Friday, September 12, 2014

How much of my stuff is a souvenir?

There are two phases to downsizing your stuff, and it's entirely possible to cycle between them in tune with the 60 Hz hum of a dying transformer.

1.) Junk is stuff you throw away - and so much of this stuff is junk! It's great to be getting rid of this!

2.) Stuff is junk you keep, and I can't get rid of this! Or that! Or that either! And that will probably come in handy, and "Two is one and one is none!" Col. Cooper's ghost would frown if I threw this out!

It's fairly easy to get rid of the first layer of junk, but there comes a time when you're down to stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. Part of the whole process that surprised Calmer Half, when he started unboxing things for the first time in 4 years, was just how much of the things that were packed as good stuff turned into junk he could give away when he finally started sorting through to deal with it.

And today, I found a perfect quote to explain why.

"Physical books are souvenirs of the experience of reading the book."
-Tracy Hickman

This explains many things, like why I keep a pile of paperbacks I haven't reread in years, but loved - and always end up rebuying if I give them away. It's why I cheerfully paid full retail price to buy a hardcover signed edition of Mike Williamson's Freehold, well over a decade after I first read it on a beat-up CRT monitor, page at a time on Baen's Free Library. It explains why some fans of Calmer Half buy the print edition as well as the ebook - or even after they've read the ebook. They want the souvenir from the experience.

It also explains my fifty-odd t-shirts, some of which are old enough to rent a car and nowhere near fitting my current proportions. This shirt is the one I was wearing when I got my flight license. This was the first orienteering course I completed. This was a great scifi con where I met friends. This was the sweatshirt a kind stranger shoved under my head while they waited for the ambulance to come, and the EMTs just tucked under me when they put me on the stretcher. Heck, this even explains the mis-matched utensils in the drawer - this is the set that's complete, but these knives are from the set Calmer Half got for his house when he bought it...

As long as emotions are still attached to the souvenirs, they're stuff that's painful to get rid of. But if I learn to let it go, to look back and realize I'll always have the scent of snow off the glaciers adding its distinctive lilt to a warm Alaskan summer day filled with friendship and muddy malamute paws in my memories, then this is just a pair of jeans so battered they're indecent, and too small anyway.

(Besides, I have no doubt G---- could always reach over to the futon and send me enough spare malamute fur to build a small dog, if I really needed the reminder.)


  1. Just saying on the t-shirts, would taking a picture work? Putting them together (the pictures) as a rememberance? I am still off-loading. It is getting easier. Not so good in the beginning but seriously, how much "stuff" do we need?

  2. The whole junk-vs-stuff battle is a mental exercise, and we sure do understand. The move to Alaska a dozen years ago was "take a family of four and everything they own, and make it fit into an SUV and a small car", and we did it in a week.

  3. Ah yes, downsizing... And memories and 'junk'...

  4. Small dog? I can assure I can send you enough for a medium at least.

    Heck, today I removed enough off my clothes (post wrestling session) to make teacup poodle.

    I would remind you this is from a single brushing session.

  5. There are times I come across a little thing, some item stored for years, that will bring back a memory long forgotten. And some that I wish could tell me story's, souvenirs saved of others barely known,with grim history written large over them.