Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jettisoning Some Ballast

The 1978 Sony Trinitron TV is now on its way to a new home, along with a half-dozen other electronic gadgets whose main function was collecting dust. The television was a college graduation present from my parents, and it still works just fine (with the proper converter gadgets). That's why I held onto it for so long. It was one of the last TVs to be built without remote control, so I had a VCR that doubled as a channel changer. (The VCR is gone now too.)

During the big switch to digital TV, I stubbornly held onto my old relic. I was seriously annoyed that the electronics industry was forcing me to buy new stuff by making my old stuff useless. The cable company acted as my enabler, helpfully providing an analog signal along with the digital signal. As long as I had the cable hooked up, everything was fine. One day, the cable company sent me a notice that said "no more." I ignored it. One day, I turned on the TV, and all the channels showed a plain white slide with a message that told me that my choices were: buy a new TV, get the darned converter box, or pay the cable company every month for nothing more than a screen full of static.

About the same time, my condo association arranged to have the building wired for FIOS. All right, then, I decided to buy the bundle, including TV services. I also decided that it was time to stop being silly and move into the 21st century. I went to Sears and got a smallish flat-screen TV (which was still larger than my old faithful set). The old set was relegated to a spot on the floor until I could figure out what to do with it. The landfill was not an option -- it would have been a sacrilege to discard an item that was still working.

Somehow during all of this, my emotional connection to my college graduation gift evaporated into wherever it is that emotional connections to inanimate objects go. The new TV and the FIOS cable brought me access to hundreds of shows, including one on hoarders. I watched this show a few times out of idle curiosity. What could cause a person to turn her home into a garbage dump rather than part with the least little item? Could a milder version of this condition cause me to leave unused items in my closets and tucked into corners of my small apartment?

I thought back to a time several years ago, when my mother moved to assisted living and I helped my sister empty out Mom's house. We hoped that we would never put another human being through that experience when our turn came. Mom was orders of magnitude short of being a true hoarder, but my sister spent a year going through piles of things, finding good homes for what she could and tossing the rest. These things had meant something to Mom at one time, but who needs fistfuls of brittle rubber bands and shelves full of paper and plastic bags?

Meanwhile, the old TV sat on the floor and collected dust, because I wasn't sure who would want it. Yesterday, I got an announcement for today's big Goodwill electronics collection event a few miles from where I live. Only functioning items would be accepted, which means that someone would be buying these things and taking them home to use. The time had come. The old TV, the VCR, and several unused electronic gadgets fit very nicely into my little car, and away we went. I felt no twinges as I watched the volunteers load these things onto their truck. I felt almost giddy as I returned home and saw the open floor space where all this stuff had been.

My old TV won't miss me. It's a thing. I probably have some photographs of it somewhere, but I'm not going to go looking for them. Instead, I am writing this blog post because I know that my friends and family are reading this. Things don't miss you when you part company, but people do. Things can be replaced, but people can't. Emotional ties to things can come from the memories they evoke of the people associated with them, but this is a poor substitute for direct ties to people themselves. Learning to fly will require me to loosen my attachments to excess ballast, and strengthen my connections with people who love and support me.


  1. I've seen parts of those "hoarder" shows, and there were several folks on "Clean Sweep" that seemed to fit that profile as well. The organizer really had to do a lot of counseling to help people let go of stuff. I'm still not quite sure what to do with all of mom's china & crystal -- I keep thinking once I get out of the little apartment which is also acting as a storage unit, I'd like to get a nice china cabinet for it -- and actually USE it. Because you know what, it's pretty! I like it. At the same time, I keep wondering, how many years need to go by without that happening, before I need to give up the idea? That's just it: with the china, as with a few of the hoarded clothes that I'll never see the like of again... at what point do I give up? I understand the need to hoard, in a way. Sometimes it's a fear that everything will be gone, and it won't be possible to replace it. Like my lovely blue recliner that I liked so much: it was perfect for me. Had to give it up, and I have never found one I liked that much, for such a great deal again. Little stupid stuff like that.
    Anyhow. I'm glad you're making progress. That's encouraging. (Buh-bye, old TV...)

  2. Sometimes, you just have to get to a point in your life where you don't need whatever it is that your stuff is providing for you. I had to get to this point with my old furniture. It was sagging pretty badly, but all those years I was moving all over the country, my furniture was the one constant thing in my life. Once I had been settled for a while, the old stuff lost its charm, and I was free to update. Getting rid of the old TV was a case of getting annoyed to the point where making the change would get me unstuck and let me move on.


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