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Silver Threads: Forswearing collecting in the digital age

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

The other day, when my husband and I donated my old Honda van to a needy grandson, he took the stack of CDs I’d played for years while delivering meals to the homebound and put them in my “office.” That’s one of our two guest bedrooms. A closet — shallow with bi-fold doors — contains my Mac, printer, telephone — and a mountain of junk. Ditto for his “office,” another guest bedroom across the hall.

This morning I got to looking at the CDs and other accumulated stuff on the bed across from my computer, wondering where I’d put them. The drawers under the TV in the living room already are jammed with a history of my musical and film purchases over the years — slowly it dawned, as I sipped an Arnold Palmer on the back porch; throw it all away!

Young people have iPhones and tablets for playing tunes; even I listen to Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bobby Darren and Jimmy Buffet on my Kindle. As for movies, I can get any that I want — on the TV screen with an Amazon gizmo or on my Kindle if I’d prefer to watch in bed. I watched Tallulah Bankhead in “Lifeboat” the other day after reading a story that made me remember it. I can get all the Carol Burnett shows I want, courtesy of YouTube.

Why root around for a place to store CDs and DVDs? Why have a pile of old National Geographics on a shelf when you can get it all online? Why have four really huge dictionaries on hand when there’s Wikipedia?

Collectors will disagree with me. Ditto those who love their print books. (My own grandson is one of those: He forsook the hand-me-down Kindle I gave him and quickly filled three bookcases. He loves bookstores as I did until poor eyesight, quitting driving, and arthritis made e-books more desirable than a trip to Barnes and Noble.)

But I’m not a collector. I’m merely a keeper of things for which I no longer have use and that are crowding me out of my living quarters. It’s called junk, and yet another newspaper feature on the subject came out just last week urging us seniors to get rid of it. If we don’t, then our descendants will.

Our small, one-story, three-bedroom house was designed for seniors by my retired home-builder husband. He drew up the plans 20 years ago, when we were but 60 and 65, and after parents of both of us had spent weeks in our home following hospitalizations.

We had accommodations for them downstairs in the old two-story house, a convenience not shared by some of our friends, who had to make bedrooms of their living rooms for their parents’ use. We looked and learned, and even put extra wide doors in our new house so that wheelchairs, if needed, could roll through easily.

We’d thought of it all — except our tendency to gather and not dispose of junk. And downsizing has meant that crowded shelves and closets and overflowing chests make it hard to live as comfortably as possible in this house.

I think I’ve made a good start toward a clean-up by just realizing what things modern technology makes it unnecessary for me to store in my home. Old clothes I’ve been efficient in ditching: Call the Salvation Army. Things like my 26 DVD set of “The Pallisers”? Not so much until now.

If computers and Kindles and iPads and phones ever disappear, then I’m in for trouble. But meanwhile, how about getting rid of my kerosene lamp, the washboard under the sink, the buggy in the garage? Just kidding, folks.

 

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]