Sunday, December 08, 2013

Ducks Unlimited

I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project—I noticed its cheerful cover on the biography/autobiography shelf at Modern Times Bookstore—and for the first twenty pages or so, felt judgmental and superior: Doesn’t she know that obsessing about whether or not you’re happy is a very good way not to be happy? Doesn’t she know there is no such thing as achieving a permanent state of happiness? Wouldn’t most people on earth be thrilled out of their minds to be even in her pre-project situation, and so isn’t it kind of selfish to try to suck up even more happiness?

Though I was already appreciating the clarity of her prose, her program sounded highly perfectionistic and utterly exhausting. However, when I got to the part about getting rid of clutter, I suddenly was aflame. Someone tells her, “I never keep anything for sentimental reasons alone,” which made me think of the hefty percentage of my stuff that fits into that category, and the next day, I spent several hours going through things, asking myself of each item, “Why do I have this?”

I decided that I’d like to keep anything I use—meaning that it’s been used in the past two years—and anything that gives me pleasure, but that I needed to take a much closer look at the sentimental items (which can bring the opposite of pleasure). I went through kitchen cupboards, the hall closet, and the walk-in closet, including the electronics drawer, and came up with half a grocery bag of stuff to take to e-waste and about seven bags’ worth for the thrift store. I took pictures of a lot of mementos and discarded the actual items, going so far as to part with the toothbrush that Carlos was using at my place in his final weeks—I’m not kidding about being sentimental—and I took a picture of his frequently worn Ducks Unlimited sweatshirt and put it in one of the thrift store bags, but when I was all done, my efforts had been so successful that I decided I could store one little sweatshirt I'll never wear.

I still need to go through his papers and journals, my own photographs, and letters received over the decades. I fear that if I try to choose a representative few of the latter to keep, I’ll end up reading them all, which would be time down the drain, but I don’t think I can bring myself to discard them unreviewed, so it might be safer just to let them sit placidly in their bags and ancient green hard-shell suitcase.

The following day, I took all the thrift store stuff to the Community Thrift Store, the e-waste to Goodwill, and several pairs of glasses to Martin de Porres soup kitchen, where lunch service was underway. I also dropped off one of my small end tables at J&L for refinishing. The fellow there quoted me $175, so I decided not to do it—it’s an Ikea table that Frank gave me that probably cost $25 to begin with—but as I was walking back to the car, I decided that if I were to shop for a nicer end table, I’d probably spend $175, so I might as well spend that fixing the one I already have.

I also decided that this year (meaning next year), I will complete some tasks that have been on my list for a long time, such as preparing an advance health care directive and making a will. Having the end table refinished is on that list, and so was dealing with my turntables, so I arranged for Ray N. to come over yesterday and sort things out: should I have my old turntable fixed and get rid of the newer one, or should I have the newer one set up and sell the old one? For a while, I thought it would be a good idea to have a backup turntable, but I’m past that.

When Ray came over, he couldn’t get the new turntable to start at all, and discovered that it had no power cord attached, which was mystifying. It’s sitting right next to my computer and I had used it for a while before realizing I didn’t have it adjusted exactly right—why on earth would I have removed the power cord? Weird. As for where the power cord now was … oh, no—my trip the prior day to drop off e-waste!

I went to check my electronics drawer and was extremely relieved to see the power cord sitting right on top. I must have looked at it and said, “I wonder what this is,” and for some reason decided to keep it, whereas everything else of which I asked the same question was carted away. Thank goodness. After Ray adjusted the new turntable and we listened to a little Nirvana, Ray said he would definitely keep that one, and I gave him the old one to fix and sell plus $60 for schlepping across town and adjusting my turntable. Plus the manual for the old turntable, which, needless to say, I still had after 30 years.

The new turntable does sound fantastic. You don’t realize what you’re missing with mp3s until you hear a good old record. Very satisfying.
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