There's a Buddhist
thread to the
book/movie Fight Club, this idea that if a person wants to
break with his past, then he needs to leave behind everything that was
part of that life. While I certainly enjoyed the movie, I didn't
plan to emulate it in any way, but that's what ended up happening.
Years before all the events of
much" series I posted earlier, I went though a time where I got rid of
a lot of my material possessions, and surprisingly (to me), a lot of
baggage I didn't even know I was carrying. See, my soon-to-be
and I split up. I had a house to sell and, being in grad school
the time, I didn't expect to have a lot of money when it was all
I decided to pare down even more of my stuff.
I was planning to move into a
it made sense to start trying to get rid of things. Everyone does
this from time to time... especially when confronted with the prospect
of having to physically carry their stuff and to find new ways of
it. The usual process is you pick up each possession and ask
"Do I want this?" That's the wrong way to go about things.
You want to know the better question to ask? "Do I need
Many of my childhood memories
Wars toys. Those weren't just a fixture of xmas mornings or
parties; they're an integral part of who I am. I wouldn't be the
person I am toy if I hadn't grown up in the wake of the "Saga."
chunks of plastic not only left in impression in my being, they also
treated like objects on loan from the Smithsonian when I was an
See, my mom is undeniably OCD
are her; then you'll deny it). She was careful to preserve those
toys from the time I put them aside in the waning years of my
and they stayed boxed up for many years afterward. When I first
a house with my ex, my parents said, "Hey, now that you have your own
how about taking all your junk with you?" Not only did I have
the entire collection of Star Wars merchandise, but also a significant
portion of the classic GI Joe series and huge chunks of other toy lines
from the mid '70s to mid '80s. And I now had to move them.
The realization I was carting
boxes started to gnaw at me. You only move boxes to unpack
You don't move boxes to store them, and yet that's all I ever planned
do with these things for the foreseeable future. Did I really
any of these toys? I needed what they represented. They
a piece of me. And that was the trick to dealing with them.
I had internalized them such that their usefulness was effectively
Whatever I had gotten out of them was now removed from their
They held value as nostalgia pieces... and the going rate for nostalgia
was pretty good on eBay.
Made of 100% Post-consumer
There's a funny thing
in our culture; kids grow up and are imprinted by the icons of their
and teen years. It takes about twenty years for the psychic
of this to manifest, but then is does in a big, big way.
coasts on the crest of this ripple in time.
In the '70s, we were treated to
all over again. Granted, when you're a kid, you don't realize
you're watching Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley
some old fart at the tv studio has a bunch of writers telling him this
show or that would be cool. You end up listening to four-part
with Electric Light Orchestra, and going to see Grease, American
Graffiti, and Porky's at the movies. It doesn't even
on you that all these properties are set approximately twenty years
give or take.
Then by the time you're in high
in the late '80s, you're wearing tie-dye and listening to
Your friends have "discovered" LSD and black light posters. Then
it's the '90s and you're out of college, but they're jamming "That '70s
show" down your throat and you have to listen to a disco revival and
things '70s all over again until the end of the decade when break
is supposed to be cool now. Was it ever?
The Perfect Storm
If you want to know how
childhood is worth, don't ask a psychologist; check on eBay. I
expected much for mine, but then I started selling my Transformers and
Robotech toys. They were the first to go on the auction block
before I even began the catharsis experiment I would later
I never really played with them very much as a kid and so compared to
average garage sale/thrift shop finds, they were in terrific condition.
The result? I made a
I wish I remember how much I sold everything for that I put up for
but I remember selling Optimus Prime for $150 and the SDF-1 for
What is that? An 800% profit? Both of these went to the
guy. Now, I have sold a lot of things on eBay as of this writing,
but this one was unique in expressing the psychology of the
What would make someone pay that much for a couple hunks of
With the check (yes, I accepted checks back then; this was before the
of PayPal) was a note from the buyer thanking me for auctioning these
He said he missed his from his childhood and had always wanted to have
He didn't spell out the journey
to now, but I think I can fill in the blanks. Flashback to 1085:
After he grew up watching Optimus battle Megatron and Rick Hunter
Zentradi battle pods every afternoon when he got home from school, this
little fella grew up and put away his toys.
Years went by after these
were boxed up. Then he went to college, mom got a divorce, and
in with the boyfriend. She had a big garage sale followed by the
inevitable white-flag trip to Goodwill with the left-overs.
Fast-forward a few more
graduates, gets his first real job. No kids (yet).
income! His girlfriend will think it's childish of him, but he's
earned the right to a little regression, right? He gets on eBay,
and it's a perfect storm. It's also a feeding frenzy. He's
not the only one in the world with this combination of nostalgia and
This hungry swarm of Gen X nerds start bidding against one another
rounds of playing Quake against their buds on the net, and ironically
eBay is the networked multi-player game where I make a killing.
Exodus, Books Too
With a target audience
critical period in their lives, it was time for me to unload Obi-Wan,
Commander, Q-Bert, and all my old friends. Everything must
That meant all the comic books too. Yes, a little over 3,000 of
I had amassed in bursts of collecting during junior high through
That started the ball rolling on the rest of my books as well.
If you think about it, books
are just about
the last thing you're going to hold onto. If you've read it,
done with it. Get rid of it. If you haven't read it by now,
you aren't going to. Get rid of it. I have friends who
their books over and over, but I'm not that type. I realized I
hanging onto this veritable fire-trap anyway. What for? As
trophies? Like the toys, I already internalized everything from
I was going to use. I couldn't see lugging them around
I bundled them together by author, and sold the best stuff on-line,
took the rest around to the used bookstores that paid cash.
Other media was quick to follow
of thinking. I had already ripped or downloaded most of the good
tracks from my cd collection. At that point I had several hundred
discs, but I had probably just as many hours of music (though from
more sources) on my hard drive thanks to Napster, and mp3s certainly
up a lot less space. I figured, why not sell off the discs I
listened to anymore? About half my collection went up for
Maybe a year later I looked at the remaining half and realized I hadn't
touched any of them in the preceding twelve months (and probably
twelve months before that in most cases!), so they were sold as well.
I couldn't bear to part with
most of my
guitars, but I had plenty of parts lying around from past upgrades, so
all those junk pickups and pots and pickguards went on-line as
Then there were the stacks of sheet music books and guitar magazines
more sheet music). Those went the way of the rest of the books I
covered earlier. Before long I didn't need nearly so many
Out of the closet
There's so much stuff
and never use. It never even sees the light of day. Go
your closet, and you'll see what I mean. Well, certainly you're
going to go out in your fetish gear, but I'm talking about the other
You know, the band t-shirts that you would never wear again, like from
U2's "experimental" era. Not cool. Not for another five to
ten years anyway. Of course, you wouldn't be cool wearing
Leave that to the kids who weren't even born yet when the tour was
A few of the "nostalgia" items (e.g, the band shirts) went on eBay
with the rest. Goodwill got whatever was left over.
The most remarkable thing is
you try to sell on eBay, there's someone out there who will buy
For example, I'm a bit of a packrat, so I can't bring myself to throw
away, no matter what condition they're in or how useless they've
I had a bunch of AC adapters from old cordless telephones, answering
and other appliances I honestly don't even remember owning all jammed
boxes in the bottom of the closet. I sold those. I don't
know how or why, but someone wanted them. Given enough time or
you can sell just about anything on eBay.
Seriously, no matter how
an auction I threw together, I managed to sell things. For
I had several pairs of Converse Chuck Taylors that were literally
apart. My mom would have killed me if she saw me in them on the
Dani was ready to choke me over them. Throw them out, she
But I'm a cheapskate, so I figured, hey, if anyone buys these for $5,
I've made a little money off of them. When you're selling loads
junk on eBay, you're already going to make several trips to the PO, so
what's another box?
I listed three pairs of these
shoes in the same auction, and was sure to say that they were a few
around the track shy of completely destroyed. I didn't want
thinking they were even remotely wearable. I explained that the
were coming off the bottoms and they were full of holes. In fact,
there was little else to them but laces and stitches in the patches of
canvas that remained. Most of the rivets had even fallen
But any money is better than none, so I started the bidding at $5.
The auction closed at just
under $90 for
the three pairs. I don't think I paid much more than that for the
lot of them brand new. That meant there was someone out there
to pay $89 dollars who was bidding against the other guy. Dani
hey, as long as I had no problem with whatever this foot freak did with
my old shoes, then why should she care. We took the money and ran.
By the end of the eBay
the only thing left were the hundreds of photos of items I posted for
That's kind of all you need, isn't it? If you can remember it,
just about as useful as most of these things will ever be. If I
nostalgic, I can just look at a picture rather than digging in the
or through stacks of boxes in my garage. As with the mp3s, I like
collections that don't take up any space.
Burning calories and more
Of course, I didn't try
absolutely everything on eBay. Some things just aren't worth the
time and trouble. I guess if I would have used my (for decoration
only) fireplace, I could have burned a lot of the leftovers, but I
However, my now-absent former spouse hadn't taken with her any of the
of candles she had bought over the years. When winter came along,
I suddenly turned into a micro-pyromaniac. I had candles burning
constantly. It looked like the set of "Phantom of the Opera" or a
Zalman King movie. I was responsible for more CO2 emissions than
Mexico, but I got two things out of it: 1) I didn't have to run my
as much and 2) I didn't have any candles left when I moved.
Yeah, speaking of burning
things, the kitchen
was another problem area. Here's something I'll bet you do: You
to the grocery store on an empty stomach, you look around and say, "You
know, I've never had that before. I bet it would be fun to
And then it just sits in your freezer/cupboard/pantry until you die and
they finally clean out your house. Well, I'm guilty of that
I had loads of boxes of Hamburger Helper-type things. I don't
know what all they were. You had to add meat and a pack of
to whatever it was and (worse yet) read directions. Sure, I had
idea how long most of that stuff sat around, but I was determined to be
rid of it, so I was going to eat it. Oh, and everything in the
and the freezer too.
It wouldn't seem like this
would be a great
diet plan if you were to say, "I'm going to eat every last thing in my
house," but just wait until you get past that surface layer of the
you really like. Surface layer? Yeah, those few items you
every time you run out of them. They always go right to the front
of the cabinet. When you're out of them, you go to the grocery
get some more. I mean, you aren't going to eat that Cream of
or those cans of beets in the back, are you? Ugh.
By the time you're down to
those, you aren't
going to eat anything. Nothing to eat would be better than
I don't know how much weight I lost doing this, but I probably went for
two months without buying anything except bread and milk. And
it was over, the cabinets were empty, there was nothing in the fridge
condiments, and I had enough room in my freezer for a body, so I didn't
have to buy a second one like your typical serial killer does.
A lot of our identities
up in our belongings. Like Tyler says in Fight Club: "The things
you own, own you." Possessions limit not just our physical
but that of our psyche as well. I am still growing and getting
of things both material and mental, and those things are tied together
somewhat, but nothing compares to that time in my life where I got rid
of so much junk. Odds are, you have a load of psychic ballast in
your life as well, so I'm going to turn the cliche on its head and say
that you won't know what you're missing until it's gone.