As the regular reader (if there is one) will realize, I talked a while back about moving. Well, one of the really fun things about moving is figuring out what you need and what you don’t need.
You know, the things you’ve been dragging around for the last twenty years or so. That cassette tape of Richard and Linda Thompson, for example. Or that orange chair that your dad painted and decaled for you with a golden eagle when you were seven or so. The file cabinet. The bits and pieces of computer cable that are now long-obsolete. Children’s clothing.
It’s a tremendously freeing experience. Right now, the house we’re renting is full of boxes, but the walls are bare, all pictures and posters removed and packed up for the move. Almost all of the bookshelves are bare. I spent one evening throwing away several hundred pounds (and likely several thousand dollars’ worth) of textbook from law school. I kept some for review before I take the bar again, and of course I kept all of the ones having to do with alternative dispute resolution.
But I now have much less than I had when I started.
Of course, the things I do still have are that much more important for having stayed. My fountain pen of ~27 years. I (finally) threw away a green-covered notebook of about the same age that I had used to plan out my never-completed dissertation. But I still have the pen.
I still have the green metal toolbox that was my birthday present when I was twelve. It came packed full of Estes solid rocker motors and balsa wood and other rocket parts. I’ve used it over the years as a rocket (“range”) box, as a toolbox for electronics, and most recently, as a bicycle toolbox. The company that made it is long gone (it was, after all, produced in the United States) but it’s still full of memories, and if I breath deep, I can convince myself that I small the sulfurous scent of rocket engines.
Giving things up is hard and there are some things (like the fountain pen) I expect I never will. But it’s a freeing experience, too—and one that in some respects my children won’t have.
Before our last move, I sold and gave away something over 200 records—LPs—and the turntable I used to play them, since there wasn’t going to be room. This evening, I will dispose of a couple of hundred 90-minute cassette tapes. I expect that within the decade, my CD collection will go away. But digital music (and by that I mean music preserved in electronic form, rather than on physical media of any sort) never goes away. So my children, for whom music=software, will not have that opportunity of watching paper and plastic cases slide into a trash bin. The opportunity to clean out my files has already, in many respects, passed. Documents, too, are now software, whether scanned into the machine or copied from the web (or preserved as links to the web, notoriously unreliable though that may be). Not to mention photographs. I just checked, and I have almost 3,100 of those.
I remember when I was 13 cleaning out a huge office desk that my dad bought me for my ham radio station. It had belonged to an agriculture company of some sort—when I pulled out the drawers there were old files embedded behind them. That’s a lot less likely to happen these days.
But overall, it’s sometimes good to have not. I wish I could motivate myself to pass along more stuff—or to acquire less once we move into the new house, which will be (fingers crossed) this Friday and Saturday. But I’m quite sure it will soon be full as well.