Photos vs keeping stuff around

Sylvia HernandezThis is Sylvia Hernandez. I worked with her for a couple of years until she was murdered on a Saturday in 1998. This is the photo that was on her work ID. I had a printout of it with some papers. We weren’t really close but her death hit everyone pretty hard. Instead of keeping the printout I took a picture of it and threw out the printout with the rest of the papers. I’m doing the same thing with some things I take to sell or donate. I got the idea from Bruce Sterling’s Last Viridian Note where he says, “You should document these things. Take their pictures, their identifying makers’ marks, barcodes, whatever, so that you can get them off eBay or Amazon if, for some weird reason, you ever need them again.” I don’t intend on purchasing most of this stuff again. In fact I haven’t made that many photos compared to the amount of junk I’ve removed from here. Space is priceless.

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Take the money and run

I’ve sold a lot of books in the past few weeks as I’ve continued cleaning. Some I have donated to Goodwill but most I’ve sold. No one gets much selling used anything and that’s certainly true for books. There were times in the past when I’d refuse the offer, saying the stuff was worth more to me. Now I accept whatever they offer. Space is worth more.

Old photos – OUT

Old PhotosSome would be shocked at the things I trash, sell or take to Goodwill. A few days ago I came across some photos I shot over 15 years ago. I tossed them in the recycle bin. I thought for a split second about buying albums and keeping them. Then I realized I’d have to dust the albums at some point.

Shock usually comes with a noise. What you hear is “…Oh no,” followed by some sloppy, oft-repeated rationale for keeping this or that. This usually comes from someone who isn’t responsible for cleaning or maintaining whatever it is. I’m not going to ask someone to come clean something I don’t want to have to clean. If I’m not using it, out it goes.

In looking through them, as I was scattering them on the floor for this photo, I remembered shooting them. Most of them are bracketed shots of the same thing as I was trying to get a better exposure. I still do that, but I don’t pay anyone for prints anymore. I threw out all the photos, except one, the negatives and little plastic sleeve holders. I kept the one in the center because it’s one of my favorites and I still have the negatives from it. As far as the rest, if I make my way back to Southern California, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Shenandoah, Big Bend or any other National Park, I’ll try shooting something similar.

Photographers make a lot of photos over the years and fill up a lot of albums or other storage containers. If I’m not going to keep around a huge library of books, I’m certainly not going to do it for picture albums.

1987: The Office

In mid-1987 I was hired as a runner/mail clerk for a paging company. It was my first real job after college. I had a decently-sized work area with a desk, phone and postage/folding equipment. We used a lot of #10 envelopes in 500/ct boxes. I didn’t do a very good job of keeping the area tidy and got in trouble for it. One thing that exacerbated the mess was a compulsion I had for keeping those boxes for shipping. I didn’t think about the fact that we were going through envelopes at a rate that would guarantee a supply of boxes should I need to ship something. So I had them stacked which took up space and in my unconscious state I let it all crowd around me. My boss cleaned up the area one morning and left a note to just keep a couple of the boxes on hand. When I did that it got better. But the whole time I was there I struggled with the space.

The other thing I didn’t understand was how to manage people and their requests and I hadn’t learned anything about prioritizing. As a result, several types of clutter, people, noise, unprioritized tasks and stuff quickly became overwhelming. I straightened the place up several times while I was there but because the problem wasn’t being addressed it would get back in a pile before long.

Cleaning up by itself is only a temporary thing. It doesn’t matter whether the decision is mine alone or if I’m doing it as the result of someone else’s ultimatum. I have to wake up and become aware of myself, the space I’m in and my relationship to it. Maybe some people are naturally aware. Some are compulsively tidy and drive the people around them nuts with the compulsion. I know neatness comes every easy for some people. I’m not one of them. For me it’s a learning process and it’s not easy all the time. And I know I’m not alone in this.

I think I finally moved out

Another LoadI started getting some things organized in my mom’s garage. Most of the boxes I went through contained stuff that belonged to me. I put that stuff out there in 1997 because I felt I needed to clean up here first.

Then I forgot about it.

When I told her I was pulling out all this stuff that was mine. She reminded me that I was supposed to come get it and never did. I ended up taking most to Goodwill and sold two more boxes of books to Half Price Books.