This gigantic stack of black cases is my CD collection. It’s about 4 feet tall, weighs more than 30 pounds, numbers more than 2,000 CDs and takes up the better part of a heavy duty shelf in the basement.
Those tiny things on the floor, a 160-gig iPod and a 1TB hard drive, each contain the same 25,000-plus songs as the enormous stack.
If everything is digitized, better organized, significantly smaller and uber portable, why do I keep that ridiculous tower of plastic?
Because it represents something far more to me than recordings of music and thousands of dollars of investment. It is a physical manifestation of a core element of my being: a deep love for music of all types.
Yes, I listen to Spotify and Amazon Music. I have most of it on my iPod. I don’t actually play the CDs anymore.
Looked at logically, it’s totally irrational. I have no reason to keep 2,000 plastic discs of outdated media that have already been converted and stored in a far more efficient manner. But it isn’t about logic. It’s about who I am.
I tie music back to countless memories from all the eras of my life. Getting rid of these discs would feel like letting go parts of my history.
What’s your cluttery pleasure?
You probably have your own ridiculous collection. It could be comics, baseball cards, houseplants, coins, candles, Fiestaware, books — heck, maybe you’re the neighborhood cat lady with 12 borderline ferals and a forklift for moving 55-gallon drums of kibble. Chances are, you’ve got entirely too much of something because, for whatever reason, that thing “speaks” to you.
And that’s OK.
That’s what you should stock up on and fill your cabinets and shelves and garage with. It’s like the idea Marie Kondo writes about in The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: Does this item spark joy. For me, pulling all those discs off the shelf and flipping through the pages absolutely did. But I can’t say I would go to the next level of Kondo’s practice and display all those CD cases. That’s a bridge too far for this particular collection.
However, that’s not to say I haven’t let go of sentimental things that once brought me joy.
Recognizing when it’s time to go
I’ve gotten better over the years at chucking stuff I thought I was holding onto for sentimental reasons. About once a year I’ll go through boxes of things I keep stored in the basement and get rid of more things that I wasn’t ready to the year prior. Every year it gets easier to recognize when I’m just holding onto something for no good reason.
A year ago I sold off my first drum set. I’d hauled it around three states, but for the past 10 years it sat unplayed in various closets. Despite the years of good memories, I knew it was time to see it go to someone else. I even sold it for less than I asked because I had to be honest about what it was worth to someone who didn’t have all those memories attached to it.
I’ve sold, donated or throw out other things that I once used a lot or had honorable intentions of using in the future. It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’ll get around to using those things one day. But when you take an honest look it’s easy to see where intention and reality part ways, and that, in turn, makes it easier for you to part ways with things.
That’s a great exercise that can be cathartic as well as clutter reducing.
For now, those stacks of CDs remind me of different moments in my life: Where I was when I bought each disc, trading discs at high-school music camp, college road trips, driving across the country and blindly pulling out CD after CD hoping to surprise myself with what would come on next. They still bring me joy.
They’re still keepers.