Sixteen years ago I had the good fortune to to find an affordable shop space on the west side of town, only about 10 minutes by bike from my front door. The space was pretty small, about 530 square feet but there was a bonus included in the rent, or rather, not charged for. The bonus was an upstairs office of about 160 square feet that was up a small flight of wooden stairs. I don't know about you, but give a guy like me some extra square footage and enough time and I'll fill that space with lots of crap -most of which I probably should have thrown away.
Flash forward 16 plus years later and sure enough, the shop and the office are jam packed with all sorts of stuff that framebuilders accumulate : Lots of frames needing repairs that are abandoned, some day to be resurrected into rideable classics when the work load gets thin ,posters of bike racers and catalogues from bike component companies,bike magazines,jerseys-can't seem to part with them, even if the moths have eaten many holes in them......old frame drawing..on and on. In my sixteen years of occupying this space I had done a good job of filling every square inch of space and a bad job of throwing stuff out.
A few days ago the building superintendent came by and gave me a real surprise-my office was going away. The landlady was supposedly appropriating the 160 square foot office and stairwell for storage. I was to lose my universal catch-all space for all the stuff that wouldn't fit downstairs in the shop. My desk, computer , rollers , sales and tax records, shipping boxes and old musical gear would have to find a new home, most likely the recycling center at the county dump. The superintendent gave me all fo three days to re-arrange 16 years of accumulation. Saddled with this new unexpected task ,I was trying really hard not to be mad , sad and or sentimental. What I had to do was to get a lot of stuff organized downstairs and make room for whatever I felt was too essential to either give away or throw away.
With grim determination I began the task of looking through all the boxes and piles of stuff upstairs , trying to really not get too caught up in looking through memory lane and stay at the task of downsizing my substantial accumulation. Ignoring the stories in each box of stuff was pretty much impossible for me and I began to get sidetracked in looking at receipts for frames sold in years past , trying to remember the faces of the people who had ordered them. I came across names of people who have passed on, bike shops long out of business , prices that were so low that I wondered how I survived. I looked for a time at the old books but soon figured out that I could easily run out of valuable time spending the day looking at things I had ignored for over a decade. I came to the conclusion that placing the receipt books in a box and keeping to the task at hand was needed, although this sensibility did not come natural to me. I thought about all the years I had been building bikes and what all of this stuff represented to my personal history. After pondering this I had a moment of clarity, a kind of resignation that whatever value this mountian of stuff represented to me, most of it would have to go-personal history be damned.
I got in the mode of "Get rid of anything as long as it hasn't been useful in the last two years"......this amounted to nearly two truck loads. Lots of bike parts got donated to the local "Bike Church" self service bike co-op. A lot of metal got recycled-fancy US made aluminum tubing ,about the equivalent to $ 1,500 worth became $ 38.40 in recycle value. My oldest bike drawings, many of which were from the early '90's went into the dumpster . Old catalogues and magazines got recycled or went to friends. It was a blood-letting of personal accumulation like I had never had-more like something that should happen when someone dies, but I wasn't dead yet. Maybe it was the death of something else, the passing of my inability to cut loose of all the junk that I thought held my identity and told my story. I had the thought , who really cares about this junk anyway ? who wants to know in such rediculous detail the complete and unabridged archeological evidence of my time on earth ? If I had been ignoring it all these years , wouldn't it follow that even I couldn't be bothered to pay attention to it ? I started to feel pretty empty and started thinking in jest about leaving enough room in the dumpster for myself ! After all, nothing lasts forever.