Friday, February 23, 2007

Elbow room, or "Where the heck can I put this stuff?"

I like to browse through thrift stores. It's a habit that began when I was young. My family would usually spend each Saturday with a trip to the local swap meet, then to Goodwill, then to the Salvation Army. It was there that I honed my scrounging skills to become the collector that I am today. Pack rat? Oh, no, not me! I choose my items wisely! I would never buy something just to hide it away. . .or would I?

Last week, I made a trek to another local thrift store and found something incredible. Records that were still in shrink wrap. Wow! They weren't necessarily things that I would have bought for myself, but hey, they would probably be really valuable to a collector, right? So I bought a few (not all) and took them to my brother, the eBay expert. Surely he would appreciate the value of my find!

Well, he did know the value – very little, it turns out. I thought for sure that the Florence Henderson album would be worth something! :)

I'm ashamed to admit (sniff) that this has happened before. I've got the proof of it in my closet -a small stack of still-sealed records that I have bought within the last year or so. Nothing too valuable, just stuff that I thought would be good for that record store I'm going to own one day.
Well, in my dreams. Like many other people, my dreams are often larger than my ability to make them come true. It's easy to dream, harder to make the dreams a reality. It would take much more work than just collecting records to make that record store a reality. But I'm not able to do much more work.

The sad fact is that I'm just about out of elbow room. That's not necessarily because my place is full, but because there's just no good place to put stuff. Sure there are PLACES to put the stuff - the floor, under the bathroom sink, behind the toilet – but they're not GOOD places. When you run out of good places, you're in trouble. It's like the parent who gets angry at the child for not putting his toys away. Does the child have a PLACE to put his toys away? If he doesn't, then the problem is not just with the child.

I now know how museums were invented. Everybody kept on collecting stuff until one day, somebody said, “Hey look, we've got no room for this junk anymore. Let's create a big building where we can keep all this stuff so we can just go and look at it whenever we want to, okay?”

Will I be able to cure the collecting bug? Can I really reduce thrift-store shopping? Yep. But there are two problems I need to overcome.

The first problem: Buying cool stuff at thrift stores is fun. There is a surge of excitement that you get when you spot something that you'd like to have. You feel like you've found buried treasure. This doesn't happen every time you shop a thrift store, but when it does, you remember it. You feel like a privileged person who was in the right place at the right time. You feel important. It's not the same as finding something on sale at a regular retail store, because what you found is (usually) not available in a retail store. It's a very good “cheap thrill” that can also help other people. So why would I want to deny it from myself? (Yes, I know I just answered that question, but I'm trying to make a point!)

The second problem: Our brains can hold more than our closets can. We'll always be able to think of more stuff that we could actually get. If we find one book in a series of ten, we'll keep looking for the other nine. Going through our garage to get rid of junk helps demonstrate this problem. We cry out, “Hey, don't throw that away! I might need it someday!” But what we really mean is probably more like, “Hey, that's part of a secret collection I have been working on!”

So it's time to stop my secret collections – or at the very least, choose them wisely. Yeah, I'd like to own my own music store. But there are plenty of other things I'd like to do as well. There's only one me. That's both good news and bad news. It's time to choose my battles wisely.

In a few days, I'll get a small box of stuff together and (sniff) donate it to my local thrift store. Hey, why not? It's another small way of saying “thanks for the memories.” I will just need to be careful that I don't buy it back again when I shop there later that day.


Speaking of giving things up. . .Tower Records went out of business last year. Here's a quick look back at its last days. . .


Stretch Monster? Oh yeah, man! He was that green monster who looked kind of like “The Abomination” from the Hulk comics! He was actually a cross between the Abomination and Mister Fantastic, as he could stretch and stretch way, way far. Much cooler than Stretch Armstrong. Stretch Armstrong was just a guy in underwear.

The Neato Coolville blog featured some posts about Stretch Monster this past week: