how a stack of 78 rpm records led me to become a minimalist

In the summer of 2016, I became a frequent browser at yard sales. I didn’t buy a lot, I mainly sought out Lego, comics, and records. I picked up a few classics of my youth (my pre-teen years saw the end of the first age of vinyl).

Vinyl is uncommon in my neighborhood yard sales. The community is too new, having been built at the turn of the century. If records got moved to a new home, they were probably kept on purpose instead of hanging around through momentum.

One morning, as fall was coming on, I headed out for what I expected to be the last round of sales. I had a premonition that there were records to be found.

I walked into a garage and there they were, 11 binders of 78 rpms, over 100 records in total. From Big Band to Buddy Holly to Elvis. They had been owned by the seller’s late father and had been in storage for years. I bought up the lot for $50 and had to make two trips to get the heavy records home.

I sorted through this treasure. Carefully cleaned each one. And put them on the record player to explore and evaluate.

That changed the way I saw everything.

Music has become so ubiquitous that we sometimes don’t even notice it is around us. We are surrounded with radios, store muzak, satellite feeds, ipods on the ready.

It used to take effort to hear music. It took intention.

Putting on those 78s one by one. Hearing only one song before flipping it over. Choosing what came next. Having the tactile experience of moving it from binder to player to sleeve.

I was really hearing music for the first time in many years.

As I picked up more records, I tried to repeat this process. Avoiding playing with my phone or wandering while I listened. I heard elements on those songs I had never noticed in years of having them on shuffle.

Intentional music.

This was around the time Wifey and I had also shifted to Intentional Television – not channel surfing or “just having it on,” but making considered choices for every minute the television was going to be on.

Bringing clear intention and focus to these areas started spreading out into the rest of my time. If a hobby or project wasn’t bringing me joy,  move on. If a book wasn’t engaging, there is always another story waiting to be told.

Every time I place that needle on a record, I have to make several decisions and perform multiple actions. Each one a choice. Each one intentional.

Don’t leave your life on Shuffle or Repeat.

Drop the needle.