... and I couldn't throw them away. Ok, I couldn't let go of Das Kapital Vol I that I purchased on my first trip to Soviet Russia nor Michael Harrington's brilliant synthesis of theoretical Marxism, Socialism, either. Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series and the Gamache books by Louise Penny are still keepers as well. Virginia Woolf, Richard Brautigan and Richard Farina still have a place of honor on our remaining one shelf of fiction in the basement. But that's it. Why are these cassettes so hard to give up? Two weeks ago I gladly gave away hundreds of Biblical commentaries and works of theology. (To be honest, when I realized that ALL of my Biblical commentaries were on their way to the public library, I quickly ran downstairs and retrieved three New Testament works plus Robert Alter's brilliant commentary on the Psalms.) Most of my formative musical anthologies used in writing my dissertation are gone now as well as many of our art history texts. And still the cassettes remain.
Akiko Busch wrote an essay in 2012 entitled "The Art of Shedding Possession" where she suggests that some possessions we outgrow, others evoke our history and some are just clutter. Still, she wonders as do I,
But how to start weeding through this overcrowded museum of domestic life? Things come into our lives for any number of reasons: need, desire, taste, inheritance or simply the human impulse to fill some space in our lives that has been left empty. And if “curation” plays a part in acquisition, such selectivity necessarily involves some convergence of knowledge, discernment and diligence. All of which, I find, are every bit as vital in de-accessioning.There are many factors ruling our choices about what to surrender. A force equal and opposite to the impulse buy is the precipitous urge to give something up, which can spring from some combination of regret, disenchantment, a sense of failure, even fatigue.
But beyond such hasty and impetuous housecleaning are the simple facts that we outgrow things, our tastes change, and, maybe most of all, our desire for material belongings wanes. Parting with them may only be a matter of recognizing that we need to end certain relationships and understand how the physical objects around us have served as their emotional accomplices. I have found that what I am ready to relinquish generally falls into one of two categories: things that resonate with past experience and those that hold out promise for a future enterprise that is unlikely to materialize. Which is to say, the stuff can be purely evocative or insanely aspirational.
I've read the pop literature on de-cluttering like the Seana Method. We've added them all to our toss-it pile already. One friend reframed the challenge saying, "Don't look for what to give away, but rather to keep." And that has its own wisdom that I've used in sifting through my books. (With more to come!) I like what Priscilla Stucky wrote on her blog:
That certainly rings true for me: sorting and tossing has made me keenly aware both of my mortality and of the journey that has carried me thus far. It has evoked gratitude I never imagined. Some tears and regrets, as well, but mostly serious celebration for the blessings I have been given over all these years. Perhaps that's why I am reluctant right now to let go of that music. I have hundreds of CDs to sort that I don't care much about. Maybe I've outgrown them. But those cassettes...? They remain a mystery. So I'm not going to try to figure it out today. Or any time soon. I am just going to clean them up, bring them upstairs and give them a listen; trusting that when the time is right, the Buddha will appear. Or at the very least the Boss.