"Junk proves that I was there: that I once had a 26-inch waist, that I once did score 31 points in that game against Inkom, that I once had curly blond hair..."
- Clutter's Last Stand, p24
Aslett's Clutter's Last Stand classifies junk into various types, based on its source and our reasons for keeping it. One of these types he calls "Evidence Junk". And boy, have I been notorious for it. The topic really deserves its own blog entry, so here it goes.
"Evidence Junk" or "Evidence Clutter" is stuff that you're keeping as evidence for something. And it's usually stuff that you don't notice the first time around. It's easy to find stuff to throw away on a first run-through of the house. But this is a lot tougher. Not all of this stuff you keep is "clutter" (and I'll talk about distinguishing the gems from the junk in a moment), but here are some examples of the kind of stuff I mean:
- Travel and Entertainment Memorabilia. I'm a ritualistic guy. I LOVE memorabilia. I can't think of too many times I've ever left a concert without a camera full of photos and video clips, a secret bootleg of the show, a t-shirt or tour book, or at least having saved the ticket stub itself. I still have ticket stubs somewhere to the Boston Red Sox 1986 World Series game, airplane boarding passes of past trips, and the list goes on.
- Clothes from a certain period in your life that you can't (or simply wouldn't) wear any more. I still have my denim jacket that I wore as a teen, complete with its rock band patches.
- First drafts of projects that have since been completed. Whether its book chapters, musical demos, etc. "Hey look at how this started! Isn't this cool?"
- Injury evidence. Crutches, casts, canes, etc.
- School papers. Another one I keep mentioning. "I worked my ASS off to get that degree! I can't just throw this stuff away! Er, can I?"
- Music equipment from past bands. "Why do I still keep this amplifier that's the size of a refrigerator! Hey, I was in a band once, and we used this when we opened up for Motorhead!"
- Swinger evidence. I just coined this term myself, so far as I know. This is stuff kept for evidence of having gotten laid. I don't so much mean naked photos or notes from your ex-lovers, but tassels from strip clubs, brochures from foreign brothels, the saved condom you lost your virginity on, etc. Again, it's this idea of saving evidence for an accomplishment.
- Wedding junk. Something that thankfully I haven't had to deal with, being a bachelor. But it's something I see other people have. "Look, it's a piece of our original wedding cake, frozen in carbonite!"
- Baby junk. Another thing that thankfully I haven't had to deal with. But I can't tell you how many times I've been to the homes who still have bronzed baby shoes in their living room...from their child who is now 32 years old.
You get the idea.
Another concept very often tied in with this is the refusal to accept defeat. "Oh I can't get rid of Timmy's bronzed first toilet-trained fecal matter. That would mean accepting the fact that he's an adult now!" "I can't sell this good guitar, because that would mean I'm giving up my dream of being a rock star."
So what's the solution? Blindly toss all of it out? Hell no! It's not THAT simple. As I've said before: if it brings up fond memories and puts a smile on your face, then it's most certainly not junk. So first of all, that means getting rid of the "injury junk" like the pair of crutches or old moldy casts. I won't kid myself into thinking that I know how to judge your own personal stuff, but I think it's safe to say there's not much value in keeping painful memories around.
As for the rest, I think one of the deciding factors should be volume, with a close second being quantity. Two simple, rhetorical questions:
- Do you really need to keep a LARGE piece of memorabilia, when a small one will do?
- Do you really need to keep 50 pieces of memorabilia for the same event, when just keeping one or two will suffice?
I'll admit, I had a really hard time getting rid of my 4x10 stack (for you non-musicians, that means 'an amplifier, almost the size of a washing machine'). It was a sad day, bringing that into the music store to trade in. But the simple fact of the matter was, I was no longer using it. My little 60-watt practice amp still worked fine for small band jams and home practice. And I've lucked out in playing with bands who already had a bass amp to use. That enormous amp was like an anchor, and I have no regrets about getting rid of it.
How about the clothes? Well as you already know, I sold most of those t-shirts from my rebellious youth, and I only kept the jacket. Same with my childhood Legos: kept a small model, then sold the stack of 3 enormous boxes that was just taking up space in my bedroom. And with very few exceptions, I stopped buying shirts at concerts and bought (if anything) smaller stuff like keychains.
I'm sure I'll find much more examples of this kind of stuff to throw out as I forge ahead.