When I moved into my apartment last summer I emptied out most of my storage unit and unpacked and everything, but there were still many many boxes of books, papers, obsolete media, and so forth left over; it all needed weeding out and organizing, and I just didn't feel up to dealing with it all. But it irked me. My cost was pretty low -- I changed to a a much smaller unit -- but it was still a monthly charge that I seriously didn't need to be paying, ESPECIALLY for stuff that I probably was going to part with anyway.
A couple of months ago I decided that I'd had it. Paying some place to house my stuff for me, some place that I wasn't actually living, was getting old. So Brian and I rented a van for a couple of hours and went and emptied it out. Into my kitchen. Because where else do you put 60 or so boxes of junk?
I set a mental goal for myself. I would try to get it all either put away neatly on shelves, thrown away, or sold before my birthday-week vacation. I didn't want to waste more time off on dumb things. And I didn't want to have the "Hoarders" film crew show up at my door, either.
I started with the books, which is always the easiest thing (but also took up the majority of the boxes). Of course I needed to make it complicated, so I updated the spreadsheet I'd created when I moved into storage five years ago with the ISBNs of all the books I now had. While I was doing that I was also weeding out obvious stuff -- authors I now hated, books that aren't worth keeping, etc. On my first pass (I haven't done a second, yet, but I plan to) I managed to get rid of 343 fiction titles. Then I went looking for a way to sell them.
Did you know that hardcover fiction is basically worthless? It is. We don't have Half Priced Books
stores in the Northeast, and every used book store I found would only take them as trade and mostly not even then. Several places had policies that if there was a paperback edition available of a title they wouldn't take the hardcover edition at all. Nice! And I could have tried to do the Amazon marketplace thing, but I'd need to keep the book until it sold, and after Amazon's cut comes out there isn't much left anyway (serious highway robbery, there). I went on the Powell's Books
site, where they have a nice interface
that lets you paste in ISBNs and then gives you a quote, but they only offered me about $40 for 60 paperbacks (and that's out of all of my 343 books). So I called my local Friends of the Library and donated the lot. All gone! And maybe in the spring when they are closer to their sale (June), I'll do my second pass and donate even more. The sale organizer let us unload all the boxes directly into her basement, and as I drove away I was deliriously happy. This is fun!
I then went through my obsolete media. Records, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, etc. A lot of my records got wet in the Great Storage Flood of Aught-7
, so the covers were stuck together and rank with mildew. Toss! The ones that didn't get wet I weeded (I confess, I kept about 100, but I bought nice new crates for them at Target, and they are on top of a book case in my living room and they look fine — and I even still have a turntable should I wish to play them), and I now have about 30 in a container in my trunk, waiting to go to a used record store. VHS tapes I went through and pretty much threw out all of them. Cassette tapes same thing (I kept five; a couple from a band I loved in college that are completely defunct, a couple others — I do not, however, have a cassette player). Out to the trash. Felt both awful in the "I am contributing to the trash piles of the planet" way, and awesome in the "The trash piles of the planet are no longer in my apartment" way.
Next up, CDs. I had already done a huge weeding last fall, but hadn't managed to remove them from my apartment. Off to Newbury Comics to see what they'd give me. Only took about 45 minutes to go through several hundred CDs. They bought probably 80 of them, and I walked out with $85. Nice. But I still had a few hundred left. So they recommended a couple of other stores that buy promotional stuff (which was a lot of what was left) and I went to one in Gloucester, and managed to unload another 30-40 or so and came out with about $80. Better payday! I came home and split the remaining into "try the third store" and "toss". The toss stuff went out to the curb on the same night as the VHS and cassette tapes, and by morning, BEFORE the trash truck came, they were all miraculously gone. Something like five boxes! That felt really good. Someone in my neighborhood is happy.
I made a list of all my comics and emailed it to a local comics shop. The owner does the buying, and he only is in on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so I'll have to take a day off to get over there and see if he's interested. But I'm ready. I kept one half-sized box, mostly graphic novels, and I'll be getting rid of the rest. I probably have some other options for those, like craigslist or yard sales or whatever if the comics guy isn't interested.
I have 10 boxes of papers. That's my next big task. I've moved them upstairs into the bedroom, and while they're a little unsightly, they're neat and not taking up any particularly useful space, so I can do them gradually.
And that's all of it! I did it. I took a giant horrible messy project and broke it down into parts and did it, and I got it done in the timeframe I set. I am very proud of myself.
I have more to do. Ideally I'd like to cut my book collection down a LOT more. I still have over 2000 books in my apartment. They currently all fit on shelves, and the shelves all fit in my place, but that's still way too many. I don't buy a lot of new books anymore, thanks to my kindle, and I really don't re-read many titles ever. I think a collection of a thousand or less is much more reasonable, so that will be a long-term goal.
And I have a lot more CDs to go through, too. There are three boxes under my desk in my office that probably are filled with tons more stuff to remove; but I haven't dragged them out yet.
But still, I am so encouraged! I fit entirely into my apartment and it's not filled with boxes. I have almost nothing stored in the basement beyond X-mas stuff, tools, and a few kitchen things. It's very freeing. One of my goals for this year was to lighten the load. Yay, me!