What’s the return policy on nostalgia?

I’m a collector. Of lots of things. CDs, DVDs, books, receipts… Receipts?!?!

Alright, it’s not like I pick up random receipts off the ground or snag them from tables when people aren’t looking or go to trade shows to discuss the latest and greatest in receipts. I simply don’t throw them out. And I attempt to organize them. Attempt being the operative word.

It all started sometime in the mid-90s. I got ahold of a database to keep track of the CDs I purchased. It even had a place to record where and when you bought it along with the sale price and the regular price. For all of those anal retentive people out there who get giddy about keeping track of too much information I say SQUEE! Yes, for years I dutily entered all of this information in the database… and kept the receipts as… let’s just say backup.

But this habit spread. Why just CDs? Soon I was holding onto every receipt for books and DVDs just in case I got a database for them. Then I started thinking of the possibilities. Why not keep track of how much money I spent on clothes, food, or computers parts (which, sadly, may have been more than clothes or food)? And thus I started filing away every little carbon copy I got in preparation for the day that I would finally have the capability to search, sort, and calculate to my hearts content.

Fast forward, oh, let’s say 10 years. My filing system is… no longer a system. Every statement, bill, invoice, receipt, birth certificate, etc. is crammed into random drawers and boxes spread throughout a house that managed to double the amount of paperwork that was generated in the decade beforehand. In other words, it wasn’t working.

Sure, I started to go through things. I would check purchases at the end of some months and chuck any slips for patently ridiculous items – do I really need to remember when I bought those envelopes? But too many things remained – because I did need to remember the $1.09 I spent on a bottle of water… in HAWAI’I! Now we are faced with the task of preparing our humble abode for a small creature who looks to start moving about on her own and putting everything within reach directly in her mouth. Perhaps it is time I dispose of my most carbon and ink covered collection.

Since I’m obviously not going to just dump it all without going through the various piles and folders, a weird sense of nostalgia has crept up. The obvious ones are receipts from our honeymoon and other vacations – little reminders of what we did on this day or that (except for this one for 150 bucks that I cannot for the life of me figure out). But other things start evoking memories, too: my old TV from Nobody Beats the Wiz, liquor for the big New Year’s Eve Party, and the deposit slip for my second car! One of the oldest ones I recently threw out was a dinner with a girl I dated years before The Woman came along – but it was from a couple years before we dated. I do have a funny story from that night – but not one that requires to know the price of the meal.

The computer related ones are fun because every nerd loves reminiscing about the days when we bought RAM in 1 MB increments and were excited to add a 16 color monitor to our rig. My first DVD drive is in there, but not my enormous 420 MB hard drive from freshman year. 50 dollar video games for the Playstation can get a little depressing, but the memory of bringing that system back to my dorm room for the first time is cool.

But it’s probably the CD receipts that still bring back the most memories. I spent many Saturday afternoon meandering through the Village looking for obscure releases and used deals. Each piece of paper from a defunct shop is a jolt back to all the hours I spent browsing cramped aisles searching for some band I heard someone mention to someone else must be checked out. Etherea closed around ’98, but I’ve got proof that I was there! And the first time I brought Neutral Milk Hotel or Autechre home? Fantastic. How about that vinyl pressing of Kraftwerk or Glass Candy? So awesome.

But it’s time to realize that this little obsession has totally nerdified my best shot at hipsterdom. Off to the shredder we go!