My Thing With Stuff

July 24th, 2007  |  Published in etc  |  3 Comments

It’s moving week this week. I’m in a state of half-vacation from work, Al’s taking all but one day off, and we’re making the house ready to go.

On Sunday we had a pretty successful garage sale. Successful because we sold a lot of stuff we didn’t want to have to drag down to Goodwill or hope would be picked up by freecyclers, and we got rid of things that would be too big to fit in the car. We left the last two big things — a pair of cheap bookshelves — out on the curb with a “free” sign on them, and they were gone by morning. That wasn’t the case with a stack of Economists Al left on top of one of them, so they got recycled.

Much of what we didn’t sell was bundled into some plastic crates and taken to Goodwill this afternoon.

I don’t know what the count was in terms of books sold, but I did bring up a second lot of assorted tech books midway through the day to fill the shelves back out. I’m pretty sure I sold around 100. I took three 14-gallon Rubbermaid Roughnecks worth of deprecated tech books, picked-over genre fiction and well-past-sell-by-date non-fiction to Goodwill along with the other unsold stuff. I think there’s one more carton on the porch waiting to go tomorrow, along with two more I put together down in the basement from the books that I’d put in the “undecided” bin while I was stocking the sale. And there’s a whole box headed straight for recycling that includes manuals for things like Storm Firewall, Red Hat 5.something, Applix Words and Corel Linux.

I’m partially glad to be rid of the clutter manuals for three or four releases of Red Hat Linux release. I’m partially glad that I’ll have far fewer reminders of the time in my life when I could write “the trend in the Linux world is clear: usability for the mythical ‘average user’ is getting better in steady increments” without feeling at least a little silly. It was 2000 … we really did believe the Start button was the one thing Microsoft had to offer.

So I spent most of this afternoon in the basement moving books from box to box, trying to sift out the stuff I was keeping for no good reason. I was much harder on fiction, and got pretty ruthless with most of the genre stuff, unless it was part of a series I’m still following/that’s still publishing new installments (and I think George R.R. Martin’s the only one in that category). Tolkien and Herbert were probably the only two genre authors whose series I’ve finished (over and over) who didn’t get purged. The only other genre survivor I can think of off the top of my head is Ray Bradbury. The new place has a much larger room to use as an office, though, with two walls that could go to shelves. So the books we kept have a much better chance of being up on a shelf where we can get at them.

I’m going over the book details of the move in detail because book hoarding is one of my oldest habits. I remember keeping an inventory of all my books in sixth grade, going down the list and organizing them, making sure any I hadn’t read all the way through got a section on the shelf. When my grades suffered in seventh grade, the first term there was a problem my parents suspended my t.v. privileges. The second term they realized what the real “problem” was in terms of distractions from school and boxed up all the books and put them in the attic. I saved a copy of Marco Polo’s “Travels” by hiding it under the mattress, and staged periodic stealth raids for fresh material by getting home from church while mom and dad were tied up in dad’s post-sermon greeting line and slipping up to the attic.

My book hoards were dented by a. a malicious incident I’m not going to go into, except to note five or six milk crates were left out on a back porch for the rain to get and b. a tour in the army (though I found a dozen or more today that’ve been hanging around from that time). Once out of the army, though, I was back at it. And they all came with me in the last move.

I’ve never been able to think up a good reason to keep them all around, though. Sometimes, I guess, it’s nice to be able to go pull a particularly agreeable bit of genre fluff down and kill a half hour before sleeping. And I’ve taken comfort in knowing that if I ever needed to refer to a book about attack journalism written in reaction to the rough handling Dan Quayle received during the Bush I presidency, I could. Other than that, though, stacks of books don’t do a lot for me. Some of them make me feel guilty because I never finished them. Some of them make me feel guilty because I did finish them when some of the ones I didn’t finish certainly deserved more attention. Some of them are just not worth re-reading, and aren’t particularly evocative of any time or memory. So shedding 100 gallons of books has been liberating, and I feel much more attached to the ones that survived the purge.

It was also, I’m just now remembering, very satisfying to sell some of the books to particular people. One guy was very pleased to clean out the Arthur C. Clarke and shared his joy with an approving comment about how Powell’s would surely want the rest. Another went for scripting language introductions. Someone else relieved me of the burden of knowing I happened to have every single one of the lamentable Dune prequels. The Anita Blake collection went away in bits and pieces to all sorts of people.

I also learned that professional collectors/resellers seem to feel uncomfortable with acknowledging their intent, which is to get good stuff out of the possession of someone who’s offering it for a pittance and then sell it for much more. I didn’t care. I was counting on them to take the things off my hands and help underwrite the donation I’m going to have to give Freegeek tomorrow.

The Freegeek haul will involve a pair of Rubbermaid Roughnecks filled with cables, spare net/sound/video etc. cards, 10 meg hubs, a trio of DSL modems an ISP that shall go unnamed sent me for no good reason then refused to pay to have shipped back, along with four tower cases, a pair of CRTs, five mice and three keyboards. There’s some cable in there with connectors that date back to when it was a good idea to just attach both 9- and 15-pin serial connectors to each end and call it a day; along with gender changers, null-modem adapters, and a DIN-to-PS2 keyboard adapter that somehow survived the extinction of DIN and the looming extinction of PS2 without coming out of its packaging. There’s also the thorny question of the ADM3a+, the Tandy WP2 and the Radio Shack Model 102. More hoarding there. I don’t think I can bear to just give them up even if they’re still all over eBay.

All in all, this is the biggest declutter move we’ve done, but I think it’s also the most conscientious in terms of making sure the only stuff going in the trash is truly beyond reclamation, donation or recycling. Some mice in the basement spoiled some of it by getting into some clothes I’d meant to sort for donation but never did, so the clothes were ruined. They did the same thing to a box spring and mattress we’d never really figured would go to anyone since they were pretty old and torn up, but there’s no question that nobody would want them now, and no way we’d let anyone have them in good conscience. Hopefully we’ll find somewhere that can at least render all that stuff into its component materials.

So tomorrow should see the end of the basement campaign. It’s still in the category of “formidable,” but once the Freegeek stuff is out and I move the book boxes up into the living room, I think it’ll feel like the tide has turned. Next is the garage, which will be unpleasant only because it’s home to lots of insects and spiders. That’ll put me to Thursday, which will be office breakdown day. Friday’s the move. Saturday’s an unpacking day. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will have us coming back here to deinstall all the childproofing hardware, putty in a few holes that hardware left, clean, arrange for pickup of anything else we sell over Craigslist, and make sure the carpet cleaning is done.

I don’t know if I’ll keep blogging up here very much, but I’m obligated to post something daily over at Open Networks Today, which relaunched in blog form just today.


  1. gl. says:

    July 24th, 2007 at 7:03 am (#)

    “don’t know if I’ll keep blogging up here very much”

    during the move? or ever?

  2. mph says:

    July 24th, 2007 at 9:51 am (#)

    During the move. This entry was the major braindump of the week, I think. I can’t imagine I’ll be thinking about much more. :-)

  3. pk says:

    July 24th, 2007 at 1:29 pm (#)

    Congrats on the purge. I know the feeling. Good luck with the rest of the push. I envy only the feeling of accomplishment you’ll be enjoying sometime next week.

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