Infinite Stuff

Summer 2013. My family plans to move. I pack my things, say farewell to home, and move to school. But then plans change–don’t they always?–and we don’t move after all. Now it’s summer 2014 and I’m home again: My things in boxes, trying to fit two rooms into one.

Taking Graham Hill’s advice that fewer things leads to greater happiness (a lesson I’ve learned again and again in Belize and Alaska and Mexico), I told myself I’d get rid of enough stuff to make everything fit–and to have room left over to live.

But all this stuff? It seems infinite. And that’s the beginning.

I’m a quantitative guy with qualitative ambitions, so although I’ve gotten rid of three boxes of clothes, two boxes of books, and a box of video games, CDs, and DVDs–not to mention the two overflowing trash bags of old papers–my room still feels cluttered and cramped.

Yet for the first time I’ve got empty space in my closet, on my TV stand, and under my bed. Most of this is unofficially designated for school stuff–plates and cups and other things I need on campus but not at home–but it’s still empty now.

The truth is, I have gotten rid of a lot, and I feel I’m near to closing this box forever: Just a day or two more and all will be well. But all this unpacking and getting-rid-of has got me thinking: it’s not just an infinite amount of stuff–the stuff itself is infinite.

Boxes of papers waiting to be thrown out.

Take all the notes, old papers, and childhood magazine clippings I recycled. Sure, it’ll all be turned back into paper (I hope) and resold as new goods, each page given new life and new potential, but my use of them was temporary. My use of them amounted to quite a few trees and all the energy consumption it cost to move them, not to mention all those worn-away pencils and emptied pens that can’t be recycled.

It seems a hefty cost for notes not worth holding onto.

All the t-shirts, polos, and pants I’ve passed along are no better. Certainly, I pray, they’ll help clothes those in need now that they’re no longer clothing me, but what after that? When they’re old(er) and (more) worn out, when they’ve got holes, the seams coming undone, and they no longer fit anyone? Then these fibers are filling for dumps and decay, the threads of once-living plant life that soaked up the sun now left soaking up the rain that falls upon them, trampled beneath mud-covered feet hurrying along.

The CDs and DVDs can’t be recycled–but hopefully they can find new homes. But as their songs and screens are captured in ones and zeros and the physical things become unwanted, unneeded, what then?

Down, down into the dumps! Down, down into the decay of man!

The things I can’t resell for profit or donate to others end up in a box slated for Goodwill–but what there? What if these nick-knacks and tiny treasures that so enriched my childhood are barely trash to others? What if they have no second life destined for them and they end up in the dump just the same as if I had dropped them there myself?

Even as I shuffle these things around and redistribute them across the globe, setting them loose upon the winds of an earthen Styx, cast away like a coffin smoldering with the dead images of my past–these things are not gotten rid of. They may leave my life, but they’ll still be here, plaguing humanity with their mere existence.

I can’t count the times I’ve wanted to wave my hand and unmake all these things–turn them into loose atoms, turn them back into trees or crude oil or air, precious air consumed by the fires and forges that made them all.

But it can’t be done.

Creation can’t be undone.

And now it’s here. Here, here, here. Infinite stuff for all of us to die beside.

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3 thoughts on “Infinite Stuff

  1. so, you tossed it all then? I wish they had scanners back when I had masses of letters and such – but we did not, and they are gone. just found a box that survived 35 years…now I have my book. keep writing – never stop, you have a story to tell – we all do.

    • I tossed a lot, but only what I didn’t need. I still have a few binders full of papers–original copies of poems and short stories, drawings from when I was younger, recipes and knitting patterns, important school and financial documents, not to mention one binder full of enough notes on my mythology to make even Tolkien’s appendices look insubstantial. But in getting rid of a lot of old things, empty clutter, I made my room feel like home again.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! I’m glad you discovered your book in the box you found. That’s very exciting news.

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