What do I need all this for?

I’ve been thinking about stuff a lot lately.

No, I mean stuff, literally. The things I own. I have two dueling tendencies, I think: on the one hand, the inclination to collect things, which comes from… well, I don’t know where that comes from exactly. On the other hand, growing up in a military family meant moving a lot, so the ability to pack things quickly and carry minimal belongings seems to me, in a way, a virtue.

A lot of  the things I have, I’ve held onto for years and I don’t know why I keep them. Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures (never call them dolls) that I never removed from the packaging? And that I bought when I was already in my 30s? Why, exactly? The pair of skinny pants that I bought probably five years ago and that I haven’t been able to fit into for three? The shirt that looks cool but never fit right to begin with? The collection of vinyl records that I haven’t played in (no exaggeration) decades?

And don’t get me started on all of the books on my shelves that I’ve read once and will probably never read again. I have a hard time thinking about getting rid of those. But everything else? What is all this stuff doing still hanging around?

This week, I finally picked up the copy of the latest Mizzou (-rah!) alumni magazine which has been sitting around for days (maybe weeks—but my magazine stack is so tall, how would I know?). This issue was all about sustainability. One of the feature stories was about a first-year medical student who, inspired by this article in Time magazine, owns 100 items.

One hundred. That’s it. No more. Including all his articles of clothing (about 25 pieces, all of which he can wash in a single laundry load). Even including his stethoscope.

I kind of like this idea, which was begun by this guy Dave Bruno, who calls the 100 Thing Challenge “a project focused on breaking free from the constraints of American-style consumerism. Have you ever stood in your closet or garage and felt stuck in stuff? Well, I did, too.”

I don’t know if I can get down to 100 things, but this appeals to me. I have all these things I don’t need, and maybe someone else would enjoy them more or get more use out of them (or, in the case of the aforementioned pants, actually fit into them). The Christmas shopping season seems like an odd time to be starting to think about this, but it also seems like the perfect time. I’m looking at things and wondering if their days are numbered. Some of them are already up on eBay.

But can I count my book collection as one item?

3 thoughts on “What do I need all this for?

  1. I culled my books last summer and deposited them off at the Library Book sale and I still look for some of those books from the 70’s and 80’s especially when they are referred to in some essay–I’m talking about John Rechy, Larry Kramer, Gordon Merrick and even Edmund White! I get so pissed that I let them go. Don’t give away your books, they are one item.

  2. BTW, I am re-reading Detours. You have joined my elite club–Jim Grimsley, Jeff Mann and MTF. Your book is still with me and I’m fascinated with it. Just when I think you are going down the “road” with a certain character, you take a detour. Very clever. When of my Goodreads friends wants to read my copy and since she’s local, I may do that. You can read my review, I’m not a very good writer, but I’d be great as the Mom in the stage play.

    • Thank you, Bob! I’m honored to be in that company. I took a master class from Jim at the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival, and I’ve lifted many a glass in Ford’s company. And I loved your review. Very kind of you to put out a good word, and again, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ll look forward to hearing what your friend thinks about it too.

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