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  • My wife and I were "discussing" my penchant for excessively avid storage, aka pack-ratting, hoarding, and stuffing every nook and cranny in our garage. Where I see residual value, she sees useless junk. A handcrafted camp spoon with a wooden handle we found in a granite crevice in the Sierras decades ago, no doubt cultural heritage from work crews early in the last century. Letterhead from the San Francisco law office where we met thirty years ago, perfect for announcing a party with our old friends of that era. Books we read to our kids, waiting to be read once again to theirs. And of course, the nuts and bolts, screws and nails, hinges and knobs of a carpenter and homeowner that are perfectly serviceable -- just what I'll need, somewhere, sometime, if I can find the right one. Effective storage, you see, is all about access and retrieval.

    "We used to park a car in here!" she recalled wistfully. "I want to park a car in here again; or at least bring in the rolling trash bins from the carport." She thinks we are diminishing our status in the cul-de-sac.

    "Why do you have so many clothes? Who needs so many shirts?" I concede the validity of the point; yet these clothes are perfectly good. Furthermore, I don't care if they are in or out of fashion -- some having made the full round trip to be in again. I liked them when I bought them; I like them when I wear them -- though it is true that I don't often cycle them back in with the current flow. My wife tries to console: "Honey, they'll be perfectly good for the people at the Salvation Army."

    Part of this conundrum lies in the nostalgia factor. At my age, these are mementos of a past that threatens to escape the bounds of my memory: tools I used when repairing, endlessly, my old VW van; posters of my competing Alma Maters, facing off on opposite sides of the SF Bay; scribbled notes, dictated audio tapes and 3 1/2 inch diskettes of material for my books on career experiences that are "soon" to be written.

    Some of these I'm almost ready to relinquish, as technology or just life moving on is rendering them valueless. My 4/8 track tape deck with all that great highway music is no longer the only available source of Seventies rock; iTunes has them all. My original IBM PC with a hard drive and 640k that started it all -- is already in the TechMuseum, with nary a bid for them on eBay.

    I have made a major concession and resolution to this problem -- something short of acquiring a new wife. I am digitizing my life, taking pictures of these treasures so I can let go of their physical presence. Though it feels like saying a last goodbye to an aging friend, there is something Zen-like in letting go.

    A concession my wife has made is to claim her own space in the back of the garage. I caught a few of the things she tossed to the garbage, hiding them with the stealth of a magician. I just need a little time. "What's up there, on that shelf?" she asked.

    "That's where we have fishing equipment and kites (unused for years), next to the boomerangs."

    "Boomerangs?! What? We have a place in our garage for boomerangs?!" She started to laugh uncontrollably. I knew that explaining this to her would be entirely futile, so I just tried to pick her up off the floor. "Boomerangs! We have boomerangs! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!"

    It was no use. Sitting down next to her, I let her laughter overcome me until we were both howling. So much for our reputation in the cul-de-sac.

    PS: My grandson and I tossed these around at the park; maybe now I can let go.
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