Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Junkpile 001

The other day, Cheryl showed me some plastic toy or another that she was throwing out. Yes. It's good to clear the house and mind of clutter and junk. And believe me, when you have five kids, you end up with a lot of crap.

So often we're asked what we're doing to be more green. Puh-lease. I personally can't understand environmentalism as the religion, political philosophy, and business process. Yes, it's a safe and easy religion/political stance/business plan; who wouldn't like a clean, happy world full of cute puppies... being against environmentalism is akin to being against Anne Hathaway's eyes. But as a set of guiding principles in life, well, it's about as close to the real thing as a wine cooler. Maybe now, at least, I'll have a response to the pervasive question...

And so, if the holy commandment, fundamental law structure, and business plan of being a greenies is to reduce, reuse, recycle, then I'm proud to announce my contribution. To do my part, I'll take number one head on: I'm going to reduce. I'm going to start throwing shit out.

But throwing things away can be so hard!

I think the fundamental reason so many of us hold on to so much crap is that there's a sentimental memory associated with the particular piece of junk we hold, hovering over the trash bin, and that memory keeps us from letting go. I've got notebooks from my first real job with notes from all the prospecting phone calls I'd made. If you want to know what was happening with a lead for scientific data analysis software at GE Aerospace in the spring of 1992, well, I'm the man with the information. This could be vital data for national security, couldn't it? These notebooks will be a priceless source of information as I write my memoirs, right? Just keep'em in the box and we'll look at them the next time we move. I've got the paystubs too. Oh, and the complete year's subscription to Stereophile from 1993. That's literature.

Here are some common excuses we all use for holding onto stuff:

  • Nostalgia- I remember when I you bought me this broken electric razor. We were first dating and you...
  • It's worth something- today, tomorrow, someday. I'm going to sell it on eBay. Really! Just put it in the eBay box! I'm going to bring it to the Antiques Roadshow when they come up to Augusta, Maine. I'm sure they'll find Aunt Martha's yard-sale clock to be the missing piece from the Anastasia collection.
  • I'm going to use/wear/need it again. Look. If you haven't worn it in a year, dump it. Other than tools and capital equipment (stereos, baby!), get rid of it.
  • It's not taking up space. That's a laugh!
  • My mother/father/cousin/child made it. Yes, but it's probably ugly and tacky.

And hence, the junkpile.

If there's a sentimental memory associated with the trinket, I'll write its eulogy here so I can come back some time and spend time with it. And if it's really special, I'll snap a photo before it hits the trash can. All my crap memorialized and stored forever in Google's free hard drive space on the net. Thanks Google!

What's the first contribution to the junkpile? What will we find years from now when we dig down to the bottom of the virtual heap?

Two nuts and four washers that I bought from Lowe's just last week to help hang a sink in Bridget's bathroom.

Wow- throwing out perfectly good and new things that I paid hard cash for! Why? Risk Mitigation. I needed four nuts for the job, so I bought six just to be safe. You see, I'm trying to lower my trips-to-Lowe's-or-Home-Depot-in-order-to-complete-a-job ratio to the low 1.9s, so on penny (nickel? dime?) items I simply overstock. On higher ticket items, like $3-$5 valves and connectors and gadgets, if there's any question about which one I need, I get one of each. I know one of them will work, and I know that I'll be back again for this job or the next, so I (sometimes remember to) return the items I don't use. Yes, it costs more. Yes, I have a lot of connectors and valves and gadgets and glue and Teflon tape (if I could find it. Ah well, at 69 cents, I'll pick up a roll next time I'm there.) and saw blades and clamps and paint brushes and rollers and you name it. But for this particular case, with the loose-change nuts and washers, I could put them with the rest of my collection under the "I'm going to use/wear/need it again" heading or, I can practice my hoops shot and rim them off the trash can.

Slam dunk, I threw something away today. Hooray!


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