January 20th, 2005

When I'm Bad I'm Better


The cleaning-out of things has always been a very emotional experience for me. I tend to associate emotions to things such as joy and love, and then even feel guilt or sadness at their loss. Like the Opus doll on my shelf that I feel bad about even considering giving to Goodwill: I don't really love Opus or Bloom County, and he's faded and dusty, but my mom gave him to me for graduation and I feel like I'm betraying or ungrateful of her love for throwing out a token of it. The broken necklace I wore for most of college until it broke off my neck: I'm not going to wear it again - I can't - and it's not like getting rid of it is going to make me forget college or keeping it is going to somehow keep college alive.

I do not need my cassette tapes. A few mix tapes, sure, but I don't need my cassette copy of Rhythm Nation. And I know I'm never going to read half of those paperbacks I have on my shelf ever again. What am I keeping them for? Some sort of "book cred"? I know I read those books and I don't have to prove to anyone that I read them by keeping some sort of trophy. Who cares how many books I read? And how's anyone ever going to look at my bedroom bookshelf and think, "aah. She's read Private Parts...interesting".

It's funny to think how most of this stuff I have accumulated since 1995. I am the pack-rat daughter of a throwing-out kind of mom, and fought hard to keep my stuff as a kid. After my parents divorced, my mom moved out of our family home in New Jersey to North Carolina and nearly everything that didn't go to college with me had to be thrown out. I threw away the napkin that had the first digits I ever got on it. When my mom moved again in North Carolina, I had to nearly halve my stuff again. And here I am, just a few years later, embarrassed and frustrated that my apartment is so sloppy and cluttered, but feel so sad and guilty at every little memento I even consider clearing out.

I look around and everything seems so essential, that I couldn't possibly trim the fat any more. I don't need this little stuffed dragon I got at Ikea last year; why did I even buy it? And why does looking at its little smiling cotton face make me feel bad about tossing him out? He'll probably make some kid very happy, but now he's cramping up my space. I don't need a box full of happy meal toys. I don't need half that makeup my mom gets from the Clinique gifts that she doesn't want. I don't need VHS tapes of shows I recorded off TV that I have DVDs of now.

Alton Brown says anything in your kitchen that you don't use for six months you don't need. But what if I do in the seventh month? What if in the 8th month someone comes by and asks "whatever happened to that adorable little thing I gave you? You know, the one that I saw in the store and it made me think of you?"

Most of this stuff has given me nothing more than something to dust, then smile at and think about right before I feel bad about wanting to throw it away. I have pictures. I remember both that necklace and college. My mom loves me. Lots of things bring me happiness aside from fast-food toys. I don't need this stuff.

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