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MCCULLOUGH: Cleaning house and clearing the mind

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

We're converting a room into an office/man cave at my house. Part of the deal is that I get rid of a lot of very cool stuff that my wife insists on calling "clutter."

I'm kidding, of course. It was mostly my idea to purge our house of a lot of the books, DVDs, CDs and other assorted treasures that have accumulated over the years. It's time to accept the fact that I'm probably never going to be able to display my trophies, as I call books I've read, in one of those big libraries like you'd see in an English manor. And the stack of books I'm planning to read has become an impossible mountain to climb. Ditto the movies and CDs.

So I've been bringing boxes of books to work and putting them on what we call "the free table" in the newsroom. I've found the whole process refreshing.

Obviously, it's nice to get the stuff out of my house. But it's more than that. I love the idea of giving someone a book to read. A real book, made of paper, not pixels, that you can hold in your hand and feel the texture of the cover. And smell. I love the smell of old paperback books.

Of course, it's not lost on me that one of the reasons I'm giving them away is because of the pixels. Most of the world wants to do its reading on iPads and Kindles nowadays, so selling books on eBay is a waste of time. And Lord knows I don't need anymore credit at the used book store. So why not let someone else enjoy them?

I'll probably do the same with the CDs and DVDs. I've got zillions of them, and they, too, are media no one wants or needs. You can't sell them, and few people will trade for them anymore, not when so much of life is digitized. Your music, movies, books, photos -- it's all in your pocket. No one wants to pay to fill their house with anyone else's stuff.

And God knows people have lots of stuff. Anytime I get to thinking maybe I'm turning into one of those hoarders you see on TV I drive through my subdivision on a nice day when people have their garage doors open. It doesn't take long for me to realize I'm small change compared to the deposits of junk some folks are sitting on.

What will happen to it all? As we move increasingly toward storing everything digitally, what will people do with all the disks and doo-dads? Will some of it -- like vinyl records -- make a nostalgic comeback? And what will never return from the trash heap?

Our consumer culture conditions us to collect this stuff -- He with the most toys wins. But painful as it can be to give up some of these things, I'm finding it makes me happier. It clears the mind to rid yourself of these mini-bonds you've made to things. I'm not saying we should just throw out everything, but it's a lot easier to feel like you need to make time to watch one or two movies than two dozen.

I've also found it can be just as addictive to expunge as it was to amass. You find yourself looking at five full shelves and saying, "I know I can get that down to four."

But despite my best efforts, I know in the end I will still have more junk than I could ever possibly use. And I'm sure the pile will grow again.

But that's what the free table is for.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.