We live in a co-op, which basically makes us shareholders in the corporation that runs our building. I'm on the co-op board, and we're in the middle of a massive basement clean-up to free up storage space for the residents. Last night we toured the basement to assess the progress and discuss options to fairly allocate the space.
The building was built in 1890, and the basement resembles some creepy Addams Family catacombs. "Here's the room where we store the corpses, and here's the entrance to goblin tunnels. Jose has done a great job cleaning it up, hasn't he?" Each room looked like an archaeological excavation with random boxes, unwanted furniture, and the occasional suitcase or baby swing emerging from the dust. There were even a few familiar objects down there ("Who'd store an ottoman in here? Oh wait...that's mine.") which jogged my memory of years gone by. It was like taking a little tour through the personal histories of all those people we don't talk to in the elevator.
But what was particularly intriguing about it was imagining what all this
junk memorabilia meant, and why it was relegated to storage purgatory instead of the apartments above? There must be some litmus test each person uses to decide what gets displayed as a centerpiece of their home, and what gets wrapped in a Hefty bag and tossed in the corner by the rat traps. You have to assume that on some level the owner decided they had to keep the plastic lawn chairs (we don't have a lawn) or their NeXT computer, even if they had to store it in a room that Velinski dug with a pull-cart and a spoon.
My wife and I are very different when it comes to saving stuff. I'm a pack rat, because you never know when you'll need a bowling shirt or a second toaster. I've got ten boxes of CD jewel cases in storage, 300-odd X-Men comic books (from Days of Future Passed through the Age of Apocalypse) in the closet, and a handful of old t-shirts wedged in the back of my drawer (nothing kills my chances of getting lucky more than wearing an Offspring concert T). No wonder I had a hard time keeping girlfriends in my 20s...my apartment looked like a pawn shop.
If Oodgie had her way, on the other hand, we'd have a garbage chute built into every room of our apartment. If it's been three days since you've used something, it's a candidate for disposal. She'll starve a dying plant to hasten it's demise, and if I wasn't there to stop her she'd cart valuable electronics and useful furniture out to the curb. She was a great foil for me when we moved in together, in that she foiled my attempt to keep the blender "just in case" we needed to blend two things at once.
It took me a while, but I've learned to respect Oodgies emotional detachment from every day objects. It makes our lives a lot less cluttered, and I can't think of anything I really miss. She's forced me to be honest about whether I was really going to fix that broken iron or wear pleated pants again. By the same token, I like to think I've saved a couple things from extinction which have come in handy (that plastic dishwasher hose made an excellent home-made bong) and even made us a little money via the magic of eBay. With another family member rapidly generating and outgrowing stuff it's that much more important that we monitor what we keep and toss, especially if Pong shows up.
As for the tombs downstairs, we still have a few things stored next to the Ark of the Covenant, Jimmy Hoffa, and our neighbors sled. I guess you can never really get away from that (especially in New York, where apartments sometimes share the same dimensions as jacuzzis). I'm more worried about the people with three air conditioners and the box of recorded episodes of "Mama's Family." Maybe...just maybe....it's time to let go.