Spring cleaning in the electronic age
Wednesday, December 28, 2016 9:41 AM
It wasn’t the rain on Christmas that prompted my wife and I to do some spring cleaning recently. The rain, which brought slippery roads, ice and other winter problems, wasn’t really a sign of spring, as we all know. However, this winter we are attempting to de-clutter our home by reducing some of the things we have collected over the years.
De-cluttering, or spring cleaning, has taken on a new meaning now, due partially to age, but also the changing world that doesn’t seem to value “hard copy” memories.
My first attempt at reducing the accumulations over the years is focusing on books, which fill several bookcases in our home. I have books all the way back to my college days when my studies included literature, which meant reading many prominent books through the ages.
My intent was to give the books a good home, but there isn’t much of a market for books, even donated ones, in our society that has become so focused on electronics. I feel guilty just recycling them as they have been a big part of my life, even if I haven’t cracked open the covers of so many of them in decades.
Some are classics, which I’m glad I was, in a way, forced to read for my studies, and others are more personal favorites that have had profound influences on my life.
Although I have lived in relatively homogenous communities, or homogenous neighborhoods in more diverse cities, books have exposed me to different cultures and different thoughts. While some people may call me old, I’m not old enough to visit past cultures or be in the presence of thoughtful historical figures, something that books have allowed me to do.
In a way, books have been my friends over the years and it is hard to give up on them just for convenience. However, I also rationalize that I have a library card and an electronic reader, so I can always visit them whenever the desire hits me.
Many of my books, but not all of them, are headed out the door.
Next on the list are the vinyl record albums that have been stored on several shelves for the past decade or more. I was quite a collector in my younger days, scouring used record shops and flea markets for particular albums, mostly by non-commercial artists. However, there are quite a few well-known artists ranging back to the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
There is more of a market for vinyl albums today since even younger people are noticing the superior sound of pressed vinyl. Of course, probably only a small percentage, depending on artist and condition, of my collection will be of value.
It will be hard to say goodbye to most of my music, just like it was for the books. However, like reading material, music, even tunes from my youth, are available through many online services. Also, before they go out the door, I can record them from a turntable hooked up by a USB connection to my computer.
It won’t be the same, but my shelves will be clear, the house will be tidier and I can still have access to tunes any time I want them.
I’m not a hoarder, but I am obsessive about many things, including collecting. That means my collections are always larger than most people’s. There is just one other item I fanatically collected when I was younger — baseball cards. Although the market isn’t what it once was because baby boomers are aging, there is still a market for cards, at least the vintage ones I have in my collection.
Baseball cards don’t have the same meaning to me as books and albums, so I won’t feel the same sense of loss or guilt in ridding them, at least in most cases. However, there also isn’t an exact replacement for baseball cards even if photographs, biographies and statistics on each player are available online.
The cards weren’t something I would look over often, but it was satisfying knowing I had a collection sitting in the many drawers at my home.
However, soon the drawers of several chests will have room in them once again and I will still love baseball just as much as ever.
I know “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, “London Calling” by the Clash and the statistics of Rod Carew’s rookie season are all online, but it won’t be the same. My house will be tidy and I’ll have fewer things to worry about, but something will be missing from my life.
While acknowledging it is a loss, I’m not in mourning. However, it is just a bit disconcerting that these types of real artifacts of our culture have no value in society anymore. The online world opens up many new opportunities, but I’m not convinced it can replace everything in our culture.
Of course, I won’t become a whole-hearted digital citizen in the end. There is one thing I haven’t mentioned — my shelves full of negatives and photographic prints. That may be a project for another day. Then again, it may not be as they are the most personal possessions I retain.
They have no online equivalent unless I were to convert them all, a project that could take years. No way are they just going out the door, though.