Plowing through the mass of papers that is the vague half-record of my life, I become exhausted. I'm a bit of a pack rat, but a recent bout of moving and some pre-emptive measures against "Spring Cleaning" have left me questioning the necessity of keeping so many things.
For instance on the night of June 17th, 1996, 7:30 PM, a ticket stub reveals that I attended a showing of The Cable Guy. Is this particularly important to my own personal history and self-knowledge, what purpose does this expired ticket serve? Perhaps it could come in handy if anyone was to ask me of my whereabouts on that evening 8 years ago--- an alibi. If an interested party knew nothing about me, they could at least discern my love for The Cable Guy, as another ticket in the stack reveals a second viewing on June 24th- just one week later. This is the record of my life as told on a series of movie tickets. Better hang on to all these.
Among the less well-documented items, hand scribbled notes with phone numbers and now unrecognized area codes present themselves as clues- pieces to my puzzle. Should I call and wish the person on the other end a "Happy Holiday" or "Seasons Greeting" at this late hour. Will I find a forgotten friend or just a tape recording at some office building in a distant land? Other notes advise important directions: "L Train to Graham Ave., walk east towards White Castle, about five blocks." Sounds important, better keep that one too. I've been finding old color negatives in all types of places. I hate them. I'll take a digital file I can store on a hard drive any day over a bunch of mismatched negatives. I kept my black and white negatives from college properly preserved but those random color roles just get tossed around willy-nilly. I have no doubt many of you readers encounter this same problem with negatives, staring at them though the light saying: "Is that uncle?.no wait it's?..Peggy Sue?no?.is that me?" If you haven't gone digital yet, buy one this Christmas for that special friend or relative so you don't have to strain your eyes anymore.
The real question is not so much should I keep these things, but where to put them. I need my own archive room with a drawer for every conceivable type of bill, letter, card, receipt of purchase, bill of sale, deed, tax, tag, and title. This would solve matters, putting things in their place- defeating the overwhelming and ominous pile of papers into manageable groups. It's my life and my stuff, why should I let it get the better of me? What scares me now is the "not knowing" what is laying in this drawer or that, an unconsolidated mess. Still, some items are destined for the paper shredder. I think it's safe to get rid of that receipt for a cup of coffee from over a year ago. Or the bill for an oil change of a car I no longer own. The stacks of newspapers have also got to go. About the only thing these do is turn brown while waiting to catch your house on fire. Read those things and get'em the heck out of the house to the recycle bin.
This holiday season, if you have less, be thankful. You probably don't need it. All it does is bog you down. Imagine being able to leave home amidst a brewing natural disaster, just being able to pick up and go. Everything important to you slung over your back. If you've ever had to move twice in six months, you'll understand. There is a certain freedom to be found in one's own lack of personal belongings, or "stuff". Likewise, much satisfaction can come from shredding those documents you no longer need or liquidating your estate of that which you no longer make use. Turn in video rental card, cancel your contracts, get off the grid.
Zach Porter is a photographer for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 or firstname.lastname@example.org