My wife and I are currently in the process of cleaning out our storage room in the basement of the house. The plan is to eventually install an egress window and put in another room down there. That’s all well into the future, though. Right now we are going through boxes trying to figure out how to rearrange everything, and seeing what we want to keep and what we want to get rid of. Turns out, we want to keep most of the stuff we have. Sure, we made a few donations and we have filled up the trash and recycle bins a few times. Yet, most of it has remained.
A lot of my friends are embracing minimalism, I’m more of a maximalist.
I just like my stuff, okay? I enjoy looking having things around that bring back memories, or that I can still enjoy. Be it an old toy, book, picture, album, whatever. Some may look around and see clutter, I see a life. While it is true that we are not defined by our possessions, they do tell a tale. That tale can be relived again and again, and some comfort and, yes, joy can be found just by looking at our stuff.
And we found some really fun stuff.
Remember photo albums? Back before we had a thousand pictures in our pockets we had these books of real, honest to goodness, permanent and tangible photographs that we would flip through. Usually with family, or at the holidays. You would take time to stop, look, and reminisce. It was a thing. Sure, you can store all your photos digitally now, and that may be easier, but it’s not as much fun. Nor is it as special. That’s why we’ve kept them all.
Speaking of photographs, we also found lots of pictures of the kids when they were little. Along with those were some of their art projects and school work. Sweet little objects to remind us of their already fading childhood days. The years of innocence and wonder only last so long, and it’s good to have these things to draw us back into that special time.
We also found a box full of keepsakes from the early days of our relationship, before we were married. Old ticket stubs, some cards and love notes, even old dried and preserved roses from a Valentine’s Day years back. Sentimental, and important to the both of us.
There are other things too. Old Christmas decorations (which I particularly love), some appliances and electronics that may or may not come in handy at some point so we may as well hold on to them, some of the kids old toys and décor from their old rooms, a few old clocks, and wall art. Lots and lots of wall art.
Then there are the personal stuff we each found and held on to. Things we both held on to from high school and college years. I can’t speak for what my wife held on to from her earlier years, as they are personal to her and she can hold her memories how she sees fit. I was excited to go through a lot of my stuff though.
I found a lot of old theater stuff from high school-programs signed by fellow castmates and crew. Pictures from the shows, write ups from the school newspaper (and one from the North County Journal even!), plus some fun old pictures in the remnants of a long ago destroyed photo album I didn’t realize I still had. It all came flooding back and I had a great time.
It is well known that I am a collector of music memorabilia, and I found a good portion of that stuff too. There are some publications like fanzines, music related comic books, a few old wall calendars (I love wall calendars!!), and ticket stubs from my high school days. Most of the stubs from later years have sadly vanished, but there are some good ones still left.
Then there are the old VHS tapes. Many are live shows and documentaries unreleased in the USA, along with some “fan filmed” footage and some long out of print video compilations and concerts. Most of this stuff has never been re-released, at least not in the same configuration. And before you ask, yes I still have a VHS player and an old TV to play them on. There’s some really cool stuff by a number of my favorite artists. I actually got rid of some years ago that I still wish I had. Call it collector’s remorse. Ah well.
I also have like 90% of all the t-shirts I have ever owned. Well, the ones that weren’t blank anyway. Since I am largely a t-shirts and jeans guy, this number is quite staggering. Some have been lost and/or destroyed but I kept most of them because I love t-shirts, and many have memories attached. Most are from concerts I have attended, events I have been a part of, or just an example of pop culture at the time. Once again, they evoke memories and I think they are cool. I am also considering putting them online in a blog or Facebook/Twitter page or something like that. Haven’t decided yet, but if that sounds like something you’d like to see, let me know.
Now, I know there are way too many shirts to wear. I also am aware that some of these could fetch a pretty penny on eBay these days. They could also go to the homeless in a clothing drive. I know. I get that. I’m just not ready to let them go yet.
See, that’s the thing. I’m not ready to let this stuff go. At least not most of it. One day, I’m sure I will. Maybe long after retirement we will need to downsize, by choice or otherwise, and getting rid of it will become a necessity. Maybe we will be in a situation where we need money and I will be forced into selling my collectibles to other crazy obsessives like me. Maybe the time will come when I have a change of heart and just won’t want to have all this stuff in my house anymore. After all, I don’t actually need all of these things to have my memories or the feelings that come with them. But it’s nice to have them anyway.
I am sure that the cynical would claim that there’s a lot of greed and selfishness involved in keeping a lot of these things. Perhaps so. The bigger reason however, is that this is my way of preserving the past. Not living in it, but honoring it and keeping important parts alive in a tangible way. Life moves fast. Every once in a while it’s nice to slow down a little, take the box of the shelf and spend time with your memories. It’s therapeutic, personal, and wonderful.