Cleaning House

Michael Hall is “getting rid of stuff”: (scroll down to the “Stuff” section). I’m getting more and more ready for a major stuff purge myself, thanks in part to the fact that we’re going to need to childproof the apartment sometime soon. Anyway, I perked up upon reading this bit:

Those technical books have all been interesting in their time, but I don’t use them anymore. Having them helps me feel anchored in my identity as someone who is comfortable and fluent with technology. But they don’t make me any more or less that way. They just fill up space. Hundreds of pounds of books I won’t read, for the sake of anchoring a piece of identity on them.

This put me in mind of all the talk of “shelfworthiness”: a few months ago. How many of the books on my shelf do I actually value, want to keep, and plan (at least theoretically) to read again someday, and how many are only there to anchor a piece of my identity (for example, “literature guy”)? I’ve done a pretty good job of weeding stuff out periodically, but there’s definitely more that can go, keeping in mind Michael’s words of sublime wisdom:

The thing I’ve come to realize, though, is that the real walking memory of all those things is me. I am the sum of my experiences and cares and passions. No thing can be that. No collection of things can be that. And in the process of gathering up so much stuff, I’ve become less mindful of the things that really do mean something, that resonate with me now.

Of course, in taking this route when it comes to _books_, I’m consciously choosing to be a certain kind of person. I was at the house of one of Suanna’s boss recently, and her husband had thousands of books — a whole library in the basement, and separate cabinets for first editions elsewhere to boot. It was supremely cool to poke around in there with him, sipping scotch, yanking stuff out that struck our fancy, testing each other’s knowledge. By commiting to a low-stuff life I’m ruling out the library basement for myself in the future. Besides, I’ll need to save room for all the “games”: