I Can’t Throw Stuff Away

I grew up in a small apartment, in a development of 2,300 apartments, in Flushing, Queens, New York City.

There is no one who grew up there who really thinks of it as New York City. Sure, you vote for the mayor and go to New York City schools, but it’s a bus and subway to get to Manhattan… and it’s Manhattan that’s called “The City.”

Queens, and its sister borough Brooklyn, are both on Long Island. Yet when we’d venture to Nassau County, we’d say we were going to “The Island.”

Flushing in general and Queens in particular have an inferiority complex – some of which is well deserved.

Our apartment, 5E, was tiny. For my sister, our parents, and me, we had two small bedrooms, a microscopic kitchen, dinette, living room and bathroom. There was no closet space to speak of.

The apartment, with only a northern exposure, had no direct sunlight. My bedroom window looked out on a fire escape, which overlooked a huge parking lot. In the distance I could see the Throgs Neck Bridge.

As a child, before air conditioning was allowed in the apartment complex, we’d leave our windows wide open in the summer, hoping for a breath of air. The slow, lumbering, propeller driven planes of that age would rattle the building while taking folks much higher in the social strata to La Guardia Airport.

We weren’t well to do. In our section of Queens I never knew a doctor or lawyer or professional. These were working people, many union craftsmen, some laborers.

Anything we kept that couldn’t fit in a closet was moved into position along the wall of the single hallway that connected our rooms. My mother had a sewing machine, and it snuggled against the wall where the hallway met the dining room. It didn’t seem like the walls were closing in – they actually were, as we accumulated more stuff.

Still, we did accumulate things over time. I believe my folks were adverse to throwing anything away. Helaine tells me I still have some of that pack rat mentality.

This is a really long way to go to tell you what I just did… and I apoolgize. I cleaned out the email folders on my computer. For me, that was a painful decision and process.

I don’t like throwing anything away.

First, I backed up all my messages to a DVD-R. There’s now 3.5 GB of penis enlargement ads, Nigerian scams, viewer mail and important correspondence on that disk, and I have no idea if I could re-import it if necessary! Still, I couldn’t do what followed without that first step.

I wiped out everything in my deleted folder that was put there prior to July. It wasn’t too much – NOT! I have just deleted 38,660 messages. There are still over 9,000 left in the deleted folder.

Tomorrow (I’m getting tired right now), I will purge my sent messages. I guess I’ll, again, arbitrarily pick a date a started chopping. The sent folder has 14,788 messages.

Why do I save them all?

Every once in a while, I’ll look for an email to find an address or remember what someone had said to me (or vice versa). Over time, as with apartment 5E, the walls have started to close in. My computer became more and more sluggish when I had to load the deleted folder. Often, it wouldn’t let me directly read what I had searched for, because the database had used so much memory.

Like my folks, as the boxes piled up, I worry that I’ve thrown out some gem. Hopefully, it won’t be a rude awakening.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *