Clean up the junk – your brain will thank you for the peace of mind.

Time to Move

Back in the heyday of Obama’s presidency, when my construction business imploded, the family moved a couple hundred miles from our home near Seattle. In Seattle, we eked out a meager living in a mere 3,500 square feet of 1950s coziness and had to give it up. I hated to see this wonder go. The siding and roofing, if you can believe it, were original. The gal who built the house, now an eighty-year-old waif, said it was hewn from Western Red Cedar felled on the lot and hand-split by her sons. Some of the shakes still showed a two-inch butt.  I met the sons after we moved in, and they agreed they spent the entire summer as teenagers splitting that darned cedar and bathing in its smoky aroma.

But the most fun? A salmon stream meandered through the front acre, shaded by douglas firs and blueberry bushes big enough to hide a car behind. When the salmon spawned, the boys would meet up with the neighbor kids and point to the biggest salmon.

“That’s the one. If anyone catches him, they get to be king for the day.”Salmon

In a mad rush, they careened into the water, and the race was on. Crescent Lake was three miles upstream, and everyone knew that once the big salmon hit the lake, he was gone. Each boy in, turn, would jump on the fat fish, twenty pounds of muscle flapping its tail until it squirted out like a scared piglet. It could take an hour to make it to the lake, and only once or twice did they ever catch a fish, the boys admitted. But it was the glory of every summer day.

So, my wife and I were moving from this idyllic spot to the windy and sandy desert across the mountains.

The mere thought of moving everything numbed the mind, so we got a little crazy and started selling 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, moving to New York, and then again to South Carolina.

Less is More, Really.

I’m surprised at how little I miss my stuff. I’m more surprised that I remember nothing 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 caught ourselves saving stuff because we might need it one day, and we never did. We never have since.

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

Junky Basement
It’s not mine, but close…

Some Rules for Getting Rid of Stuff

In an attempt to be that wise soul, here are a few things that helped keep us on the narrow path of less:

  1. Is it broken? Then get rid of it. This one is a hard one for me. I want to fix everything. You know. Recycle it. This weekend. Between trips to the dump and the store and getting the girls new shoes. But the want rarely converts over to the do. In lots of cases, it just makes sense to throw stuff out. Your closets and garage will thank you. Maybe your sanity, too. You’ll feel like you just kicked the earth in the shin, but you’ll get over it when you see the floor again.
  2. It really is good advice: if you haven’t used it in a year, then get rid of it. You don’t have to throw out grandma’s old quilt but, really, that half-empty bag of lawn fertilizer? You couldn’t break it with a sledge. Toss it.
  3. If you can buy it new for the cost of two or three cups of coffee, throw it away. I used to keep all kinds of stuff. I would buy a pack of flashlight bulbs for two bucks and use 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. Now I buy and 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 rarely shop at Sam’s Club. I don’t need four gallons of tomato sauce. It just clutters things up unless you’ve got an industrial-sized pantry. Use what you need and throw the rest away.
  4. We’re 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 happy. They feel good. They’re easy to control. And it makes purchasing something more enjoyable rather than just going out to buy whatever fits the bill. And hey – who wants to cook on green stuff from China?
  5. Give stuff away. First, I called anyone who gave us stuff to see if they wanted it back. They laughed and said they got rid of to clean up. So we gave things to food banks or charities where they could either give it away or sell it to purchase things new. It feels good to hope that a down-and-out family can actually use that stuff. It feels right.
  6. 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 or so 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.
  7. On another educational note: be smart. We sold only one or two things at our house. For everything else, we met in the parking lot of a grocery store. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I feel weird inviting people over to my house to snoop through my junk.

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.


Thanks so much for reading. Can you think of anyone who could do some cleaning up? Please mail the post to them or share it with your favorite social media icons below. And won’t you follow me? You can do so in the sidebar. Thanks again! And feel free to comment!

One thought on “Clean up the junk – your brain will thank you for the peace of mind.

  1. Love this post! After moving so many times I’ve come to realize that the material things I’ve treasured really aren’t treasures after all and what truly matters in my life is a short phone call away,or is sitting in the living room playing with her toys, or sleeps next to me at night. These are the things to treasure, not the ten dollar vase I found at a garage sale or even the one hundred dollar painting that now has a ripe in the center from a recent move.

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