After I wrote about the nasty accumulation of boxes in my basement, several readers stopped me on the street, not to chastise me for having so many but to inquire why I had so few. “You only have two dozen boxes? Is your house big enough to absorb everything you moved there?” one said.
It’s not really a question concerning the size of our house. The real secret is how we actually managed to get rid of so much before settling into Vineyard Haven. So this is part two of my box trilogy.
A chance to move is a chance to purge. Before settling here, we managed to recycle 242 books, 418 videotapes and 605 record albums. If we didn’t, we would now have at least eight dozen boxes in our basement, which sounds to me like some expensive remodeling would be required.
Let’s start with those relics — actual books. What’s the point of carting them around after they’ve been read? Wouldn’t they be of more benefit to a local library? At least they could sell them and make some coffer money. So first you have to decide what books can be sacrificed. Begin with those college texts that have made it through several moves and my entire adult life. Will I really ever again take Joseph Schumpeter’s Theory of Economic Development or Crane Brinton’s Anatomy of a Revolution off a shelf? Aren’t they in a nearby library that’s not in my basement? There’s my yardstick — is this book handy in some other venue? Yes? Then off it goes!
Ever notice how academic titles can simply be reused by interchanging words? How about The Development of Economic Theory or A Revolution of the Anatomy. It’s like The Psychology of Architecture and The Architecture of Psychology or The Nature of Religion and The Religion of Nature or The Wages of Sin and The Sin of Wages or The Grapes of Wrath and The Wrath of Grapes . . . Stop me!
Sometimes all you need to do is rearrange the table of contents or the contents of tables.
Recycling videotape is another issue. My wife and I, having spent several decades working in television, had amassed enough cassettes to build a nice guest house with them. Since we have no children to burden, what’s the point in keeping them? After I donated a few cartons of completed programs to the archives of my alma mater, I was stumped. How do you recycle something not made of one single material? The container is made of one form of plastic, the cassette itself is another form and then there’s the tape. This dilemma elicited choruses of head scratching at various recycling centers – until we discovered Green Disk, a compassionate company in Washington state that sends you recycling containers and charges you about a dollar per pound. Then, voila, they take them away.
Bet you think no such prestidigitation exists for record albums. But wait!
When you join in marriage, you also join music collections. Since Paula and I hitched up in 1982, that means we filled boxes with LPs, EPs and 45s, the vinyl sidings that held the rhythm of our lives together — 605 items of recorded music. Good grief. What is the point in schlepping all this into the next stage of our life? Who uses a turntable anymore? Adding these to our move would be like taking along a bunch of tails that were dropped in the process of evolution. What price sentimental value?
We decided they had to go. So I packed 605 records in my car and made a map of all the oldies shops in Greater Boston. Before I drove off, it hit me. A sad scenario loomed. After I would spend hours roaming and haggling with retrosexuals, I was probably going to return home with 20 bucks and 592 records. There must be a better way.
I saw the light. Actually, I saw Antiques Roadshow on PBS and called them. It turned out their pop culture guru was based in the town next to mine. So I called and drove my music trove to Gary Sohmers of Wex Rex Collectibles in Framingham. What a wonderful time I had as he taught me the value (or lack thereof) of my collection. He wore a Hawaiian shirt, a gray ponytail and a smile from the 60s. He took all my records into his warehouse of bobble heads and movie posters. In short order, this lifeguard of nostalgia informed me there was good news and bad news. “The good news is I will take all of these and you will leave here with a check. The bad news is I will make more money than you, or why am I in this business?” Seemed fairer than fair to me. I gave him the turntable too.
After dumping all this music, I thought I’d get the blues associated with loss and nightmare. Instead it felt like a hot bath. I was reborn and clean. Then we moved into our new house with the modern addition of a surround-sound system. A turntable was included. Soon this gift of the magi will be in the basement.
Twenty-four boxes left. Some have called it hoarding. But if I was actually hoarding, there would also be boxes in the attic, the guest room, the closets and piled in the outside shower. Hoarding is cluttering. Hoarding is dysfunctional. Hoarding is compulsive behavior. But I’m not pathological. How can you even think that when I just rearranged those boxes and made a logical path through them?
Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.