Banksy postcard found in a box, circa 2006.
I travel a lot for work. Until the pandemic, I was usually on the road every week or so, producing creative user research all over the world. While my current career was not what I ever imagined I would do, I’ve received deep fulfillment from working in an impactful role in tech and I genuinely spark off the world of user-centered design research. In the past 2 years or so, I’ve become a pro traveler and in fact loved being on the road all the time. I had finally accomplished my goal of living minimally in a suitcase with a full portable painting kit, seeing the world beyond LA, but still being able to return often to see my husband, family and friends.
But when you travel so much, it’s very easy for your home life to literally fall apart. When I am home, I spend time with people, not with my past. Life tasks like home repair or even laundry feel daunting. And for many years, perhaps a decade, my parents have been asking me to clean out their garage. Once a year, at Thanksgiving, they’ll make a joke about how maybe next year I’ll do it, and we’ll all nervously laugh and look at each other giggling and nodding, and await to repeat the same joke the next year.
Inside their garage exists an archive of my life from say 1984-2010. It’s like a time capsule of growing up in Los Angeles, with youth culture magazines, books, photos, club flyers, short stories, postcards and cds. (The records have always been with me.) I kept everything I thought relevant, because I could.
My entire family are keepers. My mother has every book she has ever read that she has bought, and an unrivaled collection of magazines about screenwriting. (We have a lot of books. Thousands. Thankfully, my mother got a library card along the way.) My father has every yearbook from every year of his education career; my younger brother has every issue of Sports Illustrated since he was 10 alongside a large collection of sneakers he has worn. In the garage, we also have my dead maternal grandmother’s collection of swing and soul ballad tapes, and my dead paternal grandmother’s collection of itchy wool afghans. My grandfathers must have both been minimalists because I barely have a photo of each of them, let alone any of their stuff.
Coming from a passionate family of maximalists, I believed at a young age that my stuff had biographical value, and that if an object possessed a story, it was worth holding onto. And I’m still holding on.
But the pandemic has done something miraculous. It’s forced me to realize what is materially important – and that is space and the ability to make things. So I’ve been deep into the COVID cull, a large beautiful purge. When the recycle bin is full and the shredder is overheating, there are some artifacts I’ve found that are not just worth keeping, but digitizing.
More to come.