit bulky, but still leagues better then keeping all those discs in their cases. I was holding onto some of the plastic cases… thinking *maybe* I’ll put them back into them someday, for display purposes… but let’s face it; why would I want to? So, they have to go… especially since “some” become “a lot more then some”. All those… sat in the garage… waiting… and occupying space.
The showdown is inevitable.
So I’ve started in on that stuff in storage. I’ve pulled down about 7 large plastic bins so far, and have condensed them into 2. 5 large bins worth of stuff… gone. This is where I’ve found all those old clothes, all the spare DVD cases, stuffed animals acquired over the years (which, being up in the dusty garage all this time, are probably so spore-filled as to be downright unhealthy. So, I may even have to get rid of my little Muppet dolls I collected from Disney. Not a fun prospect to a major Muppet fan like myself), even more books (oh so many books) and so much else.
I even found my 4-year collection of Boy’s Life magazines from the mid-80s (more relics from my scouting days). I was planning to get some nice plastic bags for them, slide them into a nice storage box from the Comic Store, and keep them. My brother happened to see them and asked, “Why have you kept old scouting magazines from 25 years ago?” Well, it was for nostalgia, yes. Plus, I think they’re collector’s items. My first issue was the premiere of a few features for that magazine that they’re still doing today. I got a lot of enjoyment out of them, and I don’t think it’s all that bad to keep them around in an out-of-the way manner. But… yeah, then I got to thinking. “Damn… maybe I *should* stop holding onto them. Well, maybe I can get something for them on Ebay or something… surely they ARE collector’s items?” So, I looked online. You know what I found? Every single issue of Boy’s Life magazine, from the 1930s to the present, online, complete and for free on Google Books. F-ing A!!! Now I have no excuse to not recycle them. So… into the recycling they went, and then told my brother I hated him. But at least I’ll have more room by my boxes of comic books---
God Dammit! NOW I’m going to be going through my comics and see which of THOSE I can get rid of!!! Arrrgghhh!
In a way, it’s almost getting too easy, the more I do this. I’m currently convinced this is only 85% a good thing. (But only because I want to be stubborn in some regard)
Basically, I’m just putting everything into 2 categories: “Getting Rid of”… and “Not Sure Yet.” Once I’m done, I’ll go through the “Not Sure Yet” group and divide them again into the 2 categories. And then go through them yet again… and then once more, this time creating a “Keep” pile.
I am allowing myself a few nostalgic keepsakes… my Muppet Magazines for one. (Do you have any idea how rare they are? Seriously. I’ve got 9 of them.) And I still have all my old Theatre books, because it was, and I still consider it to be, a big part of my life and who I am… and with my pursuit back into teaching, will hopefully be a larger part in the future. (Yet, I’m starting to wonder… is there anything in that bin that won’t be that useful to me right now?)
But I think I might be close to… if not at the 40% mark already. I’ve donated about 150 books, trashed 3 bins worth of plastic, and a slew of knick-knacks ready for the trash heap. (I found my old key-chain collection from 20 years ago… I didn’t even like the hobby that much, and haven’t added to it in almost that time.) I’m finally eliminating the last of those VHS tapes that just haven’t gone away yet… all those old scout shirts, work uniforms, etc… so much stuff I’ve been holding onto, and I no longer know why.
And I know, that at some point… I’m going to come across a little green box that I have completely taped up. That I haven’t opened in quite a few years. It’s somewhere in the back of my closet (I think), and it contains things I haven’t WANTED to look at in all that time. And I’m not sure what I’ll do. I probably should have thrown it out long ago… most probably would have in a fit of anger. But I was thinking, it was a part of my life, and I may now want nothing to do with it… but I can’t deny it ever happened. I thought it was a “mature” way to treat it… maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But I held onto it, physically. (I definitely held onto it emotionally, much longer then I should have.)
I think, if I threw it all away then… it would have been out of anger. Now, if I throw it away… it’s because it doesn’t mean anything. Which just might be the best reason for it to go.