Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Moving, Moving, Moving

At my day job, we are in the process of moving into a new office building, so the current building is littered with packing crates, moving labels, and assorted discarded office accessories. Those wire racks you use to hold manila folders appear to be the most numerous unwanted object in the modern office. There is a growing mountain of them on the Things No One Wants Anymore table. I hope someone will be getting some good recycling out of them. Seems like such a waste otherwise.

My own packing consists of a small box, not quite half full, and the electrical necessities - phone, computer, docking station, etc. - that make up the modern work space. All of my files are on the computer, so that’s nice and neat. I’ll just take my box under my arm and go.

All of this puts me in mind of how much most of us dislike moving. The whole process of packing, stacking, transporting, and unpacking is a headache we would rather avoid whenever possible, and I think part of that is because moving ends up reminding us how much stuff we have accumulated, which can sometimes make us question the why of accumulating. Life is often about collecting, collecting memories and experiences one would hope, but also collecting things. Sometimes those things pile up more than we expected.

Heather often calls me a packrat, but she sometimes forgets that I am usually just a seasonal packrat. Yes, I tend to hold onto things, but I also periodically go through a purge. It’s the eternal conflict between “I might need that later” and “I haven’t even looked at that in ages.” I try to keep tension between the two, to keep the hoard from piling up too much, but it can be difficult at times. I have different reasons for holding onto different things, so I have to have different reasons for letting them go as well. I do try to have reasons, though, even if they don’t always make sense to an outside observer. They make sense to me, which is the important part.

The easiest and most common category for me actually is the “I might need that later” category. There have been many times in my life when I barely had enough money for a sandwich, so I have a very strong conservation streak. I’m used to making things last and reusing what can be reused, and the idea of waste nearly gives me hives. I’ll repair a $15 box fan if I can rather than replace it and, being an electronics and gadget-type person, this means that a large chunk of my personal hoard is electronics and gadget-type supplies and tools.

I will obviously keep the tools. I don’t know anyone who gets rid of working tools because you really might need those later, and some of them are pretty expensive. As long as you have the space, you keep the tools. The rest of it, though … Do I really need that 20-year-old computer tower? Probably not. The parts and components that were kept under the “might need it later” heading get less likely to ever be used with each passing day. Some of them probably can’t be used anymore, now, if I sat right down and examined the situation honestly. It might be about time for another purge.

Another area where Heather’s “packrat” label really does apply is under the heading of “sentimental value”. I’m a big keeper of souvenirs and mementos. I have a box of my son’s Year One toys, a box of souvenir t-shirts that can no longer be worn, a box of some of my own early childhood toys, assorted family history mementos, and various other keepsakes and token of times past. Much of that makes perfect sense, and many of you probably have similar collections. The problem is, I put it all in a box and then never look at it again. It becomes an issue of, what’s the point?

Part of the point, obviously, is the hope chest idea. We don’t tuck away these keepsakes to fondle and stare at daily. We tuck them away so that we know where they are, safe in the knowledge that we can retrieve them when we do want to hold them. Another point, for me at least, is the idea that we will own a home someday, and I will want some of these mementos in that home, so I keep them safe in boxes until that time. Maybe a few too many boxes, though. Again, it’s probably time to start looking into clearing some space.

Similar to the Sentimental category, but of far less emotional importance, would be the category of Collectibles. We all have them. For me, it’s mostly toys. I was going through the boxes in the garage recently, looking for a particular book (we’ll get to that in a minute), and I kept opening boxes of toys. Not the kids’ toys either. These were all unopened, still in the original packaging, never been played with (and still financially worthless despite that) toys. My toys. I haven’t been collecting recently - and if I buy a toy today, it is more likely to be something small and decorative that won’t take up too much space, and almost certainly won’t stay in the original package - but I have collected off and on for most of my life. I have large boxes of toys.

Those boxes are taking up space, lots and lots of space. Some of those toys will go into decorative displays when we have that home I mentioned, and some will go to children who will make better use of them, but I definitely need to go through them and start making some decisions. I’m holding onto things that no longer have value to me, and that truly is pointless.

Books. Depending on who you are, you are either asking why I have books in the garage, or why I have so many books that some are in the garage. I currently have more books than bookshelves, and would rather keep my books safely boxed than stacked up without proper shelving. I love books more than just about anything else you can buy, both as reading material and as decoration, and would gladly line every wall with books if I could. It wouldn’t be just decoration either (though I do like books as decoration). Everything on my shelves (and in my boxes) has been read multiple times. I would give up my tools before I gave up my books. If it came down to having to choose between my books or my computer, my computer would win only because I can get my books on my computer. Two for one. I am nothing if not practical.

I have made moves in the past where I had to sacrifice books for space, and I never enjoyed trying to narrow down that selection process. Today I try to be a little more selective in acquiring new books, so they don’t add up quite as fast, but that just means it would be even more difficult to get rid of any if the need were to arise. It’s a balancing act, but one I actually enjoy for now. It’s also one that Heather enjoys, right along with me, so I don’t see this particular collecting habit changing any time soon.

I’ve been working on decluttering lately, shedding what I don’t need and letting go of things that just get in the way. I like things clean and simple, but I’m also a collector. Always have been. My home space will never be as decluttered as my office space, but it can certainly be less cluttered than it currently is. Life is about decisions, and balancing Want with Need. I have no need to live like a monk - if I want to have a bit more than I need, that is perfectly fine - but I don’t want to be buried in things either. I think I’ll be heading into the garage soon, now that the weather is getting more to my liking, and see how much space I can free up. Anyone want a KISS Psycho Circus action figure?

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