Collecting and purging

I have long-standing love affair with National Geographic Magazine. Stashed in various places around my house is a collection that goes back some 30 years or more. My parents had a similar collection that spanned 50 years, lined up in rows on dusty shelves in the attic. National Geographic – the sacrosanct magazine that no-one was ever allowed to deface for school projects or leave out on the porch in the sun. I saved them religiously, but for what? Nobody ever looked at them after the first week or so. Nevertheless, year after year, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them, thinking that I would someday go back and re-read those interesting articles and once again marvel at the gorgeous photography.

Today I posted an ad on CraigsList offering them to anyone who would come pick them up. What happened?

I’ve been a collector (i.e. pack rat) for years, but a couple of years ago my house got full. I don’t know if it got full or if I got full, but I suddenly stopped bringing home every abandoned but still usable chair I saw on the street on garbage day (finally understanding that, no, I would never find the time to fix it up) and started seriously thinking about getting rid of some stuff. I’m talking serious thinking for, like, 5 years with little actually making it out the door. Last weekend, however, some things finally started to move. Mostly books, but also some of my old building materials (for example, spare fence pickets kept for 25 years for “kindling” but never actually chopped up and burned), a few clothes, and a box or two of knick-knacks. This was a step in the right direction, but it’s the National Geographics that may actually signal a turning point.

So what is it about collecting and purging? Is it an age-related phenomenon? Do we collect when we’re young and purge when we get older? Do we collect to create a sense of self and purge to bring about change when that self gets somewhat stale? Do we collect when we feel empty and purge when we feel full? Do we collect to learn and purge to make room in our heads for something new? Do we collect when we’re putting down roots and purge when we’re ready for a move?

Probably all of the above. All I know is that right now I’m getting rid of the National Geographics and it feels like a beginning.

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