Sunday, September 23, 2007

Swapping stuff

I'm a pack rat. I've long since come to terms with my reluctance to get rid of anything. Worse, even when I've resolved to get rid of it, I can't just throw it away -- it always seems to me that somebody could use it, and I should try to get it to that person. That leads to situations like me driving around for a month with three garbage bags of clothes for Goodwill in the back of my Outback. (Current status: Still there.) Because my determination to get it to the person who needs it is not matched by my follow-through. Yet it prevents me from just tossing it in the trash.

My pathology has been revealed anew by Freecycle, which I joined a couple of years ago but only recently began paying attention to. My Ravelry buddies dropped a couple of mentions of great yarn finds through Freecycle, so I hit the switch to get the Faulkner County Freecycle group e-mails delivered to my inbox.

The whole idea of Freecycle is that you post things you want to get rid of, and people who want them come and get them from you. Occasionally you might post about stuff you want, and if people have it to give, they'll get in touch with you and you can got get it. It keeps stuff out of the landfill, and you don't have to do anything but put the stuff on your porch. Sounds perfect for me. But I've found that I can't even pull that much of the trigger.

Somebody posted that they needed an office or task chair. Now I have an office chair that is currently sitting in our "nook," a niche beside the garage that used to be my office when I needed a home office. Now my desk is just a landing spot for random documents, one wall of the nook is the home to two particle-board bookcases groaning under the weight of about half of Noel's graphic novel collection, and my plan when I come into possession of a round tuit is to move the desk to Archer's room (he's got homework now!) and set up wire organizers for my knitting supplies in its place.

There is no place for that task chair in the plan. It's not suitable for Archer to use as a desk chair. So it needs to go.

But I couldn't send that Freecycler an e-mail that I had an office chair for her. Why? There is no good reason. I just can't get rid of stuff. The chair is missing a bolt on the seat, but it's an easy fix, and I should just tell her that and let her decide if she wants it. Why would I pass up a chance to get rid of something I know I'm going to get rid of eventually, something I have no use for, something that is Dead Chair Walking in our house, and to get rid of it with no more effort that sending an e-mail?

Because there's a finality to it. It's an admission that I'm committed. I can't commit. I have a disease.

Now along comes news of Paperback Book Swap, a group that facilitates getting rid of books you don't need and getting books you do. In theory, this sounds great to me. Nothing I love more than getting new books, and as a book reviewer, we sure do have a lot of books we don't need clogging our shelves. (Not many of them are paperback, but I have a lot of legacy paperbacks from my college and grad schools days haunting the used bookstores for genre fiction.)

But in practice, I know that the sheer effort of packing up books to send and getting them to the post office will defeat any will I have to participate. In fact, it defeats my will to even sign up. Noel did Sequential Swap for a while, but the effort -- and the fact that he wanted to get rid of comics much more than he wanted to get any in return -- ground him down. That provides a convenient excuse for me to conclude that those Paperback Book Swap grapes are probably sour, anyway, and not even try.

Help me, internet. I'm sick. I stop three steps short of ever getting rid of anything, justifying my failure by the effort, the expense, or the remote possibility that the item might be useful to somebody in the world someday. If this continues for a few more years, I'll be one of those people living in a maze of stacked newspapers, and I'll be forcibly put on medication and have my children taken away from me. Noel has to throw things out secretly to avoid my recriminations. If only Clean Sweep could come and save me -- I'm their target demographic, but I cannot do it without the TV cameras and the accompanying promise of public shaming.


the secret knitter said...

You know I too suffer from this affliction. Moving helped me part ways with some things, including depositing some of it in the trash. But there are still unpacked boxes taking up closet space. I really need to get cracking on eBay.

It isn't easy. You have my sympathy.

Jenn said...

Definitely difficult. I'm usually okay with getting rid of things, but somehow I end up with more stuff to take its place. Like our last neighborhood yardsale (though I did sell the Tiny TV that I've been wanting to rid of for years.) But other times I let stuff sit around and don't bother to take it to goodwill/salvation army. Sometimes, though, all the push I need is another person...

Timothy said...

i have loads and loads of paperback books that are new or in good condition that i've never read, and i don't foresee myself having time to read them in the future. i should rid myself of them, but i can't, because i feel guilty. guilty for wasting money on a book i was only moderately interested in anyway but figured i could squeeze it in somewhere between work, school, and having a social life. guilty because there's nothing so pathetic as an unread book, and i want to do them all justice, but won't.

i also convince myself that, as a student of literature, i'll need the books one day. that has happened to me before: i've already owned half the required books for a class because of my collecting habits. but, i doubt that'll be the case as a grad student. we'll see.

Adam Villani said...

I've gone through periods of not-reading-very-much and periods where I've gotten a considerable amount of reading done. But my older sister can polish off a paperback novel in a day... I've never been able to do that. I don't read much fiction, for one thing. I mostly read non-fiction.

Adam Villani said...

Also, I've never sold anything on eBay. I'm always afraid I'll do something wrong.