I have a love-hate relationship with stuff. 

I own way too many cds, dvds and books – I’m not a collector or a completist, but I am an omnivore. I spend a whole lot of time reading and listening and watching.

My stuff is in no particular order, and having just cleaned out my mom’s house, I worry about leaving a pile for my kids to deal with. Plus, if we ever move it would be a nightmare. Plus, the knowledge that I have a basement/office bulging with stuff is a peculiar kind of drag on me. I am encumbered.

OTOH, I trust the part of me that just gets interested  in a subject. It creeps up on me, my obsession, comes out of the corner of my vision, shows up where I don’t expect it – and it’s down the rabbit hole. I burrow through the subject/idea/genre/singer/writer/director. Typically, the idea is to go deep (I don’t want to know Motown’s hits – I want to know all the ‘b’ sides, Berry Gordy’s subsidiary labels and how the sound changed, if there even was a ‘sound’ to start with) and then start connecting my obsession to other things.

The *stuff* is the visible residue of the connections I make, and more: I find myself returning to things I long ago lost interest in, or music/movies./books that I got in one context and which then appears in another. 

Winnowing can be difficult – if you decide to toss something because you know it thoroughly, you’re probably throwing out your most loved something. And how certain can you be that you really, really, really won’t ever care about heavy metal from Uruguay?

Or more practically – can you afford to keep what you have, in terms of space, time and emotion? I’m very aware that every minute spent with *stuff* is one minute less with family or friends, which is a whole different kind of knowledge. So what to keep and what to give up ends up being a tough, deep question.

adopted from a post to the Jefferson County web board


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