Thursday, December 31, 2015

Out with the old

So we are getting organized to leave Larchmont and head home, by way of Princeton. Over a couple of weeks here, Mary and Rob made herculean exertions to cull junk from the rather large attic, where it has been accruing for decades. Their mom, Mary Lee, likes to hold onto stuff, and she has done some active curating, filtering, and retaining even as we carry dust-covered stuff down the stairs and out to the street (yes, I have helped a little with some of the brute labor).

Which makes her a lot like many of us, including myself. It's hard to let go of stuff. Much of it has been and often is retained for sentimental value, but much has also been held onto on the theory that "it could be valuable to someone,"  Which is true, to a point. It's just that the work of finding the people to whom it might be valuable is labor-intensive, and the return on that labor is low unless you know what you are doing. It is, in fact, value-additive, which is why there is an ecosystem of specialists and brokers to help you sift through your junk and find new users.

But what has struck me on this occasion is that, unless you archive well and carefully, it's much more likely that stuff will find a new home and eager new users while it is relatively new than when it is older. Which really validates my sister's practice of culling actively and regularly. Leslie tells me that she goes through her and her kids'  (and, perhaps to a lesser extent, her husband's) stuff and gets it out of the house with pretty solid discipline. The house as a whole gathers less dust, and toys, books, clothes etc. find new homes before they are moldy and/or period pieces.

The irony is that the attempt to hold onto value in an attempt to make sure it is not lost in fact destroys it.

Because it is the last day of the year, the essay form suggests that I should loop this thought back and try to map it to reflections on the passing of another year. I probably could, but I am going to let go of that too. I need to do laundry and organize to get in the car in a couple of hours to go and see some more of our favorite humans, and that is more important than the thematic coherence of an individual blog post. Of which there will be more.

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