Now that we’re fully into the New Year, and you’re still wanting to spiffy up from our messy last year, here’s an older post that is appropo. Enjoy!


Back in the heyday of the Obama presidency, when my construction business was imploding, we moved a couple hundred miles from our home near Seattle to the Tri-Cities, across the Cascades. From rain th dust. Outside of Seattle, we survived somehow in a mere 3,500square feet. The thought of moving everything daunted us, so we got crazy and sold stuff off as fast as we could list it on eBay or Craigslist. It was fun. We made a few bucks and found things thought long lost. Over the next couple of years, we did the same thing again twice when we moved to New York and then to South Carolina.

I’m still surprised at how little I miss my stuff. I’m more surprised that I don’t even remember anything we sold other than a few tools and my copy of the OED. Long nights, warmed by the fire, sitting with a cup of decaf and my dictionary – you know, great memories like that. We were saving stuff because we might need it one day, and we never did. And we never have since.

So, I’ve become a believer in less is more. Somehow having less stuff on the outside makes me feel less cluttered on the inside. There’s probably some wise old soul in the world who would have told me that and saved me the trouble.

Here are a few things that helped keep us on the narrow path of less:

  1. Get rid of your broken stuff. This one is a hard one for me. Like my Czech peasant Grandparents, I want to fix everything. This weekend. Between trips to the dump and the store and getting the girls new shoes. But the want never quite becomes a do. In lots of cases, it makes sense to just throw stuff out. Your closets and garage will thank you. Maybe your sanity, too.
  2. It really is good advice: if you haven’t used it in a year then get rid of it. Don’t throw out grandma’s old quilt but, really, that half-empty bag of lawn fertilizer? C’mon. You couldn’t break it with a sledge. Toss it.
  3. If you can buy it for the cost of two or three cups of coffee, then throw it away. I used to keep all kinds of stuff. I would buy a pack of two flashlight bulbs for two bucks but needed only one. The one left in the blister pack was like gold. I’d cart it from toolbox to toolbox and shuffle through stacks of other opened stuff trying to find anything. I admit this is still hard, but now I use what I need and throw the rest away. I feel like a wasteful American, but I don’t have space for it, and I’m tired of moving it. For this same reason, we don’t shop at Sam’s Club much. I don’t want four gallons of tomato sauce: it’s just more clutter unless you’ve got an industrial-sized pantry. Use what you need and throw the rest away. I’ve been slowly shifting our mindset from that of rushing out to buy what we need or want to taking time to buy things that are useful and bring us some joy, ala Marie Kondo. We could buy any old pan for cooking, but love our Le Creuset pots. Just using them makes me happier. They feel good and they’re easy to control. And I like purchasing something nice rather than just buying whatever fits the bill.
  4. Give stuff away. First I called anyone who gave us things to see if they wanted it back. Most of them laughed and said they got rid of it to clean up. So we gave things to food banks or charities where they could either give it away or sell it.
  5. An educational note for those who have never sold things: you know that hardcover copy of Steven King’s Carrie that you’ve been lovingly dusting and ‘curating’ for the last twenty years? It’s worth about fifty cents if you can find anyone to buy it. Maybe a quarter. We found that a great sale is twenty percent of what you paid. Expect five to ten, and you won’t be disappointed. No one is trying to offend you – they just don’t want your junk unless you’re giving it away.
  6. Another educational note: use some street-smarts here. I asked only one person to come to my house to look at something I couldn’t move. Other than that, I asked prospective buyers to meet me at a local store. It was easier for them and safer for me.

So clean up a bit. Start with a drawer or a room – no rule says you have to go top to bottom all at once. Your brain will feel better.


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