Thursday, January 16, 2014


So I'm in the midst of slowly but surely packing up all my belongings and storing most of them in preparation for my "big change." I am trying to take this as an opportunity to streamline my life a bit, and to get rid of things I have no use for. Honestly? Thus far all I really have done is pack up my books - about 10 boxes' worth - and I got rid of not a single one. Well that's not true, I have decided to part with a 2007 movie guide...because: the internet. But my oh my oh my are there some thorny things I need to deal with as the piles of easily-packed things dwindle. My main issue is that I have a tendency to just carry things from place to place even if I haven't really used them while in any location. For example, in college I still painted on occasion and sent letters and the like, so I have a whole plastic box chock full of acrylic paints, stamps, stationery and crayons, all of which served a purpose back in the day when I actually did such things. But that box has languished, pretty much entirely untouched since I moved to Philadelphia. There is a whole box of stationery with my previous Chicago address in there, a bra that must have fallen into it in some point five or six years ago (because I certainly know I haven't worn or even thought about it in forever times), and if I dug deep enough I'm sure the paints would actually be dried out to the point of ridiculousness. So do I sort through that box and save any of it? Or do I just throw the entirety of it into a garbage bag and pretend it never existed? If the rule is 'have you used it in a year? If not, toss it,' then I should clearly just put it into the garbage. And yet...I do wish I made more throwing away the supplies to do so seems like saying 'you will never do this.' Another way of looking at it is 'if you really want to do it, you'll be motivated enough to get supplies that don't pre-date your going to college.' And what if, one day, I'll want some specific thing because I remember it, and I can't put my hands on it? Maybe I need to make an art out of getting rid of things. That is exactly what I should do.

Then there are the copious boxes and bags and folders from my years actively taking and printing photos. A good amount of my parents' money went into my college senior project. I was quite proud of the results at the time, but the reality is I've been schlepping the foamcore-mounted images around for 10+ years and at this point I'm sure they're all bent and broken...I'm sure because I haven't actually pulled them out of the box in as many years. So why lug them any farther? Except, do you really just throw out art you cared about into the trash? An investment by your parents? I don't feel like there are really many other options. And then I think of my mother's collection of photography, much of which is underneath a bed in Tennessee.

And on top of all the photographs and negatives, I also have stacks and stacks of paper. Thick packets of reading material from college and grad school, which I kept thinking it would be good to have on hand...but that I haven't looked at pretty much since my respective graduation dates. I have a whole file cabinet of paper that I haven't looked at in nearly my entire time in Philadelphia. Just as daunting are the folders I found in a box last weekend, which are chock full of  excerpts of my novel with the notes of fellow MFA students. I do have small intentions of not giving entirely up on that novel, but do I really need notes from seven years ago? Maybe.Maybe not.

It sometimes seems easier to keep carrying around these papers and other stuff instead of sorting through it...just carrying the whole file cabinet to a storage unit could be considered more efficient than actually going through it and having to make decisions. But, of course, that just means that things accumulate. The time it takes to wade through things I clearly don't care about all that much (or even remember that I possess) weighs me down and can lead to precious space in my 5x8 storage unit being dedicated to things I am not even sentimental about...just lazy.

In addition to my college art photos, I also have countless photo books and shoe boxes stuffed with rejected prints and negatives that didn't make it to the books. Opening those boxes is the equivalent of accepting that I will be doing nothing productive for at least thirty minutes, because once you start thumbing through such photos it's quite hard to stop. I really have no intention of getting rid of them, and I don't worry about it...mainly because these days I never get actual prints of photos, so the boxes and books will not exponentially grow at this point in my technological life. I wrote about photographs and frames as monuments a long time ago, and I guess I'm still thinking about them.What is to be done with photos of people you no longer know? As a kid I loved looking at old photo albums of my parents and seeing their younger, thinner selves in apartments I'd never seen and with a cast of friends I'd never met...but now that seems a bit backward. I was excited about  lives they had before I was around, but I didn't stop and think about who any of these mysterious people were or why I never met any of them. If I have kids, how many photographs do they need to see of people with whom I haven't been in touch in so many, many years? And yet, these photographs are at least touchstones. Memory keepers. Something to look back at and say 'oh I was skinny then' or 'ah yes, the good times and interesting things I did when I was much younger.' Proof. Cold, hard, stored-away proof that doesn't need a wireless password or electrical outlet to be accessed. But being childless and not at risk of suffering from dementia for quite some time, one could ask oneself: ' to whom are you in need of proving yourself? And why???' The short answer is probably no one, and for no good reason. But I'll have to think on that one a bit more. 

On the whole I don't think I'm really a hoarder as much as I am slightly lazy and totally paralyzed by organizing. There have been times in my life when I have been unfettered from stuff. The summer of my tent life, for example, saw me basically living out of two suitcases and a car for three months. When I first moved to Chicago all I had was two air mattresses, a handful of dishes and a few Rubbermaid boxes of essentials. I think I lived that life for at least a month or so before I was reunited with belongings I had stored in the Hudson Valley, and I wasn't worse for wear. And yet there is a certain joy in finding things you've forgotten you had. For example, one of the boxes I simplified over this past weekend included a bevy of remnants from an envelope of childhood things my mother sent me during my senior year of college. None of these things are up for debate or the garbage. 
 Sometimes I think my life would be better if this was still a position I strongly held...but alas, not quite the case.
 Oh Alex Castro, whatever happened to you?
Also in that box was a tape container that boasted a variety of mixes I made while still in high school, or that were made for me in high school or early college. I asked Facebook what I should do with those tapes, and the reaction was decidedly mixed. Some said that if I didn't have a device to play them on, they should be discarded. But others, who either made the tapes in question or have a more nostalgic streak for such things, deemed the tapes worthy of keeping. In the end I did get rid of some things...but the tapes went into a smaller box and will live a storage unit life. I'll have to revisit them at some later point in time, but they're safe for now.
 Things have gotten a little more crowded since this photo - this is only books really.


Huck said...

I can relate. I'm perfectly capable of living out of (in my case: three) suitcases, but only in the safe knowledge that there are boxes and boxes and boxes of Important Things in my parents' attic.

But what I _really_ want to know: did Alex ever see this note? :)

cc said...

Ha...pretty sure Alex never did see the note...though I did invite him to my 3rd grade birthday party and he gave me a photo album with an illustration of mickey and minnie mouse kissing with a big heart encircling their maybe he loved me too.