How odd life is sometimes. The things we prized, craved, coveted at one time are now bereft of value, candidates for landfill. (Unfortunately, some Boomers feel this about themselves; sometimes I do myself.)
As I’ve written, I recently had to clean out my father’s independent-living apartment, as he made the transition to assisted living. It was an eye-opening experience – not just in the revelation that my father as a clothes horse, but my realization that it was time to start de-cluttering. There is no way I want to put anyone I love – heck, not even a total stranger – through the ordeal of wading through my stuff and figuring out what has value and what doesn’t.
But as often happens, revelations lead to other revelations. And that is that a whole lot of stuff the most boomers think has value … actually really, really doesn’t. Consider this a partial list.
Televisions. I remember vividly when my family got its second television set. This was an auspicious occasion because it meant that my sisters and I no longer had to argue about what we were going to watch. I also remember how cool it was when I bought my own first television set, my freshman year of college. At the time, my roommate criticized it as a passive waste of time, but that didn’t stop him from sneaking peeks at it when I wasn’t there – something I caught him at one day.
And yet today, television technology moves so fast that you can’t even give the puppies away. This is not a new phenomenon. When we moved into our first house in 1993, the late owner’s daughter left behind a console television set – the kind that was more a piece of furniture than a television – and promised to pick it up later. She never did. I called a family friend who was an expert in early television technology and asked if it was worth anything. “Only as a boat anchor,” he replied.
And sure enough, the last thing to come out of my father’s apartment was the television set. Everyone wants flat screens these days, with HD and 3D and probably other kinds of D that I don’t know about. Even the plywood-veneer bookshelves that had graced my childhood home went before it. I eventually had to pay a recycling service to come haul it away.
VHS Tapes. One drawback to new DVR technology I’ve noticed is that you can’t record something and then loan it to a friend, the way we could with VHS tapes. (Well, you can likely do it technically, but it’s probably illegal and definitely beyond my technical capabilities.) Even so, you can’t give away VHS tapes, which you can loan to friends. I know this because I found two unused ones in my own house, posted them on Freecycle.org, the reduce/reuse/recycle Web site is a wonderful way to meet scroungers, if those are the people you like to socialize with. Nobody, but nobody, wants them.
Old issues of MAD magazine. This list is not limited to technologically obsolete items. You can’t get rid of your old MAD magazines either. This will come as a big surprise to former teen-age boys who have a stash of well-read copies of the humor magazine that came out of New York City back in the day. But go onto eBay and you’ll see that everyone else kept their stashes as well, so there are 40-year-old issues going for less than one dollar each. And some of those in better condition from the Sixties have no bids and price cuts posted. The only ones that come close to being valuable are the ones that are pristine – which means you couldn’t have attempted the back-cover fold-in. Which, of course, we all did.
Toys. I’m trying to keep this a secret from the IRS, but I had cabinets built in my home office not for work materials, but to display my toy car collection. It’s my diecast heaven, not to mention a round-up of what are known as promos – plastic 1:43 scale cars that were both given away by dealerships during the baby boom and sold by companies like Jo-Han in cellophane-windowed boxes in toy stores.
My sweet spot, of course, are the years of my childhood when I lusted after cars – not the engines, mind you, but rather the changing designs. These, too, are widely available on eBay, and I’m growing increasingly confident that as my generation ages, there will be fewer and fewer people enamored of car models boasting obscene fins.
Perhaps the only saving grace is that I won’t be around to see somebody paid to haul all my toys and comics away. I just don’t think I could stand that.