What if material objects like CDs had expiration dates like bread or canned food? Would we still want to buy as much as we do? As I’ve considered the logistics behind downsizing a box of CDs I’ve grown out of appreciation for, I realized that those CDs have passed their expiration date, except instead of growing mold or botulism, they grew out of favor. They’re not bad albums, just ones I don’t care to own.
I bought my favorite album of 2020 and one of my Top 10 to 25 at a supermarket.
At this supermarket, I probably paid less for S&M2, $11.99, than I did for my used copy of S&M from a music store that no longer exists. I paid around $9.99 or $10.99 for my copies of RTJ, RTJ2, and RTJ3, but I bought these from a music store that is still doing well, despite COVID-19, although it’s possible RTJ3 might have been at this same supermarket. I might have preferred buying RTJ4 from that same music store “to support local businesses,” but there’s something interesting about buying bread or canned food along with an album that you’ll listen to repeatedly over the course of your life.
One has a clearly-labeled shelf life while the other… does not.
Of all the CDs I own, S&M2 would probably be one of the last to go, were I to sell off almost all of my collection. My Run The Jewels collection would go before S&M2, and although I enjoy Alicia, I don’t see much of a need to buy that album until I listened to more of Alicia Keys’s discography, but if I knew more of her discography, I would have probably bought the CD, too. This is interesting for me because while I’m actively trying to downsize my ownership of property, I still acquire new property. Why? My initial answer was that I wanted to support these musicians. However, that answer fails under scrutiny because Metallica does not need my consumerist vote. They are sufficiently wealthy.
Owning the album makes me happier because looking at it reminds me of the music.
I could be listening to something else, anything else, and seeing that CD’s spine can evoke memories of the album ranging from objective [the music or the physical CD] to subjective [my opinions of the music]. The CDs I’ll be donating soon, most of which I bought in bargain bins over the years so it’s not worth dealing with trying to sell them, do not evoke any particular memories or sensations. I would say I purchased them when I had unlimited shelf space, so their shelf life was infinite. That’s the thing with clutter.
Physical objects become clutter when we don’t have enough shelf space for them.
In my previous residence, I was able to build a permanent shelving unit dedicated to CDs, which would have been great had I been more rigorous in my curation. I sometimes wonder if I’ll move into a residence where it would make sense to rebuild those shelves. I could do it here, but if I were to build it today, the shelf life of that shelving unit would probably be seventeen months. I don’t have the physical strength or interest to move in five months when my lease renews, so until I move, I’m fine with leaving these shelves unassembled. Unless I clear out more space and can quickly rebuild them.
Let’s say I did rebuild these shelves; they were overfilled before by “expired” CDs.
“Expired” CDs, in the analogous sense of moldy bread or botulism canned food, would be ones where I might only listen to them once every ten years and I’m not excited to own. There is so much music out there that even for my favorite albums, ones which I love thoroughly, I might only listen to them once a year. Why, then, would I own albums that I don’t plan on listening to much at all? These take up shelf space, decrease the quality of my collection by prioritizing quantity, while making me feel more regretful or disinterested by seeing them.
The problem is that I do still enjoy physically owning CDs.
The problem isn’t so much in that I enjoy everything about the experience of owning CDs, from taking them out of the shrinkwrap, to smelling the new CD smell, to looking over the liner notes, to using the CD, and actually listening to the music. The problem is when I buy items unnecessarily. CDs are this essay’s example, but anything I buy superfluously has this same problem. Say I bought too much bread and the bread molds. This happened earlier this week to me despite my best efforts.
Two days after the bread’s “sell by,” I noticed blue spots on all of the bread.
It was nice bread, too. In that example, I might have accidentally had too much bread because I didn’t consume it before it expired, but it was a bag of eight artisan sandwich rolls and it expired too quickly. I might have prevented that had I put them in the refrigerator, but I didn’t know they’d expire so quickly, and I haven’t had other foods expire, so I didn’t have a precedent for it. So, too, with clutter. If we don’t learn psychological de-hoarding tendencies that are obvious with moldy food, then we’re left with equivalently moldy items.
I need to look through that box of CDs like I was looking for food mold.
While there are new CDs I still want to buy, I have to be careful not to let my current possessions grow moldy through quantity over quality. The way I’m doing that now is by keeping a more rigorous curation of my possessions, like how I check the expiration dates on the canned food in my pantry every month to see what food is getting closer to expiration, where the foods with longer shelf lives go toward the back.
That way I can buy things I like without anything going spoiled.
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: I wasn’t sure where to take this essay at first until I looked at it from the supermarket perspective. I feel like I could have made the analogies clearer or otherwise more streamlined, but I’m happy enough with how this essay went that I don’t see much of a need to substantially rewrite it to perhaps make it clearer when it’s acceptably clear as-is.|
|Related: Other Downsizing Zeal essays.|
|Photo: Taken on my most recent supermarket trip because of the two CDs. I bought the copy of RTJ4 that you can barely see that’s between the album art and the price tag. I added my avatar in the empty space to spruce it up a bit.|
|Written On: 2020 September 29 [4:25pm to “enjoy physically owning CDs” at 4:54pm; 5:57pm to 6:11pm]|
|Last Edited: 2020 September 29 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|