Memory and Disposal

Looking through all the stuff in our 2600 square foot house is a shocking experience. Even more shocking is the realization of how often we actually use this stuff. We are on the minimalist side of american culture but even so we discover things that we’ve been keeping for good knows why.

I’ve read many times that any box you don’t open in a year should be disposed. That is easy to say and hard to execute. The discipline to every year do that when this rather thankless task competes with everything else in your life is rare. The value is even questionable. What needs to happen is the force of a move, not a move across town to a bigger house that holds more stuff. The force of a move that involves a massive downsizing. For us, that move is to europe in 2020 after a six month hike from Brest France to Lisbon Portugal.

It would be easy and runious to tranplant our american lifestyle to europe. We could pack up all this stuff into shipping containers move cross the atlantic, buy a house, car, and unload everything. The only problem is that you become the worst of the expatriat; you bring your home country life with you. Why move then? Just stay in america, or canada, or brasil. The challenge and growth will come from integrating into a new city in a new country.

We’ve been getting rid of stuff. I’ve unloaded all kinds of archaic technology. God only knows why I’d have 3 generations of old iPhones sitting in drawers. It turns that much of this stuff has a value approaching zero and to top it off, it’s not useful anymore; hence the near zero value. Many things have gone into the trash and a few things have been sold on offerup, ebay, and craigslist.

The toughest things to dispose are old pictures. Often completely overlooked for years, digging though box after box of pictures raises the why question. I had thousands of physical images, some my personal photography, some family and life pictures. When confronted with deciding what to do, because I don’t want be burdened with things that don’t enhance my life, I entered into an aggreement with myself. To keep an image (more later on what this means) it needs to satisfy some of these requirements:

  • It has to have unique content. I don’t need 25 pictures of the kids at a 1965 picnic. This requires that I look at each image with some care.
  • Better photos win every time. Well composed and exposed photos are much more interesting and useful. How many blurry images of people that I don’t know do I need?
  • It needs to express a time and a place. Photos are a documentary of life.

I don’t have any heirs. My wife has two kids, but I don’t expect them to have any interest in these old pictures of people they’ve never met. Even my wife reasonably shouldn’t waste time with photos of my great aunts, 2nd cousins and other distant relatives. The question then remains open as to the purpose of keeping anything past what I personally find value in. Many people keep photos “for the kids.” I have news: your kids don’t care about those old photos yet. They may never care assuming the photos survive until a point in time when they might have an interest.

The photos I’ve kept meet those basic criteria above. What I did then was re-photograph everything. I want these images as digital data, not physical specimans. Then I threw all the slides, prints and negatives away. Every single one of them. I’ve no intention of keep a archival photo book. They are nicely tucked away on hard disc drives, keyworded and organized so I can go back to them. My plan is to get a LCD picture frame and have these displayed as a running picture show of life. At least then I’ll get some enjoyment from them, and I can share them with others. I think we all know the eye rolls and fear of a photo album pulled from a drawer and proffered to visitors. The LCD frame will let people look if they are curious, and we’ll get to view it as a past time.

There was one category of photo that I did not throw away. These fall in to the category of family pictures from the way back. I am going to divide these by side of the family and send a small package to a relative on both my mom and dad’s side of the family. It’ll give them a chance to get whatever value they may; or they can just throw them away. Right after the holidays, these packages will be shipped. It’ll be the last step in a tough process.

Expat Experience- Starting

Expat Experience: Starting

With about 17 months to go in our life here in the USA we’ve started making definitive moves. Our plan has us abandoning our American lifestyle for something simpler, more mobile, and focused on experiential living. We plan to have experiences rather than things.

We are selling everything. By everything, I mean almost everything. At this point maybe we’ll have a small carton of things that will be forwarded to us in a couple of years. Albums of photos, documents, maybe a camera or two. That’s about it. A reasonable question would be if we don’t need for a couple of years, do we need it all? We’ll cross that bridge when it comes. First we have to get down to that level. Right now we have a house plus all the stuff that goes with that in Southern California.

I’ve started selling off photo equipment and digging through a storage bin that I still have. The contents that that bin need to be gone by March for the sake of my sanity. It’s a small piece of the accumulation of a lifetime of stuff. I was looking at the contents the other day and realized that there are things in there that I couldn’t care less about. Most of those things have almost zero value; they’ll probably go in a dumpster.

There are other things that have some sentimental value. Like my fishing rods. One in particular which was my dad’s rod that became mine. It’s nothing special in terms of the fishing pole, I had it re-wrapped and eyeletted in the 80s so I could use it. In considering what to do with that rod, I thought about giving it away to a friend or simply yardsailing it.

The reason for keeping it has become unclear to me. I’ve not fished in a small river, pond, or lake since moving to Southern California in 1996. That’s what the rod is for. I can remember catching my first fish with my dad around 1965 in Hartford Canal near Woodriver, Il. I think today the canal has reverted to the historical name of Woodcreek. Anyway it was a dogfish, well below the keeper size and not really an eating fish; we threw it back. It wasn’t on that same rod, but my dad was fishing with that rod at the time.

Question is whether the memories are with the rod or with me. In my mind, I don’t need the rod to have the memory just as vivid. Perhaps the rod is a memory aid, to remind me of those times when they are far from my present. The fear is loosing the ability to realize a memory is there to be refreshed and enjoyed without a talisman to trigger it.

I’m preparing to take that chance; that the memory will disappear to lack of triggering. I think it won’t. I’ll be looking a little creek in the Pyrenese in a few years at it’ll take me back to that day on Woodcreek with my dad and fishing rod. Most of my things are like that. The memory is avialable out there in the world for remembering.