Last week on one of our trips to the library EV had to hold on to my belt loops rather than my hands to cross the parking lot because I was juggling a massive box of books to donate.
In it were books that E and I have been carrying around since college – over a decade now! Textbooks, college literature, and pleasure reading that has been forgotten or fallen out of favor. They travelled from our separate apartments to our combined one, then to our house on Greenwich Street, and now here to the suburbs, never once cracked open in all that time.
It never felt like we had a lot of stuff before we moved to this house. I’m not sure if it was because we didn’t have the space for it or because we were better at hiding it all.Or, perhaps it’s that we’ve given up a third of our physical space and much more of our time to the tiny third human now rooming with us. Likely some combination of the three..
I used to scoff at the idea of someone who needed to clean out their attic or garage or basement – how could you have so much stuff in there that you needed to dedicate time to throwing it all away? Yet, earlier tonight I waded into our box-strewn attic to try to reclaim my recording space for upcoming projects.
There was barely room to take a step. When we first moved here six years ago the attic felt cavernous – so large you could hold a concert or install a bowling alley. Now it is cramped, a scene from hoarders, packed to the eaves on each side with boxes of comic books, CDs, instruments, sheet music, board games, and random knick knacks I have accumulated and not yet purged.
I managed to eliminate six entire boxes from the hoard, consolidating three boxes of print samples from my old Creative Services job down to one (do I need five copies of a 2010 individual health care plans booklet?), mercilessly eliminating items from boxes marked “computer errata” (a spare copy of my original 1999 demo encoded at the wrong speed – was I hoping it would become a collectors item?), and combining several boxes of books (perhaps communications history books and grammar guides can share a space?).
Now there is room to breath in the attic – though still not enough to record. Eventually I’ll run out of obvious trash to dispose of and get down to the harder choices… books that I’ve read and still love, board games we play but not often, and stacks of handwritten revisions to lyrics.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about accumulation in this digital age. I have some friends who are notoriously sparse in what they allow into their homes, constantly pruning possessions back to a few favorites. I have further friends who eschew any physical item if they can have the digital version.
I don’t know how to get there. I’ve wanted so many things for so long that just now my urge to possess is starting to feel sated. Now the constraint is not budget but space and, terrifyingly, time.
I’ve been working on a song about this feeling before EV was born. It’s never quite finished – just one more possession I’m hauling around, although this time it’s my mind that’s being weighed down. Now that I’m nearing a half year of spending time at home as a parent, I think it’s high time to start putting these things to use or discarding them.
Are we all that we accumulate
Because I don’t want to be defined
By melted liquor bottle chocolates
That fell behind my dresser
The night we thought we ought to eat them all at once
To see if we would get drunk
Am I a thousand paper backs with creases on the spine
And every Beatles record I have bought since I was nine
I don’t want to live alone
I don’t want to be a hermit crab
Carrying my possessions inside a shell
Winched onto my back
Moving to a larger home when I’ve outgrown the last