Old “Stuff” Never Dies – It Just Lays Around

And, lay around, in my office, essentially means “forever.”  At least that is what my wife says when she sees me looking through my files and “stuff” related to hearing.  I’m often asked when I’m going to throw some of that “stuff” away.  And, to add to my foolishness, I have already invested a small fortune in paying for its travels around the USA (Kansas, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arizona, Utah) and have given it more air time that most pilots get.  A very small sample of what I am talking about is shown in the photo taken from the “occupants” of only one, of many small containers.

My Dilemma

I read somewhere that one should get rid of everything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or joyful.  This creates a real dilemma for me when it comes to what I keep in my hearing-related boxes, files, and drawers.  Much of it isn’t useful (until I need it), beautiful (I haven’t found many people tell me that the old journals I keep around here are beautiful), and joyful (I can’t think of a single day where I threw a party for what I have laying around).

So, I have been attempting to utilize a few other more practical suggestions related to my “stuff.”

  1. Can I sell any of this?  I’m open to offers, but I won’t hold my breath.  Who would be interested in purchasing a few hundred earmolds made on Asian ears that were used to compare to earmolds made on a US Caucasian population?  Or, what about a slightly used nasal hair clipper used to trim hairy ears?  What about some hearing magazines/journals such as Fenestra, Beltone Translations, Journal of Auditory Research, Hearing DigestAudecibel, early issues of The Hearing Dealer and The Hearing Aid Journal, among others?  Libraries don’t even want these anymore because they are going electronic.  But, if I throw them out, will these sources of history be lost forever?  And, what about the collection of very old hearing aids I have – some of a one-in-a kind?  Would you like a Western Electric hearing aid, or an Aurex, the only aurisculostomy instrument, etc.?  Where is a good place for these where they will be preserved for history?  The Kent State University museum is a possibility, but what happens when the University no longer has the space or funds to keep it going?
  2. Can I give any of this away?  I recall that when Sam Lybarger died (the father of hearing aids), much of his significant and historical files could find no higher educational facility repository.  So, if his significant “stuff” could not find a home, I can only imagine what mine might be used for.  The thought of having to pay someone to haul this off reminded of a Henny Youngman saying about how his neighbor got rid of his trash without paying – he would wrap it up and put it in the back of an unlocked car. I’m just afraid of the repercussion after they find out what they got.
  3. Do I need to keep this?  This is a difficult one.  I am finding more and more people coming to me asking about information from the early days in audiology and the hearing aid industry, and it seems that I am one of the few people who still has some of this “stuff.”  Name the topic.  I remember a now-deceased colleague of mine often saying, “If you can’t find something you are looking for, check with Wayne.”
  4. When did I last use this?  This follows the definition of trash as being something you keep for years, finally throw it away, and then need it the next day.  So, I keep much of what I have because I “might” use it someday.  I actually do have a number of things that I could throw out but I’m afraid that someone else might pick them up.
  5. Why did I keep this?  This is a very good question in light of a letter I came across the other day.  It was a letter I had received from a new graduate audiology student in his first job, and following a presentation I had given at an Ontario Speech and Hearing Association meeting.  He wrote: “To say the least, it was quite an interesting talk, yet rather disheartening.  In a different form, much of what you presented was not new, but many of the audiologists who I spoke with thought it was.  Talks like the one that you gave seem to serve two purposes.  One is information dissemination and the other is revitalizing the “creative neurons” that we have.  For both reasons, especially the latter, I thank you.”  Sincerely, Marshall Chasin, M.Sc, 1981.  The real questions is, why did I ever save this?????  It’s bad enough that I ended up collaborating with him on a book, wrote a couple of “interesting” short fun articles together, and even now, have to put up with him every week on this HHTM blog site as one of my colleague editors.
The Real Problem

The real problem with stuff is that it can make us feel bad.  It is a constant reminder of fading hopes about what we might one day do with it, taunts us with our obvious inability to manage it, and gives us the ominous sense that we’re losing track of something crucial, either in the physical mess of stuff itself, or in the mental mess it creates in our heads.  Stuff also seldom has a home.  Items of stuff are transients, surviving day-by-day in a temporary stack somewhere that constantly changes with each movement of materials, filed in a box in the garage, or sleeping in the darkness of a junk drawer – never certain of their fate or purpose.  And, unknown to the owner, a particularly fortunate piece might be hibernating in a half-full cardboard box in a storage room with some other hard-luck outcasts.

Another problem with stuff is that it does not earn its keep.  Just ask some of my old non-functional hearing aids.  Because they are chronically disabled, I can’t keep them busy.  Still, I allow them to mill about in drawers and boxes with well-employed digital hearing aids and accessories.  One might say that I am too insecure and sentimental to boot them out, but maybe one day, by some unlikely turn of events, they may become relevant again.  I have to be careful, and not be too hasty in making these decisions.

What caused me to expound on “stuff” with such consternation?  It was because the other day I looked in only one small drawer of many that I have and found the “stuff” in the photo shown above.  The photo below spreads it out for better viewing.  In my next blog I will describe just what I had in that drawer alone, and let you help me decide what I should throw out just from this small container alone.  And if I am to keep something, what should I do with it?  In truth, even you, the reader, may not be able to help me.  Still, it could be a fun exercise.  And imagine, this is just from one of the many smaller containers.  The real savings comes when larger items are discarded.

Hearing aid stuff

About Wayne Staab

Dr. Wayne Staab is an internationally recognized authority on hearing aids. As President of Dr. Wayne J. Staab and Associates, he is engaged in consulting, research, development, manufacturing, education, and marketing projects related to hearing. Interests away from business include fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, golf, travel, tennis, softball, lecturing, sporting clays, 4-wheeling, archery, swimming, guitar, computers, and photography. Among other pursuits.

3 Comments

  1. Actually I have a Radial Arm saw in need of a good home myself!

    With today’s tools I find I use it less often, perhaps is like audiology, the old methods still work…but sometimes the newer ideas are more interesting ;)

  2. Steve:
    At least you have been helpful in taking care of my Zwislocki coupler for me. That is one less item here. Do you need a radial arm saw?

  3. Wayne,

    I feel your pain!

    I remember giving a presentation years ago at one of Marshall’s annual Seminars On Hearing in which I began the presentation by placing a 12 pack of beer on the podium… I then proceeded to give the entire presentation and at the end asked if there were any further questions. A hand went up and inquired about the beer….I replied that if we took the silicon chips out of the 5 million HAs made that year you could fit them nicely within the space occupied by the beer in the 12 pack! …OK so it was during the analog days and chips were smaller, but it was really a reflection on how small this industry is (an still is despite all this really cool technology).

    All the above was a really long winded way of suggesting you remind your loving wife that “at least your hoarding habits” will fit easily within the confines of a van!….or perhaps a motor home if you’re really addicted.

    I’m sure if there comes a time you really do need the space we’ll find a way to save your treasures :)

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