Breaking Up is Hard to Do

We struggle to say goodbye to random keys or National G’s
Postscript Art Econ20

From our early years, we humans tend to accumulate stuff. Trinkets, toys, mementos, books and more. Keeping these items can make some sense. Some may have sentimental value. But how about things we might need someday; things we are going to repair someday; and things, such as keys, whose usefulness we are not sure of, but hate to toss just in case we might need them someday?

Comedian George Carlin did a sketch in which he said, “Your house is just a place for your stuff. If you didn’t have so damn much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. All your house is, is a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”

Stuff stuffed into a drawer or a box or on a shelf somewhere becomes crap. Crap has many dictionary definitions including cheap or shoddy material, miscellaneous or disorganized items, clutter, etc. Mostly it’s stuff that once had some useful, monetary or sentimental value, but now generally has inertia or familiarity serving to keep it around.

Mini-storage is a sizeable and growing business in this country. Everywhere, it seems, former discount stores or other big boxes have been subdivided into storage lockers of various sizes, which are rented to people who need a place to store their stuff. Therein lie countless thousands of old copies of National Geographic magazine.

People pay a couple of hundred dollars a month or more to store things that they haven’t looked at for a while and won’t use for a while (if ever), but can’t seem to part with. It’s easier to pay the money than sort and dispose of useless stuff. Sound familiar?

Stuff that has become crap tends to surface when you decide to do some serious sorting and cleaning of a purse, briefcase, bookshelf, top dresser drawer or garage.

I recently went through my bookshelf for the first time in months — OK, years to be honest — and rediscovered a high school yearbook from 1958, the class prior to mine. I look at it once every five years or so and wonder why I’m keeping it.

How about manuals (and software) for old computer games that won’t run on my current computer? Why are they still here?

I have a 2,230-page unabridged dictionary I bought cheap 20 years ago and a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus. Haven’t opened either one in years, because I can Google what I need, but they’re on the shelf.

There are 10-year-old guidebooks from European trips plus partially read books I never got back to and books I’ve never read. Well, they don’t take up much space.

How about you? Got any crap you keep although you don’t need it?

Want to cut down on the clutter? Try the six-and-six test. It’s just two questions. As you organize, pick up each item and ask yourself, “Have I used this in six months?” If the answer is “yes,” dust off the item. It can stay.

If the answer to the first question is “no,” ask yourself, “Will I use this in six months?” If the answer is “yes,” it can stay. If the answer is “no,” get rid of it. No exceptions.

Admittedly, this is severe, but it works. I used this technique once when I moved. It’s amazing how compact my pile of stuff became. Exceptions may be made for items of importance such as tax and legal documents and for drawings by grandkids because they are, well, precious. But guard against exception creep.

I probably should do the six and six test again, but I’m not planning to move for a while and there still is a little space in the garage.

Categories: Ideas