Keep it Light

It’s time to engage in some spring cleaning for your soul that will last all summer long.

Anybody who’s taken a tour of some of the top reality shows on TV these days should be a little worried about how much crap we tend to collect. From Storage Wars to Hoarders to American Pickers to Pawn Stars and even Antique Roadshow, it seems as if we are a culture that is obsessed with accumulating other people’s stuff (i.e., trash). So much so that I wouldn’t be surprised to see new shows with titles like Dumpster Divers, Landfill Surfers and What’s Under the Bus Seat? premiering this fall, just to continue capitalizing on our waste-based near archaeological frenzy to pick up what other people throw out.

Sure it’s part sentiment—and psychosis—that makes us want to hunt down old comic books, classic albums, baseball cards and Barbie dolls, taking us back to the lemonade haze of a past that might have even preceded us. But it’s also a bit of a cop-out on really living life, I think, surrounding ourselves with a kind of pillow fort of garbage to try to keep the real questions, joys and epiphanies of existence from occupying too much of our thoughts. I know everyone feels immortal the minute the needle drops on their scratchy old copy of the Stones Exile on Main Street, or the Ramones’ Blitzkreig Bop, but that’s the magic of rock and roll, to feel forever imminent, especially while everything else we keep squirreling away is harvesting rust.

In my own life, I have been starting to feel suffocated by the sheer weight of unused gear, unread books and unworn clothes clogging my cupboards, closets, garage and office. So I recently embarked on a kind of conspicuous consumption cleansing in the hopes of simultaneously clearing my head and my house—not with a garage sale, of course, putting all our trash in the driveway for our neighbors to eyeball our old Tupperware and socks, but with regular trips to the St. Vincent De Paul thrift store, the homeless shelter and the wastepaper basket. Here’s a little summary of five things that are now out of my life (and what I learned from throwing them out):

The “Spare” Camping Equipment

Two backpacks, one tent, five water bottles, four pairs of socks, three fuzzy mid-layers and a very puffy parka went to my local homeless shelter this spring. Why? Because if you see someone camping out on your own city streets this week, it’s not the result of some urban outdoor adventure challenge or Occupy Anything. It’s because without a house, a lot of people have pared down what they “hoard” to what they can carry on their backs. And I bet plenty of funhogs across the Rockies could quickly clean out a bit of closet space by donating what might become an essential element to someone else. Lesson learned?  It isn’t “gear” if you aren’t using it.

The Mini Ski Museum

Over my entire lifetime, I have only thrown out two pairs of skis, both of which were bent like straws and splintering their wood cores through broken sidewalls like they were dispensing toothpicks. The rest have either been given away, or were holding private garage space displays in a personal museum to my own lift-riding life. I briefly thought about building a fence with them, but I am starting to think that’s become the redneck ski bum’s version of letting cars rust in fields off the Interstate. So the Fischer RC4 207s (still wrapped in plastic), the Atomic Metrons, original Dynastar Legends and the tele-mounted Tuas—all of which are still skiable!—are now waiting at your neighborhood thrift store just in case you need some rock boards for the fall, or are starting your own fence project and need a few spare slats. Lesson learned? If you didn’t ski them this season, you won’t.

40 CDs I Never Should Have Bought

Right to the thrift store went all of the blues, jazz and dance music that never made me earthier, more urbane or kickstarted the shake-your-booty-party at my house. I’m hoping they’ve already found a home with someone with a little deeper sense of taste. Besides, with all of the streaming radio, downloadable songs, Pandora and instant gratification of YouTube videos that I can listen to on demand now, I’ve found that what remains in my continually dwindling CD collection seems to be aimed at embracing my un-escapable whiteness, including country, rock and country-rock from the likes of Gram Parsons, The Dead, Bob Dylan, The White Stripes, Neil Young, Tom Petty and the Clash. Lesson learned? It’s not music until you play it.

Books

Seriously, this whole Kindle, iPad, on-demand evolution has completely screwed up how I think about books. Especially since it’s only been six years since I built a bookcase in homage to the dozens of resourceful tomes, epic coffee table sized photo journals, and deathless prose novels that I wanted to give a rightful place in their own Panthenon of print. As for actually peeling those paperbacks off their pedestal though, it turns out there were a lot of titles I could do without—but that somebody else can do with, I hope. Particularly when it comes to raising Labrador Retrievers, nature poetry and cocktail-mixing how-tos—tomes I’m sure no LoDo or BolDo apartment, cottage or loft-dweller could ever do without. Lesson learned: Books are just bookends, until someone opens them up.

The Khakis and Black Socks

Sometime in college, or even high school, when it seemed as if the world was hellbent on grooming me for some white collar, office-bound life, I started thinking that I should look the part. And I ended up with quite a few pairs of khakis, white dress shirts and black socks. But outside of weddings or Christmas Eve, I can’t think of another time I put on a tie. And as for ever having an actual office job, I don’t, and I won’t. So for anybody out there heading for grad school this fall, embarking on a life in retail or hawking health insurance, there’s an unworn pile of dress pants—some complete with the stretchable waistband if you start packing on the pounds—on sale at the St. Vincent De Paul store for way cheaper than you can get at Wal-Mart. Lesson learned: You can’t be who you ain’t.

Sitting here now in my flip-flops, shorts and sunbleached blue hoody, I doubt anyone other than me would notice how much baggage I have been able to jettison. And looking around, I’m already trying to decide what to get rid of next. Because I already feel freer, less burdened and even more content somehow, and more ready than ever to just enjoy being outside in nature where it seems like nothing is ever wasted. And isn’t that what summer in the Rockies is all about?

EO editor-at-large Peter Kray is an East High School graduate who married a Cherry Creek girl. He keeps a framed copy of John Elway’s Broncos rookie card next to his wedding photo. He is also co-founder of the Gear Institute (gearinstitute.com), focusing on professionalizing gear testing for gear consumers and outdoor industry professionals.

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