These days it's easy to cull photographs. You just delete the ones that make you look fat and keep the rest on your computer. But what about old photographs, the ones from the dark mists of time when people used to actually print them out on paper? Every household inhabited by people born before 1995 still has at least one box of unsorted photos that no one can throw away because, hell, it's history, man! You can't throw it out!
Look at that cellphone! We have to document this.
So instead we keep the photos in boxes and tell ourselves we're going to do something with them one day. Maybe we'll even put them into scrapbooks. In a hundred years' time, people will find our organized photos and be impressed with our historical record keeping and our awesome scrapbook with its two-page spread on Cousin Ellie's First Food Poisoning.
Why It's Bullshit:
Much like books, photographs were way more valuable when nobody had many of them. For a long time, photographs were so inconvenient that people just didn't take that many. Just a few generations ago, you might inherit less than half a dozen pictures of your beloved deceased grandmother. Nowadays, Grandma takes more photos just to document her trip through the airport in New Jersey.
"And here's the sink after the nice lady cleaned up Grandpa Elmer's accident with the Mexican food."
Sure, keep the 90,000 pictures your great-grandparents left behind if you want: They're not hard to store. Just don't expect anyone else to be interested in most of them, not unless you pull off some mighty fine scrapbooking.
#1. Stuff That Might Be Useful
We live in a horribly wasteful society, and it's hard to shake the guilt of casually tossing Earth's precious resources into a landfill. So if we see a family member or roommate throwing away unused plastic forks or spare buttons or empty boxes, many of us respond with "Don't throw that out! Someone could use that!" and then squirrel the item away in a drawer somewhere.
"Yes, you can throw away the rest of the body, but who knows when we'll need a kidney?"
Why It's Bullshit:
Recently, I helped clean out the house of an elderly couple who grew up during the Great Depression. These people weren't hoarders, but they were certainly knocking on the hoarding door: The place was so stuffed that a well-fed individual could not move through some of the rooms without knocking over furniture. Now, these people weren't slobs. They had a complicated organization system for all their absolutely useless shit. We found, among other things, a box of pen lids, a bag of old shoe insoles, a whole shelving system for different flavors of expired gelatin powder, and a huge, teetering pile of carefully washed takeout containers.
If the couple had thrown out this shit before, a lot of it could have avoided ending up in a dumpster. Much of the household goods could have been donated if they'd done it 30 years ago. Unfortunately, they held on to the stuff instead, and very few people want to inherit ancient burnt-orange salad bowls or dusty '90s jeans.
Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte
"Here's some dead batteries and a partially used box of Depends. Nothing is too good for the poor."
And it gets worse. When you're clearing out a house, you've got a limited amount of time to get rid of all the shit in there. When you have entire rooms of crap packed to the ceiling, you can't take a year off work while carefully separating everything that might be recyclable. Most recycling centers also have fees and limits to how much stuff you can dump, so a lot of recyclable stuff also ended up in a dumpster, just because nobody had the time or money to sort it properly. This couple's desire not to waste anything led to a lot of shit unnecessarily going to waste.
Obviously, not many of us are at the elderly quasi-hoarder stage yet. But the lesson remains: If you're too guilt-ridden from watching Captain Planet as child to be able to toss your household crap outright, you should at least set aside the time to take it to a thrift store or a recycling depot or something. Don't keep it in your house, or one day all that shit will be on a one-way train to Landfill City. Plus, if you die tomorrow in a freak pug-puppy-pile suffocation accident, your relatives will appreciate it.