Tis' the season to clean out your library

I embrace minimalism in all its forms—I will be the first to go on record and admit that I get the equivalent of a runner’s high from unfurling a Hefty bag and stuffing it full of superfluous knick knacks, books, and kitchen implements which have no functional or aesthetic purpose in my life. And my closet. My closet is so sparse and monochromatic it’s actually borderline embarrassing. I’ve been wearing the same v-neck black sweater for three days and so far no one has asked about it—which is good because that way I don’t have to lie about having washed it in between wears. You think I’m ritzy enough to do multiple loads of laundry in a week? What am I, an empress? But I digress. Essentially what I’m trying to get at here is that the sundry objects and items which define my existence, the material ingredients of my life, the heterogeneous mixture of stuff that makes up ME, can fit into exactly one suitcase, one carry-on, and three boxes—I’m talking clothes, kitchen stuff, shoes, books, etc. Everything. Drops minimalist mic, walks away.

While I pride myself on my ability to cold heartedly toss out birthday-gift magic sets, books I’ll never read again, and a blush-inducing number of crop tops from my more midriff-centric stage of life, one area where I have utterly failed to gods of minimalism is in my collection of music. Sure, I have ample space for adding more songs, enough that I do not necessarily have to purge my iTunes library of its existing contents to make room. But it’s the principle of the thing, and in order for me—and you—to reach our own neurotically-driven version of musical Nirvana, we must examine the utility and the beauty of the songs which we have collected throughout our lives. *Puts on Indiana Jones hat, cracks whip*

First of all, I believe the size of most music libraries is highly misleading. There are probably fifty songs in my own music collection that I listen to regularly, another fifty I listen to occasionally, another twenty or so I keep around ironically (see “Jump Around” by House of Pain), another fifteen or so I play when uptight old people ask me to put on music, and the rest is there because I never got around to deleting the rest of an album I downloaded or because I used to like said song and can no longer even tolerate it. These superfluous songs are easy to sort into metaphorical “keep” and “toss” bins. How many times have I listened to this song in the past year? Less than ten? Probably okay to toss. More than that? Maybe “This Is How We Do It” is worth the storage space it occupies as its kinda buzzed, and all because.

The worst reason to keep something around, however—and I will preface this by saying I am absolutely guilty of this too—is because of its aesthetic value. These, shall we say, “decorative songs” serve only to make you look cooler when your iPod is on shuffle or during that dreaded thirty second interchange when a friend or potential mate asks to look at your music, subtext, “judge your entire existence based on the first ten song names I see.”  Sure, I like Neutral Milk Hotel, but do I actively listen to “Three Peaches” on a regular enough basis to keep it on my iPod? Decidedly not.

Be realistic and ruthless—the two R’s of minimalism—and keep in mind that every song you toss is another you can add. So, to inspire you more, here are a few gems you can trade for a few duds. So throw out Chumbawumba and trade up, friend.


Performers Mentioned In This Article