Life Long Reads


Physical detritus, its many forms, and the unending burden of its containment.

There is a class of object that, no matter where it happens to be initially placed, finds its way to the bottom. There it sits, like gravel, where—depending on its Mohs hardness—it is tumbled or ground into a fine dust. Fighting the descent into entropy demands constant vigilence. Periodically emptying bags, discarding trash, filtering the buildup of what can only be called detritus—much like the content of this site and its predecessor.

I found a powder that may once have been a wrapped stick of gum coating the bottom of my last messenger bag. It formed a seed, a katamari that went on to collect bits of lint, paperclips, batteries, and diphenhydramine tablets. I also discovered several semi-precious stones that had been polished smooth—although, come to think of it, that process was clearly started done long before they entered my possession.

My mom always echoed the idiom, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” As simple as it sounds, throughout my life that adage has proved far more aspirational than I would like. Of late, I have found a bit more motivation to put forth the considerable energy required to try and rectify that.

During this process, I came across a strap. A perfectly good strap to be sure, adjustable, made of a sturdy weave, and equipped on both ends with spring clasps. Clearly, it once attached to something, but what? Does the bag or luggage it belongs to even still exist? Will I one day find it, and think, “Ah, such a nice bag, it’s too bad the strap is missing,” and have to needlessly spend money to replace it?

I am reaching the stage of unboxing where I often find myself winnowing the rubble that has accumulated. Like a prosepctor panning for gold, I carefully sift through ever smaller boxes of objects. In some cases, it is clear where the contents should go; those are achieved immediately. Others are part of a category and can be collected for transfer to a different room (often in another box). Still others, however, have no clear place, or are stuck in a holding pattern until some other, larger task is completed. Acquiring a new piece of furniture, ordering a specialized container, or some other sundry item upon which progress fully depends.

Somehow, even among the bags of trash and recycling going out, I still need new items. I repeatedly find myself heading to a store (online or physical), returning with another armload of fasteners, components, or gadgets needed to make something or other function correctly.

I’ve wondered if ultra-compartmentalization could help the situation: If there are spaces with a single, specific purpose, it becomes clear where to store or find that object, and the space is less likely to attract random items.

I have not yet decided if there should be a dedicated location for straps.