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Packrat Gene [Feb. 20th, 2010|03:37 pm]
I have a lot of stuff.

Partly, I believe, this is genetic. I'm pretty well convinced that there's a gene for wanting to hang on to stuff, and I've got it. My grandfather hoarded building materials and my father hoarded food. I hoard information and information-bearing objects, which at least have the advantage of being relatively compact, compared to things like lumber and 5-gallon tubs of powdered lecithin.

This inclination is partly wanting to have a backup supply of stuff Just In Case You Ever Need It, and partly an aversion to throwing things out when they're Still Perfectly Good -- even though you personally may never use them. It's wasteful and wrong to send something useful to a landfill just because you don't need it, says my cultural programming, and I don't disagree. It's just that the extra work of disposing of it responsibly is often hard to muster.

In my case, I also hold on to things because they carry memory.

My memory is weird. I am great at remembering abstractions and patterns, and terrible at recalling anecdotal details. I think some of it is because my brain is full. I have a lot of book learning, and I know a lot of people, and I read a lot of things, and the more things you have jammed into your brain -- which really is adapted to remembering, what, probably a couple dozen tribe members and a few tens of square miles of savannah? -- the seek times start to get very long. I can remember most things eventually, but without a contextual trigger of some kind, it may not be until tomorrow. Or next week.

(At my little brother's graduation ceremony a couple years ago, I sat there looking at this guy sitting one section down and two over thinking He looks really familiar. I know him. Where do I know him from? for a good hour and a half before I finally realized: he's a checker at my local Target. I? Need. Context.)

So there's a lot of stuff that I keep around because when I look at it, it reminds me of particular times in my life. Clothes, for example. There are shirts that I never wear, that don't fit and are all raggedy, that I keep because they remind me of who I was back when I did wear them.

But I realized at some point that in many cases, I don't actually need the object itself. A picture will work just as well.

So this afternoon I've been photographing old shirts and putting them in a bag to donate / recycle. There are some I'm keeping anyway because I'm a sentimental git (TEP jerseys, concert tees, etc.) but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to make at least a small dent in the amount of matter we have to translate from X(apartment) to X(house). Because the apartment certainly is full of things, and I do not have a katamari.

[User Picture]From: nematsakis
2010-02-20 10:51 pm (UTC)
I've been noticing recently that my brain is full too. I spent much of the last two years filling it up with the right stuff I need to finish my thesis. Literally a week after I left Massachusetts I started filling it with completely different things related to the work I'm doing now. Stuff I did more than 5 years ago (e.g. Java programming) is practically inaccessible, though I think I could pick it up again pretty quickly if I had to.

This realization has me feeling mixed about learning new things, because it basically means getting out of practice on other things I worked hard to learn. It's a conundrum.
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2010-02-21 03:57 pm (UTC)
I met a girl at two different WorldCons and I think we finally figured out that it must be the Ren Faire that we knew each other from, because that was the only location that we'd both been, but that doesn't explain why we recognized each other so much.
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[User Picture]From: goddessdster
2010-02-21 04:14 am (UTC)
I have a box full of really cool t-shirts I just can't get rid of because they are a collection, much like action figures or Hummel figurines. But I never knew what to do with them. I'm not going to hang them on my wall or display them artfully on a mantel. So they sit in a box.

One day, I'm going to learn how to sew. Then I'm going to make a t-shirt quilt. Really.

Good luck packing. My local Goodwill made a killing off of me when I packed my stuff in Austin. Except those t-shirts.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2010-02-21 06:45 am (UTC)
I actually thought "quilt" halfway through your first paragraph, so I think that's the right answer. :)
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[User Picture]From: srotu27
2010-02-21 08:00 pm (UTC)
That was going to be my suggestion, too. I'm learning how to quilt partly so I can do this, too. I've been saving clothes for this purpose for a couple of years, but it got them out of my drawers. I've not yet begun with the details, though, so I can't tell you a thing about it. Sadly. I have a book, though, if you're interested.
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2010-02-21 04:00 pm (UTC)
1. Buy a bunch of "fusible interfacing." That is a material that stiffens the cloth so that your T-shirt quilt is reasonably stable. Cut off relevant parts of T-shirts and iron to interfacing.

2. Cut out squares with the designs centered.

3. Sew together with strips of cloth in between to give a nice framing effect.

4. Give to somebody professional to turn into a quilt (backing, batting, and quilted together.

There you go.
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[User Picture]From: goddessdster
2010-02-21 11:04 pm (UTC)
Wow. You make it sound like it would turn out much nicer than what I was originally intending, which entailed a mish-mash sewing together of shirt fronts. Hmmm.
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[User Picture]From: annlarimer
2010-02-22 06:27 pm (UTC)
You can also sew them together for a mish-mash scarf, or use them to make cushion covers -- either by sewing or with some well-placed safety pins. They'll also cover notebooks, make nice bags, etc. Ask Mr Google about t-shirt crafts

OR if you'd like to wear them again, do the fusible webbing thing onto new/old garments. This also works if you find a kid's shirt with a motif you simply must have.

I need to do something with my Fuzz promo shirts, since they're Oughties-style skintight things that won't even fit the grown men they're supposedly sized for, let alone me.
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[User Picture]From: goddessdster
2010-02-22 08:32 pm (UTC)
You are remembering the part where I said "learn to sew," right?

I love my HF shirt and wear it whenever I can, because it makes me look skinny. Or skanky. I can't tell which.
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[User Picture]From: annlarimer
2010-02-22 08:36 pm (UTC)
Skinnanky! \o/

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[User Picture]From: goddessdster
2010-02-22 08:43 pm (UTC)
Yep. I knew you'd go there.
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[User Picture]From: backrubbear
2010-02-21 01:18 pm (UTC)
We share a very similar memory. I'll have to try the recording of pictures - that might reduce the little clutter I have left of such otherwise "useless" thing.
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[User Picture]From: da_lj
2010-02-21 02:24 pm (UTC)
I'm there with ya re: predisposition to stuff, and stuff as replacement for brain-memory.

...You may have just convinced me to get rid of half a drawer of shirts which I haven't worn in 10-15 years; photographing them will serve as a much more accessible memory than having them in the drawer anyway.

(At least this was my experience scanning photos: *bing* ancient photo can become facebook profile pic! *bing*)

unclutterer has repeated this theme more times than I can count: mementos should either be: on display, or scanned/photographed and given away. They do us little good boxed away forever. There was a good article about uncluttering clothing, which I should go back and reread!...
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[User Picture]From: tagebuch_sea
2010-02-21 05:48 pm (UTC)
There is a great article on culling down our stuff - http://www.viridiandesign.org/. One recommendation for sentimental things is to “reduce it to data”, like your digital photographs. Transforming things, like making quilts and totebags from your t-shirts, is also an option. One question though – which means more to you, having the quilt of those shirts, or thinking about the excitement somebody might experience when they find that shirt at Goodwill. For me, putting things back in circulation is often more exciting than keeping them, even if transformed.
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[User Picture]From: goddessdster
2010-02-22 08:41 pm (UTC)
It's my COLLECTION! :) I gave the lovely Goodwill shoppers much more excitement with my donation of blue jeans in various sizes.

Is what I tell myself.
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[User Picture]From: srotu27
2010-02-21 09:11 pm (UTC)
One thing I'd say (as a fellow sufferer of this psychological mindset) is that it's been instructive to remember that it's also wasteful and wrong to hold on to something useful that I don't and won't use if someone else could. Wasteful of the things themselves, wasteful of the space I use to store and attend to them, knowing that I won't use them. The landfill and my possession are not the only options, and charitable agencies are remarkably effective in putting such things back in the hands of people who can use or love them.
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