I no longer keep “stuff” around; if an item is no longer utilitarian to me, I chuck it, sell it, give it away, or donate it to charity.

First, I try to be honest in my approach; if it’s junk, it’s junk, and the idea of “donating” it to someone else, adding to their own pile of headaches to deal with, is not truly helping anyone. If that’s the case, I chuck it. End of problem.

Anything I can’t sell for at least $20 typically either gets donated to charity (personally, rehab facilities are my first choice, then the public library or Goodwill, depending, or finally, put it up for free on craigslist specifying I’d like to give it to someone in need).

And if it’s not worth my time and effort to try to sell it, I’ll simply chuck it in the trash.

Or, if it’s a larger item, sometimes I’ll set it out by the street the night before trash day and see if it gets stealthily scavenged—which can be somewhat entertaining, as it mysteriously vanishes overnight…

But if I think it’ll fetch twenty bucks or more, I’ll sometimes give craigslist a shot (keeping in mind that even though listing on craigslist is free, there’s considerable time involved in crafting a good ad, taking/uploading photos, responding to inquiries, and coordinating meetups with potential buyers. So I’ve determined that anything less than $20 just isn’t worth it—and even if I think it might indeed fetch $20, I still only bother if I think it’ll be a quickie).

However, if it’s something big and/or heavy, which would need to be hauled out & away, I’ll often put it on craigslist for free, in exchange for the recipient’s removing/loading/hauling services. This way, my compensation isn’t a pittance of cash, but rather not having to lift/carry/load/haul it myself. A good example: I recently had to get rid of my elliptical machine; I simply no longer had room for it and it needed some minor maintenance which I had no interest in doing myself, and on top of all that it was really heavy, and sitting upstairs, and would have to be carefully carried down a tight, turning stairwell.

So, instead of jacking with all that, I put it up for free on craigslist. “If you can haul it, you can have it. First come, first served.”

It was gone within the hour. Two guys showed up and carried it downstairs, outside, into their truck, and away for me. I didn’t have to lift a finger.

Sometimes it’s worth whatever money I’d possibly get trying to sell something, to just have it out of my house, out of my life, and out of my mind, without me having to actually lift it, move it, or haul it myself, or having to barter with potential buyers. When you take a good look at how much time, thought, and energy you’ll have wrapped up in the entire process of trying to sell it, you have to ask yourself: is it really worth it? Depending upon how busy you happen to be at the time, or how long the damn thing has been sitting there taking up space—both in your home, and in your mind—it may not be worth all the hassle to sell it. Just get rid of it. Put it up for free, most likely someone will rush over and take it off your hands for you.

In addition, some years ago I adopted a rule about items which I am tempted to discard, but which I also perceive as having some value—whether merely sentimental, or possibly utilitarian (might use it someday), or in sunk cost, or simply as an asset possessing some intrinsic value—and am not quite sure if I should get rid of it; in these cases, depending on the relative value, I’ll assign it a time frame: three to six months (usually), or sometimes as long as a year (rarely). And if, by the end of that time frame, I haven’t used it, or needed it—or (as is usually the case) even thought about it—time’s up, it’s gone.

And I probably don’t have to tell you what the verdict is, almost without exception…

In a recent article by Joshue Becker entitled 7 Common Problems Solved by Owning Less, published over at becomingminimalist.com, the author highlights some of the benefits of what I call “chuckfests,” such as saving money, saving time, saving space, and developing a greater appreciation for what (fewer things) we do have.

But out of the seven benefits he enumerates in his article, I particularly like numbers 5 & 6, both of which refer to saving mental energy—or what I like to call “deleting data off my hard drive”:

5. I’m too stressed.” The artist and philanthropist John Ruskin once said, “Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.” Every increased possession weighs down our lives with new things to worry about, care for, and maintain. Our purchases have far surpassed bringing convenience and ease into our lives. In fact, they have begun to do just the opposite—they have brought new forms of stress and anxiety instead.” 

“6. “I can’t decide what to wear / It’s so hard to keep up with the changing fashions.” On the surface, fashion appears to be an ever-evolving game where the rules change with each passing season. As a result, it demands astute attention (and an expansive income). But it does not have to. Instead, carry a beautiful wardrobe filled with a few timeless pieces that you truly love to wear. Once you love everything hanging in your closet, deciding what to wear will be one less problem to deal with in your morning.”

These two points in particular strike me, because I’m also a big believer in the minimalist approach to life. Mental energy—or psychic energy, as psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes it in his phenomenal series of books detailing his life work on “flow,” or the psychology of optimal experience—is a limited, depletable resource, and should therefore be focused on the more important and productive areas of our lives.

I like to refer to the example of Albert Einstein; it is said that Einstein owned multiple sets of the same exact outfit, which he wore every day. His explanation? He didn’t want to waste valuable mental energy trying to decide what to wear each day.

Choosing carefully where we expend our psychic energy is important in optimizing our lives—and ridding our lives of as much unneeded stuff (along with toxic people, but I digress) as possible not only conserves our psychic energy, but also saves us amazing amounts of time, money, and space—all of which are extremely limited resources, and all of which I highly value.

Simply put, you’d be amazed at how much of our precious psychic energy you waste simply in keeping track of all that stuff—even if it’s just sitting in storage.

unorganized garage
“Hey, honey—you seen my hammer anywhere?”

So get all that worthless “stuff” out of your life, and out of your mind; clear that “hard drive space,” availing it for more important aspects of your life.

“Ahhhhhh…….project time!”

And one last note: try not to fall into the trap of “sunk costs” either; remember: regardless of what an item originally cost you, it will continue to tax you, in various way, until you get rid of it. The longer you keep it, the more it will cost you. Chuck it. You’ll be glad you did.

“Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.” ~ Peace Pilgrim

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