The errand that I had to run in Jersey City tonight was to check on my storage unit, in an antiquated fireproof warehouse on the edge of the old downtown. When I moved from Jersey City to Brooklyn (from a 2nd-floor walkup to a 3rd-, 4th-, and 5th-floor walkup), there was a bunch of stuff I didn’t know what to do with and didn’t want to schlep all the way across state lines just because.
Because downtown Jersey City is kind of a pain in the ass to get to without a car (and because, even if I do take my car, the Holland Tunnel toll is, what, $40 now?), I haven’t been there in roughly two years, so I figured it was time to move the stuff out and into a storage unit closer to home. Fortunately there’s a lovely, more professionally run storage facility (call it the “Storage Palace”) a 6-minute bike ride from my apartment, the sort where you imagine a butler in a morning coat will collect your box of crap from your car on a ginormous silver tray and fly it up to your cubicle on angel’s wings. It is 50% more expensive than the one I’m giving up, for slightly less space, but I rationalize by saying (probably accurately) that I’ll be able to use it more intensively, moving things in and out of storage as often as weekly if need be. It doesn’t hurt that my new storage unit is immediately adjacent to the parking lot where my car lives — I can imagine some efficiencies arising from that.
So I have to move my stuff from one to the other this month. And I couldn’t remember what “stuff” I even had in there. So it was time for a reconnaissance mission.
Now, let me say right off that I’m not a hoarder. What I am, though, is a Projects Person. I am the sort of person who will vow to learn to play the bluegrass fiddle, or learn to speak Dutch, or become a cartoonist, or read everything ever written by Robert Sheckley. For each of those vows, there is a set of equipment and/or accoutrements, and I will typically acquire same, place them somewhere in the house, and then get distracted by a newer vow with its own accoutrements and forget about the previous set.
I inherited this tendency, independently and reinforcingly, from both my parents, who were and are most emphatically Projects Persons in their own right, wide readers and dedicated (and ecumenical) hobbyists. Father: reads Chinese well enough to puzzle out restaurant signs, speaks it well enough to order lunch; can decipher Urdu inscriptions; former General-class amateur radio licensee; hobbyist cryptographer, 50-year amateur magician; mother: home darkroom, serial interior designer/real estate agent/home renovator; crocheter of afghans; writer of published cookbooks; provider of roomful of arts and crafts supplies and drafting tables for her young children; serial creator of her own garden in every home she’s occupied in my lifetime. Even my late grandmother influenced my habits; by the time she retired to Northern California, her little house in Tujunga was packed so full of stacks of paperback books she was going to get around to reading “someday” that it was hard to move.
In short, I grew up in a house full of books on every conceivable subject (with dozens or hundreds more coming in every year), full of crayons and butcher paper, full of a hundred cookbooks; the sort of house where it was most emphatically considered “normal” to dabble in any sort of recreational pursuit one felt the slightest urge to dabble in. In my early youth, I made meatloaf and chocolate cake and collected stamps and drew fanciful maps; in my teens, I earned myself an amateur radio license; in my thirties, I learned to code passably well in Perl. I bought that bluegrass fiddle in my thirties. And I have carried those habits right through to middle age. (If you know me, you may be aware how many bicycles, fedoras, and/or bottles of gin are in this apartment at the moment.)
Unfortunately, I live in a large zero-bedroom loft apartment in a century-old commercial building. My walls, ceiling, and floor are all white, which means that all my crap is in plain view for everyone to see. So I can’t bring all those plastic tubs in here — in fact, we spent much of the last two weeks just hauling clutter out in a sustained and systematic spring cleaning. (Hard rule #1: if you haven’t touched it in two years and it has no sentimental value, IT GOES. Hard rule #2: “What if I need this someday” is not “sentimental value.”)
Hence the storage unit. When I unlocked the metal doors this afternoon, I was greeted with this:
Nothing wrong with any of that stuff. Some of it is useful, at least theoretically, and there are indeed items of sentimental value in there (including every high school and college paper I ever wrote, and the last 50 copies of the catalog I produced for my bookstore in 2002) — but more than half of it will end up in the trash after (or before) it gets moved into the Storage Palace.
I’m glad I’m the sort of person that tries things he’s curious about. But I’m also learning to be the sort of person who (with difficulty) is learning to say “no thank you, I’ve got enough projects going on at the moment.”