My Great-Grandmother passed away recently. She lived through a lot of things that we study in school, The Great Depression and World War II come to mind first. She was a young woman when the Chicago Cubs were in their second most recent World Series. Her death was preceded by about four years of being in assisted living due to not being able to care for herself, basically Alzheimer’s. When my family began to inventory her home, it was found to be stuffed full of dollar store deals, yard sale finds, and things that had been on sale in bulk. Notebooks by the hundred, odd singing bears, crap from every era since not long after the sixties. The house was not all, there is a smaller house and multiple falling in storage buildings on the property. In short, she had been hoarding. Not the worst I have ever seen, but some of it.
Last year David Sax published The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. I have not read it. I may, it is nothing personal to the author, it is just another book on the stack…yes, an actual stack. I hold firmly to my belief that you can run a page and blog called Analog Savage without having to read a book about analog things. The point here is that the title reflects a point I had made before, the idea of ‘The Real.”
The real to us is things that matter. It is the quilt I am making for my son and the hours of my life that are sewn into it. It is the tactile experience, it is the activation of the senses. The real is craftsmanship, it is something original, something with a purpose. There are a million ways to describe the real, and it is almost certainly easier to point out what it is not, rather than what it is.
That brings us to the dark side. The real involves real things. Physical objects. They actual mass, real things take up real space. I would say they cost actual money, but you can blow money on digital things as well. The real, being analog, it all involves actual crap that takes up space and has to be stored and maintained.
I am the worst about it. I am not a hoarder, but my friend Carl says that my hobby is having hobbies. My wife says that my largest collection is my collection of collections. These statements are both true. Let us introduce the book pile.
There it is. That is my personal monster. Now, before you set about judging, I did not buy all of those and just not read them. Many of those I was given by my Great Aunt, in a story that goes back to the Great Grandmother, and I have just not been able to get to them, or I have been listening to them as audiobooks. There is a convoluted twisty canyon of thought that you do not need to sort through here, but they are on the floor because if they are on the shelf I will forget about them. I am working on them.
We seem to always be in a race to outperform previous generations in materialism. We just have so much crap. Those books are not crap, they are heirlooms, and a chain of the thoughts of someone I love. My Baseball cards on the other hand…
I love comic books, despite my hate/hate relationship with the publishers right now. When I was in my latest collecting and reading frenzy of comics, before the writers decided that having a good story was the wrong way to sell books and titles proliferated into madness, I carried a monthly collection of twenty books or more. When the storylines started to turn, I kept buying. When it had advanced well past the point of sticking it out, I kept buying. When even my favorite characters failed to please (google Bat-Chappie), when they made sure to involve each character in multiple series and big world shattering events came every quarter to squeeze every cent from us (secret wars…) I kept buying. Why? The same reason that a lot of people buy more and more, to bee seen as being current.
Keeping up with the Joneses is not just about the house and pool anymore. It is now about showing how much you love something by keeping piles of it to sleep in apparently. I had to buy Batman comics no matter how much they sucked due to my status of self-appointed supreme Batman fan of the world.
Now I have to apply a simple test, asking myself “Do I like this or do I wish to be seen as liking this?” It does not break the cycle immediately, but it does confront me with the truth of some things. Am I going to enjoy this, play it with friends, read it, use it, or am I going to try to find a corner in a closet to get this out of sight out of mind so that I do not need to feel bad for having spent the money on it, maybe pulling it out once in a while to show off when the thing is mentioned.
If it fails the test, just be honest. Being analog is about actually enjoying the thing, not piling the thing up. Am I going to interact with my Soviet Stamps every day? No. Am I preserving something that there will never be any more of, and getting a truly rewarding experience while doing so? Yes. Will I interact with my baseball cards every day? No. Am I enjoying them for more than five minutes after having opened them? Not really…
This post was just to caution you about the rabbit hole of the analog things. Now people write books about how to get rid of crap. One of them I enjoyed just for the irony of it. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo is a book, in which there is a chapter about getting rid of your books. This is where people got the notion of the whole “throw out things that bring you no joy,” I would caution against this extreme approach as I shove my treadmill, sister, and anything that resembles non-hobby work out the door. The second irony is that they sell this book in the container store, and in the book she says that organizing is not tidying, it is just putting the crap somewhere else, somewhat neater.
This is the balance the tagline at Analog Savage speaks of, appreicate the printing press without buying one. To collect stamps you will need stamps, but start with a theme. If you are going to explore the analog, be picky, be thorough, exercise discretion and judgement, and half fun without being buried under the weight of crap you do not actually care about.