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STUFF

17 July 2010

I probably wrote about this years ago, since it’s a thing that started years ago, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently again: the desire to own less stuff.

Cargo, as the Papua New Guineans would call it. I have too much cargo, something I started feeling somewhere back in 2007. Suddenly woke up and realized how ridiculous it was to own hundreds of DVD’s, hundreds of books, dozens of CD’s, hundreds of games. Why did I have countless action figures? Innumerable Gashapon of various manga and anime? Comic books, magazines, toys, trinkets, gadgets, paraphernalia and bric-a-bracs aplenty? My cargo felt like a burden instead of an enrichment.

Ever since, I’ve stopped the aggressive accumulation that marked the years before. It wasn’t just that my rooms couldn’t contain it anymore, I had also become annoyed by running the rat race of consumerism. I began weeding out useless things to sell or throw away. It was then that I devised a rigorous methodology, dividing all cargo into categories. My objective was to lighten my cargo burden by as much as possible. Broadly, four categories were created.

1. Functional cargo. These would be household objects, cooking utensils, cleaning tools, but also craft materials such a paper and pencils, canvas, computers, paint or whatever tools of one’s trade and daily routine.

2. Cargo with intrinsic value. Differing in specifics for probably everyone, this is stuff that necessarily has a specific shape or form because of its function. For example: Lego. The physical shape of it is dictated by its function, therefore it has to exist in this form. Whether you want Lego in your possession is of course dependant on whether you’ve nurtured your inner child or buried it under the cynical pressure of growing up. I kid! Only partially. This genre is in any case very broad and what for one person will fall under this category, for others will fall into dreadful 4.

3. Cargo with emotional value. These are things that might be completely useless, stupid or impossible, but you grew up with them and discarding them would be discarding a piece of yourself. From photograph books to that delightful inflatable dolphin you got from your friend. Love letters. Your old doll.

4. Superfluous cargo. All the rest. I’m not even joking. This is the stuff that should be chucked into the garbage bin. It’s not just the stuff that you don’t want anymore anyway and feel no connection to, it’s also the stuff that has no business taking physical shape. Our lives have become perfectly clogged with this. I’m talking of carriers. The word alone should inspire utter dread. Carriers are DVD’s, CD’s, videos, books and any other such thing. They are media that carry something non-physical, be it a film, story, picture or whatever.

It’s especially that last one, carriers, that really pisses me off. There they are, taking up space, while what they carry could just as well be invisibly installed on some hard drive. We’re slowly heading towards this in our society; films and books being purely digital things, perused via hard drive or e-reader. Some still oppose this, but it’ll happen more and more. For books, there’s an additional loss: the tactile experience of leafing through one. But it’s something I’ll gladly sacrifice for a less cluttered home, the comfort of taking my entire library along with me on trips and (as soon as they sort out the still-horrible business models) cheaper prices.

In any case, books will still be made, but they’ll simply become luxury items you buy if you have special affinity with the particular book. Something to treasure. Cargo number 3, in other words.

In the coming years, I will continue rinsing my life of useless cargo!

Roderick