My partner and I are moving to Florida in 2 weeks. I’ve lived in the Boston area my entire life, so this is a huge change for me. It’s the longest distance I’ve ever covered in a move. The company we hired to transport our furniture and goods to our new home bases their fee on weight. The general rule of thumb is if it costs you more to move something than to buy it new, don’t take it with you.
Plus, we don’t have as much storage in Florida. There is no basement, although we do have several closets. You don’t want to store empty boxes anyway, because the humidity will wreak havoc on them and you’ll be saying “hello mold.”
So, we’ve been clearing out furniture, clothing, books, kitchen items, papers, photographs, art supplies, and my design portfolio. Clothing was fairly straight-forward: you don’t need many turtlenecks, polar-tech pullovers, sweaters, and corduroy pants in a warm climate. Goodbye to multiple winter boots, hats, and coats. We were ruthless and kept only the absolute favorites or necessities for most things.
I was doing well with the feng shui, until I got to my portfolio. My work was organized neatly inside 2 professional, black cases. One was a hard case that carefully protected my earliest pieces in hand-cut plastic envelopes mounted on black boards. The other was a soft, zippered case that contained plastic sheets, into which I slipped the flat, printed samples of my more recent work. I started with the most recent work. Before I knew what was happening, I was reviewing my entire design career!
Should I throw away my first art-directed print job, which obviously meant SO MUCH to me? Oh geez, I remember spending hours perfecting that magazine cover. How can I toss this history series away when it won my first New England Book Show award? Oh! I remember having such a fabulous time working with those college students on this Earth Day poster….”
It absolutely killed me, but I knew I had to get rid of all of it. I loved the work (I put only my strongest designs in my portfolio). But, the reality is that I hardly ever SHOWED these portfolios to anyone anymore. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked almost exclusively on web design projects. People view my work on my website. These physical portfolios had my print projects. Furthermore, the hard case weighed several pounds and was a pain to carry! I remember shlepping it with me one cold, windy, miserable winter day across the South Station bridge to Fort Point, Boston. Oh my goodness, I thought my arm would fall off!
All of these thoughts and feelings kept flooding in as I labored onward. Pause, remember the project, then throw the piece into the trash bin. At first I was sad with the tossing, but then I began to feel relief. The shedding actually started to feel good.
In the end, I didn’t get rid of ALL of it. I kept only 3 pieces. They were all created in my very early days as a designer:
- Earth Care catalog: printed on beautiful, textured off-white, recycled paper, with hand-made (not by me) paper for the cover, and a strip of translucent stock for the belly-wrap on the cover, hand-bound with jute.
- New England Patriots web icon, designed back in the days before they won more games than they lost.
- My first art-directed print job, which obviously still means SO MUCH to me! 🙂
The shedding process was enlightening. It forced me to consider what I regard as important to hold onto. Not just physically, but psychically. Why do I keep things? Why do I accumulate so much stuff?
That’s the whole meaning of life. Trying to find a place for your stuff. That’s all your house is. Your house is just a place for your stuff. If you didn’t have so much goddamn stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.*
I was afraid that throwing away my stuff meant I might forget the details of that part of my life. Seeing it helped me remember. Or did it? I didn’t look at the stuff very often, so maybe I never really needed the tangible reminder. The experiences behind the objects are the essence of what I want to keep alive. The feelings and sensations of those experiences are right here in my mind and my heart.
*You can see George Carlin’s entire routine about stuff on Youtube: https://youtu.be/MvgN5gCuLac