Tuesday, May 11, 2010


A recurring fantasy… I sell, give or throw away any item that I have not used/enjoyed/worn/listened to or viewed in the last 12 months. Unsat upon chairs, suits, cutlery and flatware, shoes, garden tools, spare car parts, VHS tapes and DVDs, musical instruments, Hawaiian shirts, dress socks. Also computer manuals, mouses (mice?), espresso makers, things that promise to chop vegetables but do a very poor job of it, clay baking pots, demitasse cups, flashlights (I have 27), thumbdrives, flashcards, knapsacks, fake netsuke, antiquated video games, decks of cards from the Iraq war, comic book anthologies, curtain rods and amplifiers.

Forty years ago I lived in two rooms and my belongings all fit into one large suitcase. I could, and did, move at a moment’s notice. A decade after that, divorced and broke, my stuff was packed in a dozen large cardboard boxes that took up most of the floor space of a dingy studio apartment. Ten years later I needed a large van to displace all the stuff I’d accumulated.

I now own more than 400 CDs, 300 of which I have listened to once and never will again. I have upwards of 100 DVDs, some so positively awful I would deny owning them if asked. There’s a roomful of VHS tapes in my basement, and even though I’ve been good about not duplicating tapes and DVDs, it’s highly unlikely that I will ever want to view Sponge Bob in my old age. I have 20 pairs of shoes and wear three, five suits and wear none, four computers, six guitars, 200 guitar picks, one synthesizer and a conga drum (presently on loan to another hoarder).

Notice that I do not mention books or tools, which are in a special category. Every year, I donate about 200 books to my local library, and every year selecting them is heartache. I love books and once found in my possession a tome in Portuguese about Brazilian agriculture. To this day, I don’t know where this book came from, as I do not speak Portuguese and am not even faintly interested in Brazilian agriculture, except—since I am politically correct—where it encroaches upon the rain forest. Tools are singular as well. When my father died, I inherited his framing vices and squares, and just yesterday I used brad hammer that had to be at least 60 years old. This being said, I have every type of tape ever made, as well as pliers whose uses can only be as torture devices.

I wonder how much I define myself by my possessions. I can’t estimate the amount of money I’ve spent to buy all these useless or one-use things and why it’s important to me to keep them. This being said, I am a big fan of eBay and have sold more than 500 items there. I’ve also bought close to that same amount, so it probably evens out.

I keep thinking that one day in the not-too-distant future, I’ll move to a one room house near a lake in Southern Virginia. No cable TV, no cell phone reception, no garage for storing useless stuff. Still lots of books, though none in Portuguese.

Now I have to figure out where to start.

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