Turning 60, pondering the rest of my life, I decided to stop accumulating stuff and start getting rid of it. Gradually and timed perfectly so the last thing is gone the moment I am.
I’m not a hoarder — to the contrary, a bit of a neatnik — which only makes me more obsessed about clearing the decks.
In his monologue about stuff, which I remember because I’m 60, George Carlin said, “the meaning of life is trying to find a place to put your stuff.” And “a house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”
I’m done with all that. I want my stuff out.
But it’s not easy getting rid of stuff.
People have mounds of books and magazines piling up offering advice on how to avoid having mounds of books and magazines piling up.
Real Simple magazine is chockablock with ads for tons of stuff you can buy and fill your home with to simplify your life.
Container Store sells containers for your containers, and containers for those. So even if you’re a candidate for the A&E Hoarders reality series, at least your stuff is neat and put away, contained Russian nesting dolls of stuff you’ll never use and forgot you had.
For those needing help getting rid of stuff, here are some ideas:
Hand it out on Halloween
You know the books that line our shelves we maybe once read and if so never will again? Why keep ‘em? Share the joy of knowledge.
The look on a kid’s face when he opens his Halloween loot bag and you toss in a dog-eared paperback of Portnoy’s Complaint you bought used for 35 cents for freshman English 40 years ago is priceless.
Many children have never seen a book. Or even know who Philip Roth is or the fact that he’s still alive. Philistines.
Or you can hand out your collection of bunny tchotchkes that multiplied like real bunnies because you once had a bunny tchotchke on your desk a colleague gave you and after that people who didn’t know what to get for your birthday thought you loved bunny tchotchkes. When in fact you hate them because they seem to be grinning at you in derision.
Consider also clearing your cabinets of company logo coffee mugs, fund-raiser tote bags and trade show swag, which FYI stands for “Stuff We All Get” and inexplicably save.
Or if parents are driving the Halloween kids around, you can unload some broken lamps or that blown-out Barcalounger, driftwood coffee table, and toys based on forgotten characters from Disney movies no longer available on Netflix or even on DVD at the library.
When ex-spouse leaves with the split marital property, you’re halfway to a simpler life. My god, look at the closet space!
Instead of accepting wedding gifts, give stuff back from the first time around.
You never used the bread maker, ice cream maker, yogurt maker, punch bowl set or chafing dishes they gave you in the first place.
And maybe the gifters are starting over again too, lost half their stuff and need to replace it.
Move or renovate
You definitely have to clear out stuff, and there’s nothing like desperation to help with hard choices.
The clothes that fail the one-year test, are perfect except for a little stain, or make you look like you don’t care how you look? Gone.
That wooden tennis racket with the busted strings or 7-iron actually made of iron? Out.
Broken printers, old keyboards, corrupted desktop computers, and boxes of unidentifiable and useless wires, remotes and other electronic whatnot? Buh-bye.
Any laptop before 2016? Ctrl-alt-delete.
Children who moved back home after college? Time to launch.
Moving or renovating might be the only way to get rid of them. Foreclosure and a sheriff’s padlock is another option.
Stop The New Yorker, please, for God’s sake
Yes, I know: This is like stopping the relentless beast in “Alien” or the sequels and prequels.
The New Yorker inexorably just keeps coming and coming, week after week, filled with beautifully written, must-read articles with adverbs you have to look up like “inexorably.”
You want to wallow in every issue — not just the cartoons that make you feel stupid because you don’t get them but also the fascinating 20,000-word articles on the history of carburetion — but you can’t keep up. You can’t throw them away — they’re literature. You can’t wallpaper your bathroom with the covers unless your fun décor ideas are stuck in the 1980s.
Stop the madness, save a forest, and just get the online version.
Have a garage/yard sale
No. Forget it.
Unless you want to make 10 cents an hour for all the time you put into them, lack shame in laying out your old, dusty, stained, worn-out, useless effluvia for all the world to dig through and mock, and wind up bringing the stuff back inside and giving it to Purple Heart or Salvation Army. Which you should do in the first place.
The only upside is watching neighbors inadvertently buy back crap you bought a while back at their garage sales.
Or if someone loads up on your stack of old New Yorkers.
On a similar note, you could make 10 cents an hour trying to upload and unload your stuff on eBay.
Apply the in/out rule
This rule is intended to keep our stuff problem from getting worse: Nothing comes into the house without something going out. No exceptions.
For example, I know you want that new IoT wireless electronic “smart” salad spinner that’s wifi connected to your Whole Foods account and the refrigerator vegetable crisper so it “knows” the precise age and therefore water content of the romaine. Before you click “order confirmation” on Amazon, your old plastic one that you had to crank by hand like grandpa did his Model T has to go.
Another example: cats. Got two or three and want to take in that new adorable kitten? Sorry. One you already have has to go.
With these and 200 other similarly brilliant ideas I have to get rid of stuff and simplify, it might sound like I’m thinking only of myself, which as a caring person I do only 98 percent of the time.
Instead I should be thinking about my many heirs who might want my stuff. And giving my eulogizers some material to extol my selfless generosity.
So maybe I should just let stuff pile up so those grieving can sort through my vast estate, split the proceeds, and splurge their $50 at Container Store.
But I hope they don’t fight over the bunnies. Not worth it.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer