Monday, January 06, 2014

Decluttering side effects

This past Thanksgiving, while my little family was all gathered together, I dragged my music collection out of the closets and cupboards. There were 50-year-old LPs, 25-year-old cassettes, 5-year-old CDs. My SO had already taken the few LPs he was interested in, so I let my son and son-in-law pick through the rest. The son-in-law is into vinyl, so he took *all* the LPs. (I told him if he sold one for $1 million, he had to split it with me.) My son helped himself to various and sundry cassettes (his car is old enough to still have a cassette player) and CDs. The leftovers will go to the local library and Goodwill.

I enjoy music but it is not something that is central to my life. When I do listen, it is with Pandora or through other online sources. Once, I borrowed a turntable to play some of those LPs and rediscovered the annoyance of that background hiss, of all the scratches, of having to flip the record after 20 or so minutes. The cassettes were nearly as bad. And my stereo system is so old that the disc changer frequently would not release the CDs. So I saw no reason to hang onto all that junk.

What surprised me was my (internal) reaction to releasing all that personal history. That is what our crap is - a record of who we were and where we've been, especially the LPs and cassettes. The LPs are from my teen and college years and 20's, the cassettes are what I listened to as I commuted back and forth to my new career in my 30's. The CDs were purchased post divorce. When that music when out the door Thanksgiving night, I felt like I was losing something vital.

Over the next several days, I fretted and regretted, but eventually forgot about it. I don't notice the hole in the closet the LPs filled because, quite frankly, they were in the way. The cassettes and CDs were in a cupboard I rarely access, so there is no visual reminder of them, either. All that remains is a paper grocery sack of the rest, that gets shuffled around until I eventually shuffle it out the door.

My reaction helps explain why I have closets full of old computer equipment. Another significant period from my life was the year I was self-employed. I started my own software development business while still working and continued it when I returned to the regular workforce, but eventually the clients dried up. I'm glad I tried it, do not regret its passing, have deposited the software printouts in the recycle bin. The hardware itself has been more difficult to deal with.

Even though I have not even powered up most of those old PCs for 15 years (and wonder if they would even start anymore), they continue to take up space in my storage-challenged house. The oldest computer is at least 20 years old, has a Bournoulli drive and multiple parallel and serial ports, as it became my utility computer. There is a slightly newer desktop that connected me to the Internet. There is a notebook I carried to the clients' offices and used for development; I backed up my work to a Zip drive.

One complicating factor to getting rid of all this stuff is I want to check the hard drives for mementos, like the early emails between my SO and me. How I would get this precious-to-me information off the hard drives is a problem, as they predate the USB era. I may have to print them out; I think I have a cable that will let me do that.

Yes, cables. Lots of cables of one sort or another, with connections of various types, with "gender benders" for mixing and matching the innies and outies. There is probably a modem or two, too, with their own multiple cables. And mice and keyboards and peripherals and god knows what else. It is all there, in my closets. It is probably a good thing I don't have a basement or an attic.

When my children were little, I would go through all their old clothes on an annual basis, to pick stuff out for garage sales. Some long-outgrown items remained behind each time, until their hold on my heart released. Eventually, it all went, as will all that I have now, if not today, then some day, when I am gone, too.

Part of me says, It's my crap and I'll keep it if I want to. But I really don't want to. It feels like so much dead weight. Starting with the newer equipment first, as it is not imbued with such power, would be easier. Once I start, it hopefully will become easier to let go of the past. What feels vitally important to me won't matter to anyone else down the line. It really doesn't matter all that much to me, except as a dim reminder of someone I used to be.

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