How to Throw Things Out

There is an end of the line for everything.

I’m moving my office, which is in my basement, out to my garage, which I’ve been converting into a combination recording studio/office.

My basement office has almost twenty years of stuff from living in my current house, along with loads of other stuff that has followed me through my 57 years. And in those 57 years I’ve been a teacher, a designer, a photographer, a stage director, a record producer and engineer, a painter (of paintings), single, a husband, a dad. I have a lot of stuff.

Sixteen guitars at least. Multiple pairs of speakers. Drawing tablets. Tons of art supplies. Eight cameras. Computers. Monitors. Stacks of CD’s. Greeting cards. Diplomas. Old notebooks. Pens. iPhone chargers. Framed photos and clippings. Mugs. Mementos of my dad and mom. Mementos of my kids. Mementos of cherished students. Things that made the previous cut and weren’t thrown out.

And to turn the garage into a studio meant throwing out tons of that which was in the garage, a garage that served as a wood working shop, a painting studio, a place for bikes, a place to store old furniture and half-used building supplies. 2×4 chunks too long to throw out but yet not quite long enough to be truly useful. Lots of wood. Old, scary looking tools that belonged to the previous owner of the garage. Lightweight aluminum lawn furniture. Paint for houses, paint for paintings. Rat shit everywhere.

Some stuff is really easy to throw out. Brand new (ten years ago) blank CD-R’s for the long gone CD burner are easy. CD’s of music I love, but now can hear on Amazon Prime Music for $100 a year, are a little harder. The case to my very first camera—a Kodak Retina that was my dad’s, and that he gave me when I was ten (he had bought a new camera for himself)… a case with no camera, because somehow the beautiful old Retina that was in it was lost twenty years ago. Throwing out that case, after its 60+ years of life, the last twenty spent as a widow… that was hard.

I figured something out, though, months back, while tossing out half-used containers full of chemicals and wondering what sort of damage I was doing to the planet—what sort of damage ALL of this shit I was throwing out and owned was doing to the planet. And feeling terrible about it, and powerless. I had an epiphany, a very simple fact, which I will pass on to you now.

Everything is eventually garbage. The moment an object is made, it’s fated to be garbage. It will eventually wear out and be thrown out. From tin cans to a Picasso, everything has an end, and the end is always garbage.

Stuff has value only because of context. If the camera case hadn’t been my dad’s, it would have been tossed three houses ago. All objects are on a journey through time and space and context, and the last stop is always, and will always be, garbage.

Everything of value. Everything in the museums. The Great Pyramids. Everything ever made. Eventually, the end is inexorably the same.

I can throw out anything now. I can buy something brand new, and simply throw it out. Because if not me, someone else. I see the future of the object, and its future is bleak. There’s maybe a twinge of regret, but that’s just the pinch of… I don’t know… unfortunate timing. It didn’t get to have a fulfilled life. It didn’t get worn down in use, or used up in a thrilling moment of celebration, or even broken in some sad accident. That twinge is just the sudden shift of context—we feel these things. We are sensitive to time and change.

People, too, and all living things, are on a journey to that final context. We all know this. And most of us can walk around fairly unburdened, while children are in cages on the border and thousands hold their breath forever in Covid wards across the world. Because not my context, not my problem.

So, the moment you’ve been waiting for: here is how you throw anything out, regardless of what it is…

It is already garbage. It just doesn’t know it yet. All you are doing is pulling the future to it.

Tell it the truth. I dub thee garbage, and it’s time to go.

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