The consequence of living is accumulating stuff. Papers and brochures and business cards from travels or taking a class or going to a conference. Books and magazines. Little gewgaws and Kinder Surprise toys. Memoribilia, framed photos, ticket stubs, newspapers with my wedding announcement.

Chances are if you ever gave me a card and signed your name on it, I still have it. I save the ones for my husband too, though he doesn’t care about that.

Every once in awhile, usually when I’ve finished a project and need something to do, I try to clean out the excess. I go through boxes and piles, trying to take a hard look at all the physical buildup of memories. I ask myself: the next time I move, do I want to drag this thing with me? Do I want to take this box out of this closet, carry it, put it on a truck, and then put it straight into another closet at the new destination?

It’s hard to get rid of things. Oh sure, I happily shred old bank statements and get rid of instruction manuals and boxes for printers and cell phones that themselves have long since gone to recycling. But anything with sentimental value, anything someone gave me, no matter how ugly, anything attached to any good memory … curse it, why must I hang onto it?

And that’s just the boxes in my own apartment – I still have a load of them at my parents’ house, containing everything from stuffed animals to university papers to a fairly complete set of Sassy magazines. What SHOULD be done with a bunch of 10+ year old textbooks anyway?

That’ll be the topic of my next post – getting rid of the stuff. For now, it’s digging in and deciding what stays and what goes. Decisions must be made. It’s easy to get bogged down. I want to travel lighter, but then I find I can’t quite throw out 10 copies of the 20 extras of my handmade wedding invitations, even though it would be perfectly sensible just to reduce the number of multiples. I wrestle with whether I really should keep copies of classmates’ work from creative writing class, in case someone gets famous. And there’s a magazine I used to like, but never read anymore – why can’t I toss those old copies?

After hours of dealing with detritus from the past, I start having a new sympathy for pathological hoarders. I don’t know if I’ve dealt with the clutter so much as rearranged it and reduced it slightly.

Most of this stuff isn’t worth anything to anyone, except to me. And I don’t think I even want it all. I have a new appreciation for digital photography, ebooks, Netflix, OneNote note taking, and brainstorming, online bills and statements – all things that don’t result in lumpy boxes to deal with. I love getting consumables and experiences as gifts rather than souvenirs from places I’ve never been.

Shredding done, recycling taken out, a garbage bag filled, and a few items set aside to give away, much of the mess goes back in the closet or on the shelves, neatened. I’ll deal with it another day.