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Spatial Debt

10 July 2016 Leave a comment

When I was a young (and redundantly poor) college/university student who did not possess much, I obsessively collected and maintained whatever I owned, whether that was books, computers, receipts, guitars, music, magazines, et cetera.  What was once contained to a small dorm room eventually expanded to fill up a house.

With every new item we add, regardless if it is large or small, we take on additional spatial debt.  That becomes one more item to clean, transport, and eventually dispose of.  Larger items such as furniture can be as much of a burden as the smaller stuff.  Things like couches, TVs, computers and bookcases take up large amounts of space, but they are fairly limited in number.  My true nemesis is the boxes of papers which continually grow, generally filled with mail.  This is death by a thousand cuts, since combatting the swell of papers is a never ending battle which requires regular maintenance.  This is not a “one and done” task, but an exhausting, reoccurring event.

I finally cleared out the remains of several broken down entertainment centers which had been laying in my garage for a number of months.  The difficulty here was trying to dispose of the remains in a responsible way.  The remnants were mostly comprised of particleboard, which is not easily recyclable.  I scouted around at a couple of places which could reuse good pieces of wood.  “Good” being the keyword here, which particleboard and chipboard are not, pretty much being leftovers being glued and compressed to resemble a proper piece of wood.  Due to the glue and laminate, they are generally hazardous to burn, so throwing them into a fire pit was not a healthy or safe option.  I did finally find one place which takes various odds and ends, but it came at a cost of $50 per ton.  I could have just thrown the old entertainment centers away (or hope that the garbage trucks would take them), but they would just end up rotting in a dump, and I preferred that they would be handled in a more responsible fashion.

Still, even after these entertainment centers had outlived their usefulness, there was a debt incurred afterwards.  Until they were finally recycled, the junk took up space in the garage.  Once I did finally take care of them, it required time, money and effort to properly dispose of them.

Every time you think about getting something new, consider if you are willing to give up something else in trade.  Without continual maintenance, it becomes far too easy to let all of the “stuff” build up and transform from a simple molehill into a mountain.  This mountain represents your spatial debt, which can easily become overwhelming to handle.  It is best to never get yourself into this debt in the first place, but even if you are already facing the Sisyphean task of reducing the clutter, a good starting point is to stop adding onto the debt and then begin chipping away.  Much like losing weight, it is not a battle that will be quickly or easily won, but with the proper perseverance, that mountain will eventually be reduced back to a molehill.

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