NPR logo Part Company

Part Company

I'm moving, and moving is one of the best excuses for ridding oneself of excess. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a sentimental person: I've surprised friends with such seemingly callous acts as taking boxes of high-school papers and letters to a recycling center, throwing out years of birthday cards, and giving away supposedly significant and meaningful items of clothing. If I could go from my current house to my new house with only a suitcase and my pets, I would. For the past week, I've been selling my furniture on Craigslist and going through my closets, bookshelves and record shelves, donating everything that feels superfluous.

Getting rid of clothing is the easiest. Olive-green high heels I bought in San Francisco that I've never worn? Gone. Black sweater that shrunk in the wash but that I still kept wearing despite the fact that it exposed my belly button? Good riddance. With clothing, figuring out what's worth keeping and what should have been tossed years ago is easy. You try it on, and if it makes you feel bad about your pea-sized head or scrawny legs, it's going to Goodwill.

Letting go of books is more difficult. What if I want to read that one Roethke poem again? What if someone mentions him at a party or on the radio, and I'm reminded just how wondrous he is? So the Roethke verse stays. But college textbooks go, and so do the novels I tried to love but couldn't. I can bid farewell to certain non-fiction books whose alarmist titles scream at me, making me feel guilty that I've yet to read them.

And then there's music, which seems like one of the most important parts of my life. Yet I've discovered in this packing process that my connection to music has little to do with the physical possession of it. As I packed up box after box of CDs with the intent of letting them go, I realized that there isn't much music that I need to actually own. Having music with me is different from having music on me. Even if I sell a CD or LP, that doesn't mean I'm losing that band or artist or song that I love; I'm merely losing the physical evidence. Sure, I can do that by converting everything to MP3 and putting it on my hard drive, but I'm not going to bother. One of the best aspects of music is that it can be accessed internally. I can conjure a tune in my own head, or it can come crashing back into my life via some other method — a DJ, a movie, a passing car. And then my relationship with the song can start anew.

Once a song exists, it never ceases to exist, whether I have constant access to it or not. And much of my music collection is under-appreciated and under-listened to anyway. It takes up as much of a psychological space as it does a physical one. I guess, in the process of downsizing, I've come to the conclusion that memory is as good of a storage space as anything. Sure, maybe in a few years I'll seek out some of these albums again — but I might not even miss them. It might not even feel like they're gone.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Wow, great timing.. a moving company dropped a bunch of boxes off on my doorstep this morning. I'm supposed to fill them with only the most vital things I will need for the next 4 years and nothing more. I immediately put my records and CD's in, certain they were all key to my survival.. however, you're probably right. (No, you're definitely right. There are so many in there I haven't even bothered to listen to yet, even though I've had them for years). Although I'm a sentimental person so I probably won't end up taking any of those albums out, this is great inspiration for the remainder of my packing, so thanks. Good luck with your move!

Sent by Leah | 1:20 PM | 8-1-2008

"One of the best aspects of music is that it can be accessed internally." -- Except when the song is "Chocolate Rain" on repeat and you can't make it stop.

Are you selling any of your gear, like a 15 watt Matchless/Vox/Orange amp?

Sent by tim | 1:30 PM | 8-1-2008

You're a better woman than I am when it comes to tossing. I moved 3 years ago and got rid of a ton of books. Over the past 3 years I've slowly bought them all back. I kept all the music though. I'm no fool, even if I do have Collyer Brother tendencies...

Sent by EC Terry | 2:01 PM | 8-1-2008

i moved two months ago, and i packed the same way you did. everything unnecessary went to goodwill. i put all of my music on my hard drive. for me, it's not a physical thing at all. i don't like having things pile up on me. i like order and empty space, so i just have a little black box full of music. it works for me.

Sent by megan m. | 2:27 PM | 8-1-2008

Moving eh!
Where to?
Being a natural born horder I have to about twice a year have a clear-out. But having spent my life buying and collecting vynil/cassests and now cd's would never consider riding myself of any of them. I even copy downloads to hard disc so that I 'physicaly' own it, I'm a sad case :(
Things like clothes and papers ect, not too bad can chuck them ok. Music though I have to keep. It's my life's work.

Sent by Tim | 2:30 PM | 8-1-2008

My roommate just moved out, and she had the majority of furniture/cookware. I thought I would live in squalor in the month before the new roommate arrived, but instead I've spent most of my time packing up and sorting everything I have to give away. Books, notebooks from college, bad papers from courses I hated and pounds of clothes are headed to greener pastures. Empty cardboard boxes (saving the boxes is a wicked, detestible vice I inherited from my father) are gone recyclin'.

My rule of thumb is: keep it in the Civic. If my car can't make the move in a single trip, I have too much. Furniture that I inherited from someone who upgraded goes to someone I know who's getting their start. I furnished my current place solely at the cost of an IKEA bed, mattress and lamp.

Perhaps my most bizarre character trait is that while I shy away from coffee dates, birthday parties and other social engagements, I always ALWAYS help people move - to the point where I offer before they ask. Maybe it's because I hate it enough that I have an exaggerated sense of empathy?

Sent by ljc | 2:40 PM | 8-1-2008

I systematically ged rid of things every six months or so especially clothes. I just moved two weeks ago and had gotten rid of what I thought was a lot, but the move still felt like all of this stuff. Anyways, good job Carrie on your efforts to simplify and good luck with your move.

Sent by ryan | 3:08 PM | 8-1-2008

Moving is a great way to look critically at your possessions and decide what makes the cut to go to a new home, especially if you are the type who won't thin out stuff without the pressure of a move, as I am. At the same time, I find it so liberating to get rid of things, to be reminded that ideas are more important than material goods. Of course, I used to move every year or two, on the academic calendar, and didn't have the wherewithal to acquire things. Now that I have finished my training/education and have been in the same house for a little over five years, I own more than I ever have before in my life, which does trouble me, but not enough to motivate me to have a good clear out
But, I rarely get rid of books or music, which is funny to me since they are the physical manifestation of ideas. Hmm, maybe I will now have it in me to be able to get rid of books and music...

Sent by Amanda | 3:10 PM | 8-1-2008

I moved in May, and this entry reminds me that I'm still feeling pretty ambivalent about what to do with my CD collection. I did pack them up and bring them with me (only 3 boxes worth), but I have yet to unpack them. The boxes are stacked up in the guest room closet. Part of me feels just the way you do-- giving away the physical copy doesn't mean I like the music any less, I won't have 'lost' anything, especially considering the boxed-up state they're in now.

But on the other hand, I just really, truly, can't bring myself to be dispossessed of albums like "Personal Best," "Call The Doctor," "Pleased To Meet Me." These albums are so vivid in my mind that I could probably describe with at least 95% accuracy what the packaging looks like (and needless to say, the tracklist, etc). But, do I add this fact to the "Keep" or "Chuck" column on my mental checklist?

Bottomline is that I don't have any furniture or shelving right now to house them, and that is definitely not a priority on my budget, but the idea of these beloved things sitting patiently in the other room is weirdly comforting, so they will probably continue to sit in closet-limbo indefinitely. And who knows, when I'm much older, maybe my kids will be interested in them the way I was interested in my parents records.

Sent by nikki | 5:17 PM | 8-1-2008

I just got done buying Dig Me Out in order to deal with my guilt of being a Sleater-Kinney fan for years and years without ever actually buying an album, and now you tell me that I don't need albums, that it's okay for music to just be in your head?!?

Sent by Kyle | 5:39 PM | 8-1-2008

I recently moved and pretty much threw out everything but clothes, art and music. The latter two are the only things that really mean anything to me...Carrie,if you want somebody to give your collection to, I'm fully willing to take care of it for you. :)

Sent by A.R. | 6:47 PM | 8-1-2008

i moved 9 months ago - due to illness and having to move cross country back home with family. i purged so much - in a psychotic and terrified state. what i shipped home is still in boxes and won't be unpacked until we move again later this month into a new home. i am imagining that when i open the boxes i will be completely confused as to why i kept what i kept. i regret getting rid of all the mix tapes and other things on cassette that i had even though i hadn't listened to them for years. i got rid of most of my books and dvds and cds - with the thought that it could be borrowed from the library or rented from netflix or if need be, bought again. so much of my music collection included excellent music (one example, stevie wonder) that i never listened to and felt it would be better to put it out there for someone else to own and hopefully listen to - it's not like i own my own home and have the luxury of having my own library for collections of music and books.

i really wish i could lose all of my attachment to material objects.

good luck with your move.

Sent by xina | 6:59 PM | 8-1-2008

I'm moving too, girl. It's a bit intense (to add insult to injury, I recently got hit by a truck on my bike... broke my left wrist! Moving will suck and be expensive).

I've resigned to get rid of it all... very interesting to see your words here about the nonrivalrousness of music... that is, if you don't have it physically anymore, you still have it in your head.

One question: what if you get amnesia in the future? A bonk on the head or something. Then, you'll want to relearn all your music likes and dislikes... then you might want your music (and books) back. I guess you can subscribe to Rhapsody and stream shit for eternity.

It would be hard to creat Carrie from scratch, I bet.

Sent by joe | 9:31 PM | 8-1-2008

I'm gonna play devil's advocate and stick up for the enormous albatross of a record collection. Whenever I've moved in and out of college dorm rooms or apartments or houses my boxes of cd's were always the most massive thing I owned, bigger than all the clothes or even most of the furniture. Course, that used to be necessary before the digital age; nowadays I can fit the whole bundle onto a hard drive. But it used to be a turf statement: "This is how important this stuff is to me."

Everyone seems to feel guilty about having too much, we're always just about to purge or we just got done spring cleaning or we really need to downsize. Am I the only one who's fascinated by those stories about people who get trapped in their homes when their mountains of knick-knacks collapse and bar the door?

Am I the only one who, when he comes to the part in Jonathan Lethem's essay "The Beards" when the author describes how his book collection got so big that he was twice forced to resort to sleeping on a mattress laid atop a pallet of cartons, am I the only who thinks that I really don't have *enough*?

Sent by Liam | 9:36 PM | 8-1-2008

I guess for me music is about more than 'just' the music. Maybe it's the whole tactile thing of actually holding a CD (or record, or cassette) in your hand and putting it in your CD player, listening to it all the way through the way any (real) music should be listened to, that I love. Not to mention the album art. It's the whole physical package that really makes it worth it to me. Sometimes, this whole culture (not saying this is you) of 'download-the-song-you-like' (it really annoys me when I look through my roomate's media player and all I see is one or two songs for each artist) just grates on me, but I digress.

Not to say that I don't have digital only copies, or copied CDs from friends. However, I HAVE actually bought a CD that I already had a burned copy of just to have it...I find myself doing that more and more now. Also, as one of the above comments said, I have burned digital albums to a CD just to have an actual hard copy of it. Maybe I'm crazy, but as long as they keep making CDs, I'll keep buying them.

Sent by Kyle | 10:11 PM | 8-1-2008

i haaaaate moving. i have moved to a new apartment every year since i left home for college 7 years ago. everything i left at home was either lost, thrown away, or stolen by my little sisters by the first time i went back home to visit.

i still have unpacked boxes from 2001... just keep moving them to the next location thinking one day i'll plant some roots and unpack everything aka find 10 year old luden's sore throat lozenges.

Sent by Lauren | 10:29 PM | 8-1-2008

Interesting that you should comment about the songs in your head. Hoyt Smackton once blurted out "Yeah, my songs are all in my head, but so is my brain and alot of good that does me!"

Sent by Jay Pack | 12:05 AM | 8-2-2008

Moved ten years ago and I can still name the records I regret selling. But that regret is also tied to the memory of the music and its meaning to me. Some I have repurchased off eBay and the magic returns and others don't hold up to the magic memories (Sychronicity, how did I think you were the better than Zenyatta Mondatta? Let alone LOVE the Police?). And, yes, you always end up lugging around unopened boxes from place to place.

Sent by Eric in Alaska | 1:08 AM | 8-2-2008

oh i wish you could have helped me pack this week. i could have used someone to make me get rid of things instead of packing useless things i'll try and cram into my new, smaller space tomorrow. i have the hardest time with music, books, and clothes. although, i did set aside bags of clothes to take to red light someday. sadly i tend to think, "well as long as i'm packing this then i might as well pack *this* too." ugh.

good luck with your move, carrie! and if you ever want to purge other people's things, please let me know.

Sent by allison | 1:08 AM | 8-2-2008

Question= how does it feel to get yr. ass kissed on here @ every post?... haha... I mean not to sound like a bitch or anything//Im asking a serious question outta pure curiosity.. I think its funny how it doesnt matter what u say (post) 9 times out of 10 ppl on here agree with you or have a story to try to relate as if u really give a bleep.. honestly.. or if you actually do that is very sympathetic of u//but shit I can see why artists mainly ignore their fans 4 the most part. I mean I've left agreeable comments too & what not? I guess after reading yr. post this mrng. I wanted to put it to the test on how many ppl on here were gunna do exactly what I thought.. its interesting, really. xoxo

Sent by Marissa | 4:15 AM | 8-2-2008

One of the managers at the record store had to sell his vinyl collection to pay his insane New Jersey traffic ticket. He makes an illegal right turn and winds up getting rid of all his records. It was sad, but he's a strong Buddhist at heart and told himself they're only material possessions. He can always replace them if he wants. I don't know if I could ever do that. When I was purging my CD's a few years ago I thought I would be able to get rid of more, but I wound up keeping a lot that I thought I could get rid of. Even my Letters To Cleo and Gin Blossoms CD's.

What do you say I mail you 50 bucks and you send me a grab bag of records? Your choice.

Sent by Nick L. | 10:10 AM | 8-2-2008

You mention that you are letting go of some books, and some music (no mention of art or film dvd's?). But no matter the form of art, the future may well bring changes. What if the internet turns into a world depository for art such that an open internet allows anyone to access all the art - books, music, films, tv, art, of the world. Perhaps the universal 'jukebox' could be paid by government subsidies such that everyone in the world could access copies - while still reserving the right to own original hard copies too. Think of all the resource it would save if everyone could have all the music they wanted without the manufacture of all those millions of cd's we do now. That alone would save a vast amount of resources.
The future may well look like a 'book' that is a computer, library, phone, tv, theater, radio, and more. And as I have written before, why not reduce this down to a pair of glasses with a computer chip! The future is on the way!
This is all part of the art revolution - new century, new everything in the arts and media.

Sent by Tom Hendricks | 11:01 AM | 8-2-2008

After having lived out of, at most, two suitcases that don't go overweight on airplane requirements, for the last 10+ years, I am now in one place, no longer on tour, and have a place where I can have "stuff". Yet, as fun as it is to collect this stuff, I still catch myself looking around my apartment going, 'why do I have this?! I don't need this!' and out the door it goes.

One of the first things I did, pre-mp3 player days, was put all CDs into binders. Those have since been ripped into a hard drive and the weight of CDs out of the bag. DVDs out of cases into binders. And now that I have an actual shelf to put the DVDs on, they still go in the binder.

I never understood keeping the paper you wrote in grade 10 on some novel you haven't thought of since turning in that paper... but then, I go to someone's house that has so many momentos from the years that the place screams their personality... and I kind of want that too.

Good luck moving!

Sent by KDK | 11:22 AM | 8-2-2008

Great post.

It's a nice reminder that the most important storage medium isn't my 250GB hard drive but my brain. I obsess over the health and durability of the former while taking the latter for granted.

There's something wrong about that.

Sent by Ryan | 12:57 PM | 8-2-2008

I don't know if I could part with my music. That being said, I don't have that big of a collection. I just recently started acquiring a decent amount of CDs, but I remember seeing you on Youtube with hundreds of records behind you. I'm sure if I had that many albums I'd be willing to part with some.

Sent by Adam | 1:48 PM | 8-2-2008

Coincidentally enough I'm moving (and reading some of the comments it seems I'm not alone) in a couple of weeks. I've already started thinking about what junk I can get rid of to make room for new junk.

I'm not going to be ditching my CDs, DVDs or books though. Actually I'm hoping to aquire another bookcase to house them all because they're currently living in boxes.

Sent by Oli | 3:47 PM | 8-2-2008

This is one of my favorite of your posts. I just gave away or sold most of my stuff, including old high school papers, birthday cards, and clothes I was holding for no apparent reason. I moved from Georgia to San Francisco with the necessary clothes (which, unfortunately just got stolen), my guitar, laptop, and a handful of personal things. Feels pretty damn good.

Memory is where it's at. We spend so much time trying to hold on to an experience artificially; these days I try to pay closer attention to the moment as it happens, rather than trying to figure out how to capture it for later.

Sent by Roy | 4:28 PM | 8-2-2008

Despite a certain affinity with the misgivings expressed in Marissa's T9-style posting, I feel compelled to share a story from a friend of mine that he called The Parable of the Two Piles and which has little to do with music: Moving from his college dorm on the last day of his senior year, he made two piles: things he wanted to keep, things he wanted to toss. He went out, partied, came home, and threw out the wrong pile... And didn't notice for six months. Which is just to say that all the things you think you'll need, want, use, or cherish, maybe you won't.

Sent by the flying nun | 7:51 PM | 8-2-2008

In the span of a week I accidentally deleted over a thousand digital photographs that I'd taken this year, and my iphone was stolen off my porch. In both cases I felt tremendous loss. Yes, they were just photos and a phone, but both held deeply meaningful reminders of what will one day be my distant pass. I count on those reminders because I have a terrible memory. I recently cleaned out my basement in order to do a quick remodel. I came across old love letters, old mix tapes, newspaper clippings, signed baseballs by Madonna and John Kruk, and more. And I gotta say, I'd be more inclined to buy a $5000 fire proof safe than throw any of these things away. I consider myself a minimalist at heart, but each life is a story, and one day we won't be here to tell it, and these are the things that will give my kids and grandkids the clues they will need to find out just who i was. Unfortunately, they will be finding out as they are begrudgingly cleaning out my basement after I've gone. RIP Grandma Selis.

Sent by Jeff Selis | 2:03 AM | 8-3-2008

I feel kind of the opposite. In general, I hate accumulating things. I try not to buy things I don't need because I can't stand it when things sit around, just taking up space and collecting dust. Of course once I do own things, I sometimes do get sentimental about them and have a hard time letting them go. When I moved a couple of months ago and did the whole throw-out-everything-I-don't-need thing, there were a few things I decided to take with me for whatever reason that I know I really don't need, even though I knew that if I got rid of those things I probably would not miss them and maybe even forget they existed. This happened with much of my stuff that sat in storage for many years nowhere near where I was living. And that is exactly why I'd rather just not own stuff I don't need in the first place- I don't want to be attached to useless things and then not be able to let them go. It just seems like such garbage and such a waste of space.

Anyway, The one big exception to all of this is music. I don't know why, but there is something about owning the physical product, even though it's clearly not the important part of the package. I think if I were to lose all of my possessions and could only save a limited amount of things, my first instinct would be to save my music collection and my journals and that's it. Everything else just feels so replaceable. When it comes down to it, I don't think I would miss anything else, even those things that I couldn't let go of when I moved. Just the memory of having had the thing that was sentimental to me seems enough. The actual thing is not important, because it's the person who gave it to me who is important, etc.

Sent by I | 3:48 PM | 8-3-2008

Last time I moved I gave away all my Vinyl and ripped all my CD's then put them in storage. Looking back I wish I'd given away the CD's as well. I haven't missed any of it. For the most part music is on tap wherever you go. And rediscovering odd tracks you can't download is a lot of fun.

Sent by bloodyserb | 8:20 PM | 8-3-2008

T9 huh? (lol) Innovative. Thnx for recognizing flying nun.

Sent by Marissa | 2:22 AM | 8-4-2008

I'm the same... I sold everything I owned and travelled the world with a suitcase and a backpack for 18 months and realised that I did even need the stuff in the suitcase.... I've settled back in Australia for a while.. But am preparing to move to toronto in 6 months time.. So when I moved house 4 months ago I tried to cull as much stuff as I could...

I got down to 3 moving boxes of stuff I just couldn't bear to part with.... My rule is... if its irreplaceable to you keep it. Books and cds generally survive too but that's about it.

Its freeing.. Each new city I move to... I aquire temporary items of furniture, clothing... things that all have a story and then they are passed on when I leave... its beautiful to keep having space in your life for these objects to drop in and out of and then be passed on to continue their story with someone else... it also enables change to happen.. To someone who is not all that comfortable with their routine being messed with

A great organisation is this

Sent by carla | 7:00 PM | 8-7-2008

I moved just last week, hiring first American moving services out of Hollywood, Fl. I have since learned that this is a blacklisted company under indictment from FL FBI.
Lily, our CS, stated verbally that the deposit was to be verified and held until moving day, it was instead cashed immediately. The moving company then did not arrive during our contracted window of time of either the 17th or 18th of August. Spoke with Jay, Eli and Joe (after repeated calls to get a hold of someone - NO ONE CALLED ME to discuss the non-arrival) and was told reason for delay was "I don't know." I was told nothing would be done to complete contract. Joe refused to create and send a new order for service or a new arrival date, despite the DOT laws regarding movers. Joe stated didn't know when the movers would arrive, ignoring our contract. I stated this was unacceptable as the lease was out on my house, the roof was being torn off and it was unlivable, and I had a job to beginning on a established date. Joe and Eli were both extremely rude and uncaring. I was told tough luck and then no calls were returned or answered. 48 hours passed without any communication from this moving company. This resulted in extra expenses and having to hire a new moving company at the last minute in order to complete my move as scheduled.

Misrepresentation of company: Same company two different BBB accounts. Address listed 1747 Van Buren St., #720, Hollywood, FL 33020 AND 8201 Golf Course Rd NW Ste D3-344, Albuquerque, NM 87120. Bait with the AA rating of this company and switch with the D rating of the FL address.

Other Numbers: (954) 923-2955, (888) 668-3990, (505) 629-0646

CS rep who assisted us- Lily D. ext 103
Manager: Eli Ash at NM number
Joseph Mangiafico, Dispatcher/Customer Service
President list as a Jessica Szachniuk - will not answer or return calls.

USDOT #: 635580 MC#: 486912

Would love to see s publicized section on how to avoid people as this!

Sent by Tara Wiseman | 3:49 PM | 8-25-2008