Why do we keep things?
Old birthday cards. Special coins. Trophies and ribbons. Books. Mini sticks. Textbooks. Notebooks. Hundreds of magazines. A CD “collection”. Tickets to sporting events. One lacrosse ball.
Oh, sorry. I seem to have made that list all about me, unless you have kept one lacrosse ball in your possession.
Those items occupy space in my room, whether they’re out in the open on a bookshelf, or hidden away in a drawer, closet, or shoe box.
In Grade 3, they had us put a bunch of memories into a shoe box. Imagine that. Our well-travelled and cultured selves – at the near retirement age of 8 – putting a lifetime of memories into a box.
I can’t remember what I put in the box, but I do know my mom put blue felt on every side so it looked less like a shoe box and more like the home that Eiffel 65 sang about in their song, “Blue”.
I kept the box and put things in it as I got older.
There are dozens of old tickets to sporting events in it, going back to 1998. I hate how most tickets are printed out on paper these days. I refuse to collect paper tickets. It’s just not the same.
Also in my blue box are old birthday cards. Why? I don’t know. Throwing out a birthday card just feels illegal. If you’re going to do it, do it without telling me – that sorta thing.
I haven’t opened the box lately because there hasn’t been anything to put in it.
I’ve always liked shiny coins. To me, a shiny coin was a sign that it hadn’t been in circulation for long, which meant it deserved a closer inspection to see if anything was special about it. If it was a commemorative coin, I kept it.
In 2001, there was a special design on the Canadian dime. For some reason, I decided it was my lucky coin. I remember putting it in my sock one morning before school as a good luck charm for my intramural hockey game that day. My team was in the finals.
I don’t remember the result of the game, but I remember the dime moving around my sock the entire time. I played the entire game wondering how weird it would be if I stopped playing, bent down, and pulled a coin out of my sock.
I never got the answer.
Unlike coins, I’ve never been able to shove an entire book in my sock. Granted, I haven’t tried, but am now seriously curious as to how it would play out.
I have a bookshelf full of books. That is a misleading statement, however. There isn’t much variety. I have most, if not all of A Series of Unfortunate Events, as well as most, if not all the Harry Potter books.
See, I don’t even know if I have the entire collection.
I don’t read books twice. I don’t see the point. Which means I haven’t cracked open A Series of Unfortunate Events since a Christmas holiday during elementary school. I went through those books so quickly during the holidays, and there always seemed to be another one that followed.
As for Harry Potter, I’ve read the first book and most of the second. That’s it. Somehow, I did a book report on the second book.
I don’t know why I have the series. Maybe I just think it’s a cool thing to have and I’ll get around to reading them one day? I don’t know.
Most of the books on my shelf ones I’ve read in the last three years. 98% of them can be found in the non-fiction sports section of your local bookstore.
I’ve run out of space. There are bags of books on the floor in a corner of my room, which haven’t been read yet. I don’t know where their final resting place will be.
What do you do with books you’ve read and won’t read again? It’s a great dilemma.
You don’t throw out books, I know that for sure. So what do you do with them? You keep them and call them a “collection”. That’s what.
I haven’t even mentioned the hundreds of magazines in my drawers, which were once on my bookshelf. I think I counted them once and the number was around 250.
All of them are sports related and can tell you the history of sport from the early 2000s up until around 2011.
I got tired of magazines, but I don’t feel like I can get rid of the ones I have. What if they become useful in the future?
What if one day I want to read them? What if one day I want to get into a stubborn argument with my future wife about how keeping 250 old magazines in the basement isn’t stupid?
I can’t rob myself of moments like that.
I never had the intention of building a magazine collection. It’s just something that happened.
In my closet are a bunch of old university textbooks and all my notebooks. There are even some old assignments from high school that I’m proud of. Sometimes I’ll read them and think to myself, “My writing style hasn’t changed at all. Is that good, or bad?”
I never understood how someone could throw all of their binders in a garbage bin on the last day of school. It never sat well with me.
Maybe I’m the weird one. Maybe keeping old notebooks from school isn’t normal. But the ink between those pages – I paid for it. I
woke up at 7:00AM rolled out of bed at 7:50AM and went to get it. I worked for it. Why would I just get rid of it?
I understand that I can probably Google everything that’s in those notebooks, but then what was the point of going to school?
Let’s see, what else from that list at the beginning of the post, haven’t I mentioned?
Mini sticks (mini hockey sticks): A staple of every Canadian’s childhood. I will never be too old for mini sticks, even if I don’t use them because it’s too tiring to move around a carpet on your knees.
Trophies & Ribbons: I have trophies from five years of softball and ribbons from school. They’ve been on display for the last 17 years. Why? It’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
CD “Collection”: In my 26 years on this planet, I have owned 4 CDs. Is that a record? My first CD was a Jazz CD. It’s a long story.
One Lacrosse Ball: I went to a lacrosse game when I was a kid and a ball came into the stands. An older man caught it and gave it to me. It’s been on my floor for about 16 years and has put quite a nice little dip in the carpet. It’s also gone from a beige colour to dark brown/orange. I think of it as a science experiment.
You’re probably reading this post and thinking I’m a hoarder in training (HIT), if I’m not one already. I promise you that’s not the case. I just seem to be handcuffed by societal norms.
Books go on a bookshelf. Trophies go on display. Old tickets and cards go in a box. Lacrosse balls carve out grooves in carpets.
Societal norms, all of them.
Why can’t I just throw this stuff out? Why can’t I separate myself from them?
Is it because I want a tangible memory? Is it because I naively think I’ll need them in the future? Is it pride? Is that it? Am I just proud to have these things? Am I afraid of losing the past?
I don’t have an answer yet. Let me keep writing.
Peaking out from behind a counter in my room is a bristle board that was folding into a card. It was given to me by a group of friends who threw a goodbye party for me when I was graduating.
They put a picture of me on the front and wrote messages on the inside. Every day, I see that picture of me peaking out from behind the counter. I’ve only gone back to read the messages inside it a couple of times. It’s too hard.
I can’t throw that out.
This stuff means too much, but at the same time, it’s just too much.
I wake up every day and feel like I’m in a museum.
“Welcome to the Paul exhibit. Please keep your voices down, he’s resting. Ignore the slobber on his pillow. To your left is a book from 2004.”
And I already know I’m going to get comments at the end of this post with pieces of advice that I won’t really care for. Sorry.
It bothers me that I gave away a nice piece of art at a garage sale when I was a kid, just because I had nowhere to put it. Why didn’t anyone stop me? It bothered me even more that one of my neighbours bought it. I’ve never gotten over that.
It bothers me that I traded in my Game Boy Colour for barely any money. Why didn’t anyone stop me?
It bothers me to know that I’m bothered by this stuff. That I look back with regret for getting rid of things I should’ve kept.
But for every item I can’t yet part with, there are items I can’t wait to get rid of.
For some reason, I was collecting bobbleheads. There were a bunch of them sitting on my desk. Again, societal norms. You’re given a bobblehead, you put it on a desk. Simple as that.
And then one day, I realized I don’t actually care about bobbleheads, and threw most of them out.
I don’t really know what I wanted to accomplish with this post, other than to remove these thoughts from myself. Ironic, isn’t it?
Maybe by keeping these items, I’m giving myself an identity. Or maybe I feel like I’ll lose myself, if I lose these items.
No, that’s not it.
Perhaps I just want to feel connected to the things that used to be important to me.
Yeah, let’s go with that.
What do you keep?