Collectorism

I am beat. This weekend, I rented a moving truck and we hauled over everything that I’m going to keep from the Astoria apartment to my new place. I got the truck for the whole weekend, and envisioned lap after lap between the two boroughs. But on Friday, we got everything loaded into a single, densely-packed truckload, then parked the car overnight in a locked lot and spent most of Saturday afternoon hauling everything in. I think we were back at the Budget lot and done with it by maybe three. I spent the rest of the night and some of today unloading boxes, packing away things, and hooking up electronics. It’s not done, but it’s really getting there.

As far as what fits in a ten foot moving truck, this load included five bookcases, a wood and glass TV pedestal, a 27″ TV, a surround sound receiver, DVD player, CD player, tape player, VCR, 12″ 3-way speakers, five surround speakers, a powered subwoofer, a bass amp, my keyboard, a bunch of bike parts, my tools, all of my dishes, papers, fans, an air conditioner, a ton of old cassettes and VHS tapes, and probably a thousand pounds of books. I wish I was joking about the book thing, but I’m not; I had about 20 boxes of books, each one weighing about 40 or 50 pounds. That’s why I feel completely devastated today. I never want to move again. I know we will move, but I don’t want to be the one doing it. It’s much easier for me to write a check than it is to unload boxes of books. I know I’m out of shape and everything, but this was a true affirmation that I am getting old. When I was 22 years old, I unloaded a 40-foot semi truck full of furniture, lawn tractors, refrigerators, and boxes of consumer crap every morning for a summer. Now I’m tired just typing that sentence.

This move has also created an entire phase-shift in my relationship to Stuff. I used to, for some reason unknown to me because I was in the center of things, like to accumulate Stuff. When I was single, I would buy Stuff. To me, Stuff consisted mostly of DVDs, CDs, and books, but once you get locked into those things, your collection of Stuff also grows to things like magazines or ticket stubs or photos or clippings about the creators of your Stuff. I’ve also gone through various other collectorial phases, collecting Stuff like gadgets and electronics. I’ve never gone over the edge as far as comics or toys or japanimation or any of that. But I’ve bought a lot of Stuff. And maybe I bought Stuff because I was unhappy, and I thought it would make me happy. But it never really did. All it did was take up space.

If you divide the world into people who are all about collecting Stuff and those who think it’s disgusting to collect Stuff, it’s funny, because one side will never understand the other. People with no food on their table but their entire house swarming with unopened Beanie Babies from eBay will recoil in horror at the thought of a nice apartment with nothing on the shelves. People with tens of thousands of records in their collection immediately pounce on someone’s 40-CD collection when they visit in the most mocking of tones. And hey, I’ve been there. But I’ve never taken a big step back to think about what all of this Stuff really gets me in life, how much I really need it, and how it really impacts me.

One of the big things in this move is that I’ve tried to shed some Stuff. A lot of stuff that I’d never really need again went in the garbage. Lots of papers, little tchotchkis, unneeded cables and adapters (no need for all of those 9-to-7-to-male-to-female-to-usb-to-printer cables with the new Mac) and other crap. Any time in the past when I said “hey, I might need this later” led to something in a closet that went. And I did save some stuff, but a lot of it went. The same philosophy went to the DVDs, tapes, CDs, and other media. And I shed a few hundred books before I left.

I’ve pretty much stopped buying DVDs, oddly enough. Part of that is Netflix, part is that I’ve been introducing Sarah to a lot of the old stuff I have in my collection, and part is that we simply don’t sit around and watch that many movies. All of the DVDs went into leather binders with plastic binder pages inside. This turned a giant wall of a collection into three small binders that hide away nicely. And now the notion of buying DVDs seems silly, since for the most part I only watch them once, if that, and then they take up space. I used to think it was ultra-important to have every DVD that I personally liked on-hand so if I woke up at three in the morning and absolutely had to watch Blade Runner, I could. But you know what? That doesn’t really happen that much. And the more DVDs you get, the more you need.

I still get the occasional CD. But I listen to CDs (or the derived MP3s, anyway) on my iPod or at home or work a lot. I might listen to a CD five times in a week, and I never do that with a DVD (except maybe Platoon.) But now that I use iTunes and the iPod for everything now, I don’t really need the CDs around. Those got banished to the closet, in some cardboard boxes I bought especially for that purpose.

At some point, I used to think it was great being surrounded by all of this media, the CDs and DVDs sitting spine-out on shelf after endless shelf. I think it was part of the mental sickness of whatever disease creates completeists, the people who live for Stuff. I guess I struggled with this as a writer for a while, because sometimes I wanted to just buy Stuff, and hunt down that long-missing, elusive Stuff on eBay that would somehow make life better. But then part of me thought instead of getting or buying this stuff, I should be making it. And my most creative periods were when I was so broke, I could barely afford food let alone Stuff, but typing into an emacs buffer is always free. Okay, of course you have to pay the power bill. And maybe you always wanted the latest computer, which is also Stuff-ism, or maybe you need some CDs to play while you write – that’s how you start to justify buying more Stuff instead of writing, which is what kills the muse.

Books are still a problem. I’m paring them down, but I have much more of a connection to the books I read, and this will be a harder bug to kill. But it’s getting there.

P.S.: No more trip to Cancun. We rebooked, and will be going to Amsterdam on the 9th. I realize it will be a bit cold, but at least it’s not underwater. (knock wood.)

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