I think this is was once a butter bean. Clearly a sign that it’s time for Operation White Glove. What is this covert operation, you might ask? A seek-and-destroy mission for all artifacts and refuse that have somehow been allowed to stay in my tiny apartment past their heyday. My cousin has an annual State of the Union Address with her closets: she sorts her clothing into two piles: things she has worn in the last year, and things she has not. If she hasn’t work it in a year, she takes it to the nearby clothing exchange. She then continues a similar ritual in her kitchen. The result? She can see her floors. She can open closet doors without fear of an avalanche. Though the state of my apartment is in fact its best burglary deterrent, I think it needs a bit of attention.
I should be so lucky to enact this ritual. I come from a long line of packrats––and I mean hard core packrats. We’re talking shelves full of plastic containers, sweaters that, while sadly fashionable in the 1980’s, will never, ever be acceptable garments to wear in public, even on Halloween. Bank statements from the 1960’s. Shoes with holes in the toes. Magazines from 1975. Corduroy pants that haven’t fit anyone in thirty years.
This, of course, begs the question: why do we keep these things? If I have a room (hypothetical, of course) that could be a spare bedroom, an art studio, or an exercise room were it not filled with boxes—the contents of which no one can recall–– then why on earth would I allow it to be a crypt for all of this junk? What is this “junk” anyway?
Of course, one might argue that the ugly sweater might be one that said homeowner wore when she had her first kiss. Or the shoes with holes might be a great-great-grandfather’s. In theory, the magazines could have held articles published by a friend. But what about those bank statements and the plastic peanut butter jars?
Now before I go picking on my family and friends too much, it’s only fair to examine my own closet.
Exhibit A: Electric guitar. Last time it was played: circa 2007. By my cousin’s rule, this artifact of my former life is past its expiration date. (Years since purchase: 16)
Exhibit B: Red velveteen sneakers. Last time worn: 6 months ago. Before that, I can’t recall. (Years since purchase: 11)
Exhibit C: This is a sad one. A pair of undies with a particular beloved pattern. (Years since purchase: 9)
Why would I keep these things? The guitar’s an easy one. I was going to be a rock star. My guitar teacher, whom the 15 year-old Lauren had a tremendous crush on, helped me pick it out in the store. The sneakers? They’re red and fuzzy. Also splitting at the seams and have a spot where I spilled soy sauce when I was 22 and living in my first apartment. Are they comfortable? Not really. Do they remind me of my former self? Of course. And the undies? Who the hell knows. They’re about to go in the trash. Really? Has it been nine years? I swear, they don’t look nine years old. You would never know if I hadn’t told you.
So it is evident that the pack rat gene is running rampant in my body. I can imagine my atoms clinging to extra electrons (just in case!), my double-helixes harboring a little extra genetic information (you never know when you might need it!), my waist clinging to those few extra pounds (might come in handy some day!).
There must be a more efficient way to stockpile these memories, to part with these remnants of my life, these things that I no longer need. Can I keep the memories without keeping the sneakers? Sure. Does that make it any easier to throw them away? Not so much. Am I hanging on to these artifacts, or are they hanging on to me?
But enough procrastinating. Enough defense of objects that serve no purpose anymore. I will now attempt Operation White Glove. I can’t take my cousin’s ruthless approach––too many books wouldn’t make the cut. But I will now go in search of a middle ground. I will separate my memories from these objects, file them away, and make room for more of the things that matter. Wish me luck. And keep an eye out—those sneakers on eBay might be mine.