Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pushing Myself to Do Something Really Hard

TODAY'S PROJECT: Sorting Cassette Tapes and Old Computer Disks

This nasty old cardboard box full of old cassette tapes has been stored in my garage for 7 years; in a basement for four years before that; and in a box in another basement for several years before that. Soon it will be empty, then broken down and put in my recycling bin.

Today I finally forced myself to go through an old box of cassette tapes and floppy disks from my older computers. For years I've been clinging to this box of nostalgia and memories, unable to think of parting with any of them. This is ridiculous since I no longer even have a way to play cassette tapes; I own tons of fabulous music on CD and on MP3s on my computers; and there's no reason to hold onto extremely old versions of WordPerfect and other outdated software.

I had to keep reminding myself that I have not used, enjoyed, listened to or even looked at anything in these boxes for at least a decade. Why am I keeping them around then? Fear of leaving something behind. Fear of forgetting. Fear of not having something and regretting it later. It's time to conquer those fears and lay them to rest, replacing them with common sense, order, organization and moving on to new pursuits.

I'm a packrat, but not a hoarder, so today I was able to finally throw away 95% of these antiquities. (Before the recycling police start freaking out on me, please do realize that no charities want a cassette tape, very few people under age 40 even have a way to play them, and there's nothing to be gained from trying to recycle and melting down a bunch of plastic tapes and covers. Any Soldier barely even asks for CDs anymore - they request the easier-to-store MP3 files if you send music to soldiers.)

In the "olden" days before the Internet, penpals used to make each other elaborate, beautiful cassette liners using magazine clippings, pictures out of old books, or elaborate drawings. This one, sent to me by a penpal, used H.R. Giger artwork from a magazine

Most of my collection was cassettes of bands I've already rebought on CD: My U2 albums, Cyndi Lauper, Depeche Mode, Jane's Addiction, etc. The rest were mixtapes I'm sentimental about, but will honestly never listen to again. I kept just a few (less than five) cassettes from obscure punk bands that I'm not sure I could find CD recordings of on eBay ever. I'd met wonderful penpals via the classified sections in the back of paper zines, Flipside and Maximum Rocknroll (remember this was before the Internet!) and we traded music and paper zines back and forth.

I also kept three totally irreplaceable cassette tapes (which I will soon pay to convert onto a digital format) of my elderly missionary aunt talking about her adventures in the 1940s in Africa.

The hardest thing for me to do was toss unlabeled cassettes and computer disks into the trash without trying to play them or look at them to see what was on them. I have to count on my childhood self as being organized enough to label what was important and just use unlabeled disks as temporary storage for unimportant things. I might have lost a few text letters written long ago, but since I haven't tried to look for them or read them in almost 20 years, they can't possibly be THAT important.

Just when I thought I was all done sorting, I was shocked to find this old gym bag full of even more cassettes and disks. Sigh.

I had a genuinely fun time reminiscing and remembering as I looked through everything here. I got a hankering to listen to Jane's Addiction, so put on a CD when I got back into the house. My dogs played while I sorted in the sunshine, shedding the occasional tear now and then when I saw a beloved friend's handwriting on a mixtape cover, a disk label or a cassette insert.

I got emotional on seeing this friend's handwriting again. The fun of mix tapes was hearing music by artists you'd never heard of, or marveling at the particular combination and order of songs your friend selected for you.

And afterwards, putting two trash bags into my bin and breaking down the filthy cardboard box to recycle, I felt a wonderful sense of relief at having this project done.

At the end of a long day of working, cleaning, and sorting, it was nice to eat dinner (and drink wine!) outside by candlelight

Next weekend, more ancient boxes await me in my garage..

What would be something very very difficult for you to sort through?


Spices-a-Go-Go (Dean and Deluca Blog)

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