Unless you work in interior design, don't let your company decorate your home

Swag, AKA corporate imprint clutter


It usually comes from the marketing dept. They give it out at project kickoff. Sometimes managers hand it out to reward workers. Then there’s it’s worst form, the leftovers. Your boss is tired of holding onto the last few bits from last year’s product launch, so he stages a contest or uses some other gimmickry to justify giving you the perpetual calendar of which you already have three. You don’t want to refuse. It’d make things awkward with your coworkers. But you’re probably not thinking of whether or not you want it, where you’re going to put it or that you have two stuck in a box somewhere.

Distracted by shiny

Distracted by ShinyHow many decorative tins do you have in your possession? They usually hold popcorn, cookies or candy. It can kinda make you dread the holidays or other special occasions because you or someone around you has a habit of holding onto these. Maybe you keep stuff in them…even stuff you use regularly. If that’s the case I can feel a little less judgmental. But for the collectors out there or people, like me, who think the 47 tins could be used for something someday, understand that if you have to move it even once trying to get to something you need at the moment, it needs to go.

The one in the photo came from Costco and had gingersnaps in it. The cookies were great. But now I have this stamped aluminum box with a copper-looking finish. No one  has put anything in it. It just collects dust.


This is not an antique. It’s not a handcrafted one-of a kind tool or work of art. It’s a mass-produced sort-of-artsy-looking container that has moved beyond its function.

So I threw it out with the recycling.

It's always urgent


I get a lot of junk mail. Some days the entire postal delivery goes straight to the recycle bin. I don’t always have the time to identify what’s come and that is the source of the pile. I haven’t tried just bagging it over a year and then weighing it. That might be an interesting exercise except that I’d have to hang onto it all that time. According to the website 41pounds.org, the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail per year. My guess would have been somewhere between 50-60. Whatever doesn’t get recycled ends up in the landfill. It’d be nice if it all came on hemp paper printed with soy ink. That way you could take it straight from the mailbox to the compost bin.

It’s nuts.

Junk mail comes disguised as checks, bills, letters and invitations. It’s always an action item. Immediate response required. Urgent. The bottom is going to fall out of the universe if you don’t check yes and send a check. It’s paper spam. Sometimes you get a prize and a company will send you a shiny new penny or a pen or a flashlight with your name and address engraved. When companies are really trying to defraud you they’ll open an account for you, send you their product with an invoice letting you know that you’re subscribed and will be receiving more shipments and bills. If you don’t cancel it and don’t pay, they’ll start harrassing you with collections notices. Sometimes you get a real check. If you cash it, you’re signing up for some service or subscription to products you probably don’t need and on average you’ll end up spending 1,000 times the amount of the check. The invitations are envgraved and some are even hand-addressed but most print your info on the envelope using a faux handwriting typeface inviting you to an investment seminar. When I’m sorting mail I look for bills, checks and anything I am expecting. Everything else gets set aside or tossed. Ten years ago I received an invitation from my employer to an anniversary dinner. They put their P.O. box on the envelope, not their name or logo. I tossed it. I spoke with one of the Human Resources persons and told him it looked like junk mail. I explained that nearly all marketing correspondence comes anonymously and that I’m in the habit of throwing it away unopened. The seminar came around again five years ago but I was expecting the invitation then. People make the same mistakes when sending invitations to graduations or weddings.

Last year I got an invite to a bar/bat mitzvah for a friend’s twins. Everything was fine exept they neglected to put their names on the envelope with the address. I almost tossed it. Their mom told me she was offended. I can’t do anything about that. If you’re serious about having me there, you need to fully address the envelope.

Returning Clutter

Last week I boomerangtook all the PEZ dispensers to Goodwill. They’d been occupying three shelves in the living room. When I decided to get rid of the shelving I decided to let the toys go, too. The toys might be worth a few bucks, but I don’t want to warehouse a bunch of stuff waiting for a theoretical eBay sale.

When I take something out of here it is with the understanding that I can probably buy it again if I ever decide I need it. Nothing in this house is one-of-a-kind. Everything I have is mass-produced and replaceable.

Quite replaceable.

Ridiculously easy to replace.

It is the ready availability of things that makes it all the more important to turn off the auto-pilot. Unconscious consumption is how things end up in a shopping cart, a trunk and back in our homes. There have been several times, since I started cleaning, that I’ve been in a store, passed by something I got rid of a week before and been tempted to buy again. And I’ve even said to myself, “…I just gave one of those away.”

Stores aren’t going to help you not buy things just like drug dealers won’t help you stop using and liquor vendors won’t help you stop drinking. Having your credit cut off isn’t the answer. One can always find a way. You have to put it down and walk away.

Sometimes you have to do that…a lot.

Remember the space. It’s priceless. It’s worth more than the entire contents of your home.

Gifts: The persistent apparition of clutter

GiftsBut that was a gift from ___________!

Yeah. And there it sits.

Years go by.

I gets dusted.

It stopped being a conversation piece a couple years after you acquired it in 1982.

Four presidents ago.

But you hang onto it. Not wanting to offend the giver, whom you haven’t been in touch with in twelve years. It’s like they marked their territory by placing something in our homes.

Fear has us enslaved. We keep things that have long ceased to serve us. We’re afraid we’ll hurt feelings and so we live out our lives owned by objects. We serve them as warehouser, cataloguers, polishers and oglers.

Go work for a museum. They’ll pay you to take care of stuff. Otherwise give it one final dusting, box it up and sell it or donate it. Your space will thank you. Practice a few minutes of “I’m sorry” every month or so in case the person shows up at your door wondering why they saw their precious object in a consignment window or on eBay.

Forgiveness is always easier to get than permission.

Final Inventory: Too Many

The house is a mess. Has been for years. I have a path from the bed to the bedroom door. There’s a path through the livingroom to the kitchen and front door. I can get in and out of the house okay. I need a pen or clipboaFinal Inventory-Too Manyrd. I can’t find one because it’s been swallowed in the chaos that is my home. I head to one of the OfficeShack stores and buy another one or pack of several. And over the years the process repeats itself.

Years later I start to deal with my problem. Cleaning and clearing turn up two extra clipboards like the one already at my desk and two for 5″x8″ pads. I needed a clipboard. Because of the way I was living I kept losing clipboards. And now I have enough to share.

The same thing happened with padfolios. I have already donated several. I’ve found years-worth of pens, pencils, erasers and notepads. I stocked up intentionally on notepads. I like the grid rule and Cornell note style pads and once those disappear from stores after the school supply rush you have to special-order them.

In a few days I’ll have another bag or box headed to Goodwill. It will include clipboards, pens and other things I find around here that need to go.



Unborn Clutter – Books


It doesn’t take much to put us on the road to having a growing pile of new stuff collecting dust in our homes.  A person might think, “Oh its just a few…one small bag.” So the books go on the shelf. And I wonder if we ask ourselves how long it will take to read them.

When I was a kid in California, I had a friend, Dr. Bob Perry, who started teaching me about spirituality and whom I consider my spiritual father. Dr. Perry was one of my neighbors in the apartment complex we lived in. We’d have talks and one time there were a couple of books on the table across from him. I looked at them and he said, “I’ve bought several books in the past few days. They seemed like good selections for my library, but I haven’t had time to start reading them.” That statement put the seed in my thoughts about having a library and as the unconscious buying started and got worse, I started to have books shelved and then others lying on top in the space below the upper shelf. I’d look at them from time to time and think, I need to get to those.

There were four bookcases in my living room and two in my bedroom. I’ve recently removed two. I reorganized and reshelved maybe a third of the ones from those shelves to the two remaining and took six file boxes to Half Price Books along with some CDs, DVDs and really old vinyl. It is still going to take a long time to read everything that’s left.

While I was at Half Price, I saw new books that looked interesting. While I felt an urge to buy, I left them there because l have to finish reading a few others before I get anything new. And I was in the store selling books that I had never gotten around to reading. I’m going to apply a five-one rule. I’m not going to bring in a new book until I have read and recycled five. Since I have to keep the two remaining bookcases in the living room, I’m going to use those as overflow as I reduce the population further, to the two bookcases in my room.

There is no difference between an unread book or a Hummel as far as its dust collecting ability is concerned. If I’m not reading it, it serves no purpose. My friend Roy Blizzard said recently, “The time we spend dealing with stuff we’re not using is wasted money and life.”