We seem, in our lives, to accumulate a lot of stuff. And I don’t mean emotional baggage, although I’m sure that piles up too, I mean actual physical stuff. Here is an example. My girlfriend, who has lived in the house we are currently in for something like seven years, has a world of boxes around her. She is, admittedly, leaning further towards the “keep stuff just in case” war mentality then most, but you get the idea. As we plan to go to New Zealand in a few months, this amount of stuff is no longer a feasible thing to keep, so there is a large sorting effort underway. Many things are being referred to the waste pile.

My granddad had a thing about keeping stuff also. In his attic he had no less than five vacuum cleaners, none of which worked, all of which were kept just in case. A TV set from a time when TV was transmitted in a whole other format, just in case, presumably, something happened causing technology to go backwards and TV started being transmitted in a post war fashion again. We finally managed to get rid of it all, but only through the surreptitious means of the back windows of the house while he was napping downstairs.

Even today, in a seemingly digital age, we seem to have a lot of stuff. I try to avoid buying things that I can now rent or borrow, but I do have boxes of books and DVD’s lurking in lofts that nag at my soul as me needing to do something with at some point. I was speaking to a friend about this yesterday - he has recently moved into a new house, and is worried already about where he is going to put all his books. He is seriously considering getting an ebook reader so he doesn’t need to buy physical copies of the book, but hilariously he has discovered that often the electronic version of a novel costs more than the physical version. Plus you have to buy the device to read it on. And it doesn’t really solve the problem of the books you already have. I could suggest a library, but one often has to accept a time delay between release and availability that is not easy to accept when the hardcover beckons at you teasingly from every book store.

FIlms and music are also a challenge. Music is less so now, what with the format shift towards disk based storage rather than other physical media, although the question remains what one should do with all the compact discs, audio cassettes and vinyl one has collected over the years. You could certainly convert them all, but this is time consuming. It is nice to reflect one’s collection in multiple formats of course, but then you would need multiple devices to play it all on, and separate shelving systems to house it all.

Films are particularly annoying. I have a large collection of DVD’s in boxes in an attic. I’m not sure why I kept buying them, certainly in the last couple of years before I started travelling I realised the folly and moved to a rental system, but there is something wonderfully attractive about having a collection of things to look at, an external display to the world of your tastes. The format wars moved relatively quickly in the film world. Cassette to DVD to Blu-Ray happened rapidly, with some minor detours down some failed format routes on the way. I think Blu-Ray will mark the end of the physical media format wars thankfully, by the time the next generation of higher definition comes along we should have moved to a more digitally acquirable form of media.

So what is the point of all of this rambling. When travelling a lot, a lot of stuff is really a bit of a hindrance certainly. I recognise of course that not everyone travels a lot, or wants to, and having a lot of things is nice. But even then the fact that, in certain areas at least, we keep having to update our collections to keep abreast of modern technology, is galling. I have this belief, crazy as it sounds, that once one has bought a copy of something, be it a book, or a piece of music, or a film, you should be entitled to have future copies of said article provided to you either free or at a nominal fee, so you can keep up with the ongoing format evolution. Of course, this wouldn’t work so well for the companies who do so well selling you the same item over and over again in different formats, so it is unlikely to happen, but the vision can be utopian even if the reality isn’t.

Before I left I got rid of a lot of stuff, but I do admit to having boxes of clothes, books, films and CD’s hanging out across two attics. By the time I get back they will probably be either desperately out of fashion (critics would suggest that if something was not ever in fashion it can’t go out, I would have to agree) or of a format that nobody uses any more. Ah well. Life goes on. Let me know if you are overwhelmed with stuff or think I’m ranting unnecessarily in the comments below :)

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