Wednesday, 29 June 2016

What Should I Do With All That Stuff?

A quick hit from the depths of purging, purifying, and packing.

I had a fascinating conversation with Younger Son last weekend. While he cleaned out the last remnants of his time here at the house in the North Jewish Ghetto, I asked him what he thought I should do with the hundreds of CDs, vinyl albums, cassette tapes, DVDs, and VHS tapes that we have accumulated. Let me be clear. These collective recordings represent a huge part of our lives, our musical and film tastes defined, not to mention, thousands of dollars spent. There is little doubt in my mind that each album, tape, or disc can trigger a memory; perhaps it was a long-ago attended concert or great times with friends. Whatever the situation, there is also no doubt that this entire collection is comprised of outdated technology that struggles to be played in a home that no longer boasts a VCR, a working turntable, a cassette player, or even a computer with a CD/DVD slot. We have, like many others, become a digital home whereby our multimedia experiences are measured in gigabytes consumed.

Younger Son's response to my dilemma did not surprise me in the least. He is a minimalist at heart. He told me to junk it all. (Oh, the horror!!) Like many of his generation, he sees no need for superfluous consumption and extraneous items that simply have no storage space. He reminded me that he gets all of his music from services like Apple Music and Spotify, and watches whatever he wishes, whenever he wishes from various on-demand sites like Netflix and Shomi. In many ways, he has simplified his life by not cluttering his space with stuff that no longer has any tangible value.

And yet....

I am truly struggling with the idea of tossing out our media collection. Even if I never play any of it ever again, there is something tremendously distasteful to me about the idea that so much creative brilliance has become obsolete in what really amounts to less than half a century. Now, please do not label me a Luddite. I am not for a moment suggesting that the advances in technology haven't been for the better, nor am I saying that I haven't been caught up in the tsunami of new gadgets. Rather, I am attempting to reconcile the ideas of technological obsolescence with artistic maintenance. How can I continue to enjoy many of these rare and wonderful recordings, (all legally obtained, by the way!) without re-cluttering my personal space with worn out gadgets and outdated media components?

I suppose what has me really unnerved is the idea that art no longer seems to have any permanence. Sure I can watch It's a Wonderful Life, but only if it is on at Christmastime, Netflix allows it, or I choose to rebuy it in a digital format. It's kind of like saying that one can only view the Mona Lisa online because the Louvre no longer permits visitors.

Younger Son's response while slightly brutal and just a wee bit dismissive, struck directly at the heart of the matter. In this age of downsizing and placing a premium on our space, holding on to these recordings with no thought of ever playing them again is a luxury for certain. We have chosen a new lifestyle and difficult choices need to be made to facilitate it, but that doesn't mean that I have to enjoy this aspect of the purge.

I would love to hear your comments on this matter. How have you consolidated your media collections, if you have undertaken such an endeavour? Do you hold on like I have because the thought of disposing of stuff is anathema? When is it time to part with stuff like this? Please comment. I'm curious.


  1. We've also struggled with similar decisions. The easy answer is to digitize everything. What you lose when you do that is the tactile aspect. In our case, we have boxes and boxes of old photos, including large portraits of other people's weddings (my in-laws', for example). Simply digitizing these artefacts resolves the immediate problem of how to save them; it doesn't, to my mind, sufficiently address my need to hold these things in my hands and really feel their energy. No one said adulting was easy.

  2. Not only have we saved the hundreds of CDs we've already transferred to digital, but we have made space for my father-in-law's large collection of CDs and cassettes, as he has downsized and is not remotely sentimental, whereas we have not downsized and have yet to deal with your dilemma. We are NOT offering you basement space!

  3. I've digitized everything - and I still can't part with my CDs and some of my DVDs (though almost all the cassettes and DAT tapes are gone.) I have many books in my Kindle library and other digital formats (like my many theology and biblical criticism texts) and yet I still hold on to the printed copies of amny (but not all) of them, I wrote about this same dilemma before my last move almost two years ago. I got rid of hundreds of books with the last move and still have hundreds. Then, there's all the printed music. To get that all digitized would take years and I can't see repurchasing it all in digital form. Guess we are stuck in a cusp and have to deal with that reality. Many of these books, CDs, DVDs, etc do come attached to memories, so yes, parting wth them does bring about some loss, does eliminate some permanence. BroadwayHD Live She Loves Me was wonderful, but it will never be the same as seeing it live in the theatre itself. (And yes, I've saved my PlayBills from over the many decades of showgoing.) If it means something to you, keep it. If you run out of room, well, then you have a hard choice to make.

  4. I'm totally with youngest son! Digitize your DVDs if you must but even that is just buying you a little time until the next media evolution. All entertainment is available to you on the internet whenever and wherever you want it if you know how to find and attain it. Family photos and home movies are another story. You will need to curate and continue to convert them into perpetuity.