A few years ago my grandfather on my mothers side of the family died and I was one of the people that went through his apartment helping to depose of his possessions. Its an odd experience to be in a space that has been someones life, finding the objects that they have attached some memories to, now forever inaccessible. What really set me off thinking through was his large collection of LPs and Reel-to-Reel tapes of primarily 20th century recordings of 19th romantic classical music. This was music he loved and played, but not really that easy to dispose of. Used record stores (that even have a classical section) are choked with these recordings and the reels only really appeal to a pretty small subset of collectors who aren’t necessarily into this music. While no one said much (beyond asking if you wanted any) disposing of this stuff was somewhat of a burden for those left behind.
I too have a large amount of obscure music that, were I to be so lucky as to live as long as my grandfather, would be on outmoded formats (though who knows, maybe there will be a CD collectors market at that point) but which relatives would be hard pressed to get rid of. I have often contemplated the acres of plastic a large CD/DVD/etc collection contains and how, no matter how valuable, or rare or whatever it may seem know eventually it is destined for the landfill. For this reason I always tried to discriminate as much as I could when acquiring such items; to only acquire those that would receive extensive use. If one finds that one didn’t like something one buys one should pass it on to someone who would appreciate it. But things had piled up and after this experience with my grandfathers stuff I had an additional perspective on it.
I decided to move from the house I’ve rented for the last 4-5 years and this time I wasn’t going to haul all the stuff I had I was going to dispose of as much as I could. I developed a whole process for this, which I’ll described some of in a later post, but for my media collections of CDs, DVDs, Books and the like in the end I basically tried to sell them, give them away or donate them. This led to the final lesson in all of this that I wanted to share; essentially this stuff is nearly worthless. By that I mean from a reselling perspective, the personal value that we place on any of our objects is of course individual and can be incredibly high. But I think that in our consumerist culture perspective there is somewhat this lie that the stuff you acquire is almost an investment. That one’s huge library of media can be sold if one ever had to. But the truth is that barring either owning incredibly rare items, or really devoting a huge amount of time to the selling of them you will recoupe pennies on the dollar. Again if you’ve kept a book your whole life and reread it over and over again none of this matters, but that is the value that one should expect.
I took a large load of books, DVDs and CDs to Half Price Books as they’ll take all of these different forms of media and while they sorted through them I wandered around the store. Here I was to receive the above lesson as I was to receive pennies to the dollar for the huge amount I brought in, but also an additional lesson. I love books, have always been a big reader and have subsequently acquired a large library, but frankly there is just too many of them. Every subject has something written on it from every perspective more often then not from every perspective. The topic can be vegan cookbooks and besides a vast amount of collections of recipes (from every possible angle of course) there will be the memoirs from every possible angle describing how a person came to/left veganism, how it saved/ruined their life how it ties into their worldview/religion/creed/culture/attitude. This goes for every subject. This does of course give one the option of winnowing down the reminiscence one chooses to read as one explores a new topic but it just seems too much. For there is so much of it in these stores and there are stores everywhere.
I still have a lot of books left to get rid of and I freely acknowledge that its hard for me. But I’ve developed a process that I think will allow me to maintain the connections to them without the physical object. From there it will be digital, libraries and the borrowing and lending of books. The books that I’ll buy will be for very specific kinds of use, one that justifies the possession, storage and ultimate disposal of them.