Moving is hell, as the saying goes, and my recent move to California, in the tiresome way of all major moves, has been hellish. The main driver of misery is the Stuff to be moved. There is the back breaking, ass-kicking difficulty of dealing with the mother-lode bulk of it: the furniture, the boxes and boxes of items, the kitchenware, the pictures, the bedding. It takes weeks just to assemble it all, then days more to load it all into a 8’ x 16’ PODS container. Staring at that great tangled mass, stacked top to bottom, front to back, was tiring in itself, as though it was a crushing weight upon my soul.
The bigger problem is our emotional connection to our Stuff. Much of my suffering came from the idea my wife and I had that moving was an opportunity to assess the entire Stuff Collection, and get rid of lots of it. First, there is the curation of the Stuff. As Stuff which sits around inside your house, functional or not, there for sensible reasons or not, it constitutes a collection.
So we dug into the layers of storage and closets and all the spaces of our house where Stuff was hiding. I became unhappily immersed in my earlier selves and circumstances. It was an involuntary therapy session of photos and mementos, like embarrassing prom photos and ancient resumes and lamps that once seemed like a good idea and bizarre post college artwork and sporting equipment purchased at great cost which fizzled quickly into obscurity.
When you find an item, then you must decide. Is it on the truck or not? It’s live or die, love it or leave it. I stored it for good reasons years ago (or did I?): do they still hold up?
I feel sentimental about most stuff, and the people who gave me the stuff and the fond memories that surround the stuff…Is discarding that stuff then a rejection of those times and people? For example, greeting cards. How long must I store old birthday cards? Discarding them immediately after receiving them seems unappreciative of the positive sentiments the friend or family member was conveying with a carefully written note inside the card. Perhaps the card came from a beloved and now deceased family member, which makes it worse. So they stack up on a shelf. But must I carry them around forever?
Then you hit the killer, the tear jerker item, which shuts down the whole process and creates psychological crisis. There is absolutely no use for it and it is bulky, but you can’t imagine chucking it. I am talking about what’s at the very back of the closet: my entire cassette collection, the soundtrack of my youth, in all its briefcase mixtape glory. I have not listened to them in 20 years. My cassette player was thrown away years ago, but there is just no way. It’s like the Smithsonian throwing away Lindberg’s plane. No one will ever make another trip in that thing. No one can even touch it. It has zero usability, but it’s History, so it will hang in the exhibit hall forever.
I have always pitied electronic devices. There is newness and great excitement when we get them, and they dutifully serve our needs: computers, cassette players, smart phones, boom boxes, cameras. They deliver their thing in their way, but as soon as the smell of tech obsolescence is in the air, we toss them, despite their years of loyal service, to be ground under by heavy machinery at the landfill. Thanks, pal.
So it was torturous to consider the fate of my beloved Canon AF35M 35mm auto camera, which still would work beautifully, if I used it, and was carried on numerous vacations and still possesses undeveloped film, possibly containing cherished memories. No one wants to buy a 20 year old camera. Not even on Craig’s List. No one wants this as a gift. It seems unceremonious and wrong to dump it in the trash. It was, and still is, a great camera, which provided pictures during some of the happiest times of my life! And it’s reward for this good service?
The camera went to Goodwill, with the sincere hope an appreciative person will find it and dispel my guilt about abandoning it.
Most of the cassettes stayed with me, but not all of them. May they live on without me.