I’ve been getting rid of things. Books and records, mostly. When you live in one place awhile you accumulate stuff. Like a squirrel drags flotsam from the outside world to gird for winter, we bring things home to make it feel more like home. But after a time, all this crap starts weighing on the psyche. You come upon a book you bought because of some momentary enthusiasm but have never opened. You have to admit to yourself that you will never open it and that it would have a better chance of being useful elsewhere. So you through it, and dozens of others like it, into a rolling suitcase and carry it down your three flights of stairs, onto the bus, and a couple blocks further, to the non-profit, donation-only bookstore. Then you have an empty suitcase and you feel lighter. At least, that’s what I did. And it felt so good that I kept going.
I started going through the records. The box sets went first. There’s some kind of psychological barrier with playing those. For some reason, the packaging feels to daunting to get into. Opening it to get to the music seems insurmountable. Then, if you start on the first record, there’s an implicit expectation or suggestion that you must then listen to the other three, four, five, or ten. I try to think back to the moment I decided to plunk down money for these doorstop-sized guilt magnets. Like with so many things that can be acquired, the momentary daydream of ownership is much better (and cheaper) than actually going through with it.
Many books and records remind me of particular people or situations I’d rather forget. That’s reason enough to find them new homes. It’s no knock on the quality of the art, but a personal association can so color a thing that it’s impossible to appreciate it. Sometimes it has to do with who made it, other times how I got it. If all I can think of is that person when I read/see/hear it, then it’s time for it to go.
I’ve sold books and records back to stores since I was a kid. There’s a shameful pawnshop aspect to doing this. It’s what junkies and homeless people do. But I’ve worked at making this current culling into a positive experience. After a block of records or books is gone, my place feels roomier. It gets easier to breathe. I don’t feel cheated for only getting ten cents on the dollar at the record store because I know that whoever buys them next will value them more than I have. I’ve never collected as an investment. I have no strategy for the things I buy. Certainly no eye for what they might be worth in the future.
It’s odd to see things I once owned—sometimes for years—for sale in a store. In the case of the LPs, I traded the ones I wanted to get rid of for store credit. So I return to the shop now and then to browse. Some of the my old higher-end records are given pride of place, faced for easy access. Then, the next time, one or another will be gone. Scott, the store’s owner, will tell me who bought it. In that way, the story of these things, which once meant something to me, continue.
There is, of course, an inherent contradiction in this ascetic-like purging. The books and pictures I make myself are adding to the teetering pile of things in the world. I’m making the problem worse no matter what I do. My latest recycling scheme intended to thin out the flatfiles is these bookmarks. It’s satisfying to cut up old pictures and through the unneeded parts in the trash. It’s also satisfying to have people buy them and get them out of my life. In my dream scenario, the only art of my own that would be in my house is whatever I’m working on at the moment.
There’s a good chance that I’ll be moving to a new place in the coming months. This likely prompted this latest reassessment of what to trash and what to keep. The idea of having to deal with a few less boxes is very appealing. But it’s felt good to have a little less. To lightened the load. To literally get rid of baggage. I highly recommend it.
But, if on the contrary, you’re looking to add more to your nest, do I have a deal for you! Help me empty out this place so I can start over in the new one with less.