Dumpster Denouements

clutterThey say the journey starts with a single step.  Having spent the week tossing out 80% of my past journeys through life into two 30 cubic yard dumpsters, I’d say the road ahead will be made all the lighter.

I’m a collector.  Comic books, science fiction books, animation cels, artwork, boxes of photos, cook books, culinary equipment, clothing I should’ve thrown out years ago, old letters, Tshirts, video tapes, production books from the various TV/Film projects I’ve worked on, paper clips, scribblings, birthday cards, mother’s day cards, postcards, half-written notepads, and all the chachkas that go along with being a pop culture nerd.

That all changed this past week when we went back to Missouri to close up the house/farm since we’re selling and — I suspect — the buyers wouldn’t be interested in having their purchase include what really (to my surprise) turned out to be…

So. Much. Detritus.

We bought a home in Houston last year, but at the time we didn’t really have the ability to move everything down from the farm.  We kept putting off the inevitable until we finally landed a buyer.  The timing was less than perfect as I’ve been wrangling words with my new SG-1 novel while also nursing a seriously lousy gut that’s included a few doctor and hospital visits the past few weeks.  Still, it had to happen and while we dreaded the packing, we also knew that there was no way we would be able to fit 19+ years of STUFF into our new home.

With that decision made, we chose to be brutal: Throw out (or sell) anything that didn’t have real intrinsic value — be it personal or financial.   The results were surprisingly uplifting.  Having to throw out clutter didn’t just clear out our living space, it also brought clarity to what matters most in my life.

babycowsDon’t get me wrong.  As we dug through boxes and shelves, having to decide repeatedly what was important, it really brought home what mattered.  For instance, I found a massive box of old photos — going all the way back to my undergrad graduation from Boston University.  After tossing out any photos that were just landscapes or historical landmark shots (lets face it — there’s better photos available online if I ever want to look at another picture of Glastonbury Tor or the Eiffel Tower), I whittled down a few thousand photos to several hundred of family, friends, and tangible reminders of the extraordinary experiences I’ve had in my life.  (I’m also embarrassed to admit that I found a 25 year old savings bond in that box, bought for my daughter on the day she was born!).

I found several boxes of 30+ year old comic books.  Spiderman. Red Sonja. X-Men.  Don’t worry. I’m not that much of an idiot.  They’ve made it back to Houston to sell either online or at a store.

I also found some great art pieces that I’d stored away when I moved from Los Angeles to Missouri years ago.  The original concept background for the Heathcliff animation series that I produced.  Several 5′ long conceptuals from the early days of figuring out what Spiral Zone would look like (another series I produced).  There’s a slew of treasures like that, STUFF that definitely will find a place in my new home.  It’s sort of ironic how I threw out old stuff to make way for OLDER stuff.

The long and short of this past week’s experience is the realization that stuff collects dust, but memories live a lifetime.  So… instead of collecting a bunch of things that don’t necessarily bring back an experience, I’ve whittled my possessions down to the key moments in my life that I’m happy to bring with me as I step out into the journey of whatever comes next.  I’ve also come to the realization that maybe it’s time to go HAVE experiences instead.   Experiences take up no space in your homes and garages. They take up wonderful space in your heart and your mind with priceless memories.

Excuse me while I go unpack the old to mix with the new.  Then, onto whatever comes next.

Which means hunkering down and writing.  Yep, sometimes the best experiences a writer has are the words we put on the page and the journeys we put our characters through.