[Downsizing Zeal] Downsize With Care

Yesterday, I dropped off one large box of miscellaneous stuff. Today, I closed the books on another large box. Over the years, I accumulated a collection of over 400 music cassette tapes. Now, I’m going through each tape to catalog whether I’m keeping it or donating it. Even after reaching the apex of my collecting habits and the nadir of my long-term goals, I’d like to send them all off the same way they came in.

Cataloging music taught me the value of managing my information.

Since January 26, 2008, I’ve cataloged thousands of albums. I quickly realized I wanted to capture the timestamps of when I heard albums, too, so maybe later I could capture trends. As hobbies grow and fade, it’s easy to look back with regret over not having done this or that. As I’ve sorted through over a hundred cassettes in the past two days, I’ve only kept about a dozen, with the remaining going into either this box to possibly donate and another box to possibly sell. Those “possible” outcomes are influenced by greed.

If that box might be worth $5, why not try selling it?

  • I’ll lose out on $5!
  • How much time will it cost to sell?
  • What if you just do it casually?
  • It’ll still be a waste of time.
  • What if you just bring them somewhere?
  • I’d waste time driving there.
  • What if it’s on your drive somewhere else?
  • I’d rather try for $10 then $5.

This internal monologue is a constant battle, even now.

I filled up yesterday’s box for two weeks, throughout which, my idle thoughts battled over whether I could get more money out of certain objects within than zero, continuing until a topic change came up, or, I looked around my overstuffed apartment-mansion and considered how much I want to move. It’s a nice enough spot, but if I can move somewhere cheaper or closer to the action, then I can save the time I spend in transit doing move of the things I love, like writing, rather than merely doing subpar activities.

Each cassette represents one of those conflicts.

I’ll stack a dozen or more cassettes next to my laptop, water or coffee to their side, and go through each one’s catalog entry to decide if I want to keep it or not. My hesitation is almost nonexistent. Consciously, I’d want to keep all them, because owning things means more personal value, right? Subconsciously, I’ll know whether that effort I spend putting the tape into one of my boomboxes will be worthwhile, with the overwhelming majority of the cases being a discard. This box is heavy. Not just the physical weight, but the mental weight of saying goodbye to these objects I once valued, even insignificantly so.

If I end up keeping 50 tapes, I’ll be surprised.

The eventual goal might be to get rid of all of them, but until then, I’ll just skim off the ones I know instantly I don’t want.

I’m refining this process with tapes to apply everywhere else.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal experiences.
Inspirations: Clearing out one of five milk cartons of tapes. I don’t know if I’ll eventually write four more essays as I process the other crates, and I know music has been a frequent theme, but it’s also one of my major sources of clutter, which explains why it’s a frequent topic.
Related: Other Downsizing Zeal essays.
Photo: First box of donatable tapes.
Written On: May 25th [30 minutes]
Last Edited: First draft; final draft for the Internet.


My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.