From the Blog

Moving Briskly Along

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It didn’t occur to me that moving into an apartment without closets would make me have to “deal with” the copious amounts of crap that I have accumulated. My last apartment had a closet the size of a garage. So I had plenty of boxes that I shoved into a corner and dismissed. I would occasionally have moments where I NEEDED something that I knew I had, say, a gummy eraser. But I realized it was in one of those boxes. And really, I would give up all hope. It was a mere few feet from me, but it may as well been on a different continent. I used a regular eraser instead.

Now I have no closets, and I am sharing those no closets with another human and a bastard cat. All those boxes of mine labeled “Old Stuff,” or “Deep Six” have been stacked in a messy pile. As much as I would have liked to avoid them, we don’t have the space for superfluous mystery boxes from my past.

I bought an Expedit and did a light Ikea Hack by putting some casters on it. Before unpacking, I had some loose categories I figured my stuff would fall into.

1. Trinkets and books I can display. These are mostly books from being a literature major. I haven’t read most of them. I’m not sure how I graduated. But since I haven’t read them, I’ve kept them. Plus, having them out makes me look smart.

2. Books that I’d rather not display. These are whichever goofy self-help books I might keep, mostly relating to anxiety, perfectionism, non-confrontationism, yoga, personal productivity, pseudo creative spiritual guidance, personal finance and raging PMS. Also, I have a vintage copy of “The Joy of Sex” from the 60’s, given to me by my mother. The woman in the book has armpit hair.

I haven’t read a lot of these books either, and I feel a little silly going through them now. When did I ever have the time to be so fretful about myself? I know I have a tendency to be a little, um, crazy introspective. But now I can think and write about me and my life and my stuff and me on The Internet.

The last category is number 3. Stuff that needs to GO AWAY. And this is the hardest part. I have boxes with cell phone bills from 2006. Service records for a car I owned three vehicles ago. Pay stubs from 4 jobs ago. My college photography 101 final. Retirement stuff from 10 years ago. Student loan applications from the 1990’s. Seriously. Some of this stuff has been in boxes since I left Boston in 2000. It came with me from Massachusetts to California to Hawaii back to California to Oregon.

It’s not hard to decide to toss this stuff. But fricken everything from that era seems to casually display my social security number. Every tiny damn little piece of paper. It’s like, on the OUTSIDE of envelopes. You know, just in case the mailman needed it. I don’t have a shredder, so everything is getting ripped up by hand. My fingers are dry and cracked.

Then I come across notebooks and papers I wrote in college. And high school. Lots and lots of journals. In my pointy, repressed handwriting. Those old things. My high school mortar board. Old photos and letters. I skimmed them out of curiosity, but I didn’t really want to look at them. There’s a reason why these boxes say “Deep Six.” I’ve been holding onto them for all this time. I saved them for something. I’m not sure why. My grand kids?

I threw out a lot of it. I’m not really sentimental. It’s old stuff that I look at every 10 years. How much longer would I carry it around? The empty space is worth more to me. It feels good. I kept my journals, because that is a huge pile of sincere, angsty crappola. And maybe one day, when I’m feeling energetic, I’ll find some pages to share on the internet.

I did keep The Joy of Sex. I will still shave my armpits.


  1. Every time I move (14 addresses in the last 12 years), I have a little bonfire of all the documents I don’t want getting out in public, from tax forms to my diary from when I was 14 and pining after a guy who turned out to be a total jackass and abusive to boot!

  2. Jeez, do you want to borrow a shredder? Mine was free and it kind of sucks (will only do 4 pages at a time and gets jammed every once in a while), but it at least does the job. I’m paranoid about getting rid of paperwork. I also have manuals for a car I no longer own and the paperwork for the loan for the car, etc. And how many years is one supposed to keep tax information? I have a proper filing cabinet, at least, so it’s not just stacked in boxes… (also, for getting rid of *stuff*, freecycle is your friend)

  3. I hear there’s a new Joy of Sex out – sans hairy guy.

  4. according to my old tax guy, who worked for the IRS for 20 years:
    tax returns: 7 years
    bank statements: 7 years
    receipts: 3 years
    the rest of it is shred at will!
    When I was helping a friend pack for a move, and cleaning out about 14 years of paperwork, I was AMAZED at the amount of stuff that had his social security number on it. I guess, before wide-spread internuts usage, identity theft wasn’t as important… gave me the heebies.

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