Saturday, January 12, 2013


The late science fiction writer Philip K. Dick coined a word for it: kibble, he called it, which is to say the gradual accumulation of...stuff. We've all seen this happen -- how once empty rooms over time build up a collection of knick knacks, odds and ends, and just plain old junk. It's a tangible expression of the law of entropy, that systems tend towards greater disorder over time.

I'm no stranger to kibble. I've seen its effects. When I moved into my rented studio condominium in Manila, it started out bare; when I moved back to Davao two years later, I packed away the equivalent of two balikbayan boxes. This, despite the occasional cargo-laden trips back home the year before to unload my room of junk.

So where did all that junk end up? Home, of course, or in my case, redistributed to Davao and Dumaguete. Because that’s one of the rules of kibble: in a perversion of the rule of conservation of energy, kibble can never be destroyed, only moved. Up to now I have kibble that still makes the occasional journey between Davao and Dumaguete.

Repeated resolutions to moderation haven't really helped. Kibble is just that persistent, an inescapable law of the universe. This year, though, I'm taking another stab at it. The motivation stems from Christmas spring cleaning that the family undertook to clear out the ancestral home. We carted out several boxes worth, accumulated over the years, and yes, I recognized a substantial chunk of it as mine.

The spring cleaning exercise gave me a chance to see my kibble habits at work. Kibble is different for everyone, and my affliction seems to come in three categories: books, toys, and office supplies.

I could go in-depth with each one, but likely you already know the pattern. You go to some shop, and something catches your eye. You don't really need it, not right now at any rate, might! Someday, soon! And the price, it's on sale! Think of the savings! Too good to pass up, and besides you have that little bit of pin money. You satisfy the urge and voila! Kibble!

I saw how pathetic my obsessions had become when, from that spring cleaning, I uncovered a box with unused notebooks, yellow pads, and dried-up glue sticks. I think I must have bought those ten years ago. Maybe more.

Faced with this waste, I decided to take drastic action. This year, I'm taking on an extreme new year's resolution regarding my personal purchases. It goes like this:

I will only buy services and consumables.

Yes, it's rather bold, and I'll be lucky to last the length of January before I break. So far, though, the principle has saved me on several occasions from when I might have bought some useless novelty. It's also forced me to look into my stash for anything I needed.

If I do succeed, though, I'll have gone the entire year with zero physical intake into my life. Then I can say I'm finally making headway in the war against kibble.