Over the forty-plus years of my conscious life, I've accumulated a pretty staggering pile of stuff. Mostly books, true, but there's also a full shelf (and then some) of wargames I haven't played in years, CDs I ripped to MP3 files years ago, stuffed animals, con badges...the list goes on and on, and I'm pretty sure that all things considered, I have a CONEX worth of stuff here and in my storage locker...and for all I know, a few things left with friends and former family up in Minnesota. Just about all of it carries some emotional charge, some trigger of memories - mostly happy, occasionally not.
Which is why I don't think I can strip down this pile to the bare essentials, pack up what's left in the back of the Toaster, and move in the space of an afternoon to new quarters up the street or across the continent. P did that last year, and I gave serious thought to it for about two nanoseconds before giving it up as a bad job. It would take a lot of time I don't have to just sort through the boxes and boxes of stuff I haven't unpacked yet, much of it salvaged from Mom's house (and some of that, in turn, taken from the attic of my grandparents' house back in 1968 or so) but even more of it accumulated in the years I spent in Minnesota. This isn't to say I define myself by what I own, at least not in the sense that I'm competing with other people to have the coolest clothes, the trendiest tech toys, or even the largest collection of books and wargames. I'm not even in the running in those last two categories even among my fairly small circle of friends. All these books and DVDs and videotapes and CDs reflect aspects of my life, and memories that I don't want to leave behind. Because I know that eventually memories fade and need some prompting, I want these things around to remind me. There's a comfort in not having to rely on the local library system to supply the books I want to read, especially since so many of them are out of print now or have been edited by others if they still exist in e-book form, because a lot of what I have around here isn't popular enough to last in today's libraries, and I don't have the access to the Library of Congress that I used to when I was a kid.
So although I've decided not to bother finishing Stephen King's epic Marty Stu fantasy cycle, I'll still keep that issue of F&SF from back in the day with "The Gunslinger And The Dark Tower", because there are memories attached to that magazine that have nothing to do with the story. The same goes for the hundreds, maybe thousands of other books and magazines* I have stacked up here in the living room, the bedroom, the hallway and P's storage locker. I'll leave it to my family and friends to sort through all that after I die, and hopefully by then I'll have done a better job of organizing it. Who knows? Maybe finding a small town in Virginia where I can park a double-wide in back of an abandoned library might not be such a dumb ambition after all. There are worse goals in life.
*and other media