"Look, it's simple. Skateboard? College! Little League trophy? Probably attic. Apple core? Trash."

Could Andy's mom have been anymore wrong? Her philosophy is 100% correct but i find this process anything but simple. Right now I'm currently in the process of moving out of my college home for the last 3 years (coincidentally I've lived in this house as long/longer than any other house in my life). I'm planning on having a lifestyle that is going to require me to have a maximum level of mobility in the next few years and so I'm trying to pare down all of my things to just those things I'll actually need over the next few years. And it's hard.  I've tried to find the root problems that make this so difficult for me to do this. I've narrowed it down to 2 reasons:


I was a part of an organization once who's motto was "Always prepared". I think that this kind of thinking leads to an inherent fear in getting rid of anything. This may also be some kind of survival instinct, or a leftover from the great depression passed down to us from those that have come before us, but we are terrified that one day we will need this. I have kept almost every test/report I've taken or written throughout most of college. Most of them stuffed inside old textbooks (which I also have all of). My rationale? What if my grades from Freshman year get warped somehow and I'll need to prove what my grades were! This is the kind of thinking that leads to acquiring a ton of cruft in your life, a lot of it in paper form which is the most deceiving.

This problem even affects my digital world. My xcode projects are full of files with __old attached to the end of them and each file has huge swathes of /*.... */ code in them. For those of you unfamiliar with that symbol it means make everything in between here do absolutely nothing. I'm terrified of ever losing a single snippet of code even if I comment out a broken solution and write a new one that works I still want to keep the old one JUST IN CASE. What if I need that bug bag? It's nonsensical and it definitely makes for some sloppy project files but that fear is just so overwhelming. Deleting anything is just so permanent and permenance is not something our minds are equipped to deal with.

The biggest problem with this mentality is that there are probably a few things you may need. For example, if you get audited, it might be handy to have all those old pay stubs lying around. And, when that time comes you'll (well I'll) have no idea where that item is because it will be lost among all the important worksheets and two year old cable bills. 

Thankfully because of technology, this problem is at least becoming somewhat easier to solve. I can take a snapshot of my phone of most paper documents and the camera is more than sufficient to serve as a copy of that document. This lets me toss most those things out. Bonus point for tech: I can use a service like Evernote to let me categorize those items for searching and even use its built-in handwriting recognition to search the content of the documents. Baller.


As a culture we've become obsessed with this term "Hoarder". We make television shows about and we talk about those television shows to our friends. Disclaimer: I've never seen the show Hoarders but I have heard stories from the show. What should be clear to us at first is some of these "hoarders" are very sick people. Secondly, the reason we all love to watch these shows is they aren't a biopic on some one else, we see these as a "what-if" episode of our own lives. As a country, possibly as just humans, we are obsessed with our past. You can see it all over the place. Our idioms,Those who don't learn their history are doomed to repeat it, our movies (see Avengers), hell even our politics! Sidenote: Can we stop considering  what a bunch of dead bureaucrats from 200 years ago would want for our country, please?

Trying to clean my room is so difficult because of nostalgia. Not only does it interrupt the flow of your progress if you need to stop every 5 minutes and reminisce, but when we start equating our memories to objects then tossing out that object is the same as performing a mild lobotomy on ourselves. We're afraid we can't get that memory, that moment, back. A couple of items from my room that have fallen into this category: our freshman dorm roommate agreement, three old sketchbooks filled with terrible teen poetry, and a hand drawn birthday card I got from a friend freshman year (who i haven't seen or talked to in three years). I haven't found a clean solution to getting rid of these items yet. Right now I've allowed myself a small shelf to pile all these useless nostalgia items but I can only keep what can fit on that shelf. Not an optimal solution but its made me at least attempt to limit the stuff. I've also taken pictures of most the things I trashed to store in the holy cloud in the sky (1's and 0's are way easier to tote around).

In the end, I know these are just things, but its so hard to get rid of them. And it turns out the memories aren't the only thing that makes these things tough. We also give a lot of these items a face. All the gifts I've gotten over the years, they have a face now. And deep down I have that feeling in my gut (there's that Fear again) that as soon as I trash this item, the person with the matching face is going to show up and surprise me and be really hurt when I still don't have that thing they bought me. It is very hard to break these associations. We say its the thought that counts but it is so hard to put a value on a thought. What are thoughts or ideas worth? Translating those thoughts into things makes them tangible, makes them real. When we trash something we think we're reducing those feelings back into intangibles. I know my mom isn't going to love me any less if I toss out my birthday card, but how will can I prove that if I don't have this card lying around! I think this is a barrier I've yet to really overcome, and if anyone has any advice I'd love to hear it.

Andy's mom says its simple -- but she's wrong. It is hard. Really, really hard. And now that I've reminded myself of Toy Story 3, I'm not also afraid that most of my stuff might be secretly alive. Great.

Toy Story 3 was the second best movie of 2010, one of the top 5 animated films of all time, and absolutely heartbreaking for me. I might go as far as say that it is the best end to a trilogy ever. This move was a near flawless film and you should stop reading this and just go watch it.