Once upon a time, I met a guy through a dating service. I liked his ad, and I wrote to him, and he wrote back, and we agreed to meet. He told me that he was in the process of moving to a new apartment in a new city. The part that arrested my attention was that he had an event scheduled for the following weekend. He had posted an ad on Craigslist announcing that he would be giving away every single object in his apartment, for free: first come, first served.
Can you imagine?
He wanted to start out in the new place with a clean slate. He figured he would move the things he absolutely needed, like his bed and his work clothes, and let everything else go. If he realized he really did need something he had given away, he would just replace it. This seemed doable because basically all the stuff that got left behind was in the $1-$10 range.
Envelopes. Old paperback books. Throw pillows. Old towels. Kitchen utensils. Magazines. End tables. Who knows what? People would come in and poke their heads through the door and ask whether it was really true, that everything they saw was really available to take away, no strings attached. Then they would tiptoe around. They would walk out the door with an assortment of random objects piled up to their chins. At the end of the weekend, the whole place was picked clean.
I heard about all this over the phone, and I was captivated. Clearly this was a man after my own heart. I have moved from one state to another with everything I owned in the back seat of a compact car. I’m obsessed with minimalism and fresh starts. How cool was this??
The aftermath of the experiment was funny. Among the “must-have” objects was a very large collection of books and an entire closet full of obsolete computer equipment. Among the Left Behind was… all the writing implements. This guy gave away ALL HIS SHARPIES. I mean, how do you organize a move without a big black marker to label the boxes?
The relationship fizzled, clearly because I was destined to meet and marry Mr. Awesome Pants instead. No Sharpies Guy was more whimsical and idealistic, whereas I am more pragmatic and analytical and hyper-organized, despite my collection of rainbow-striped socks and my habit of showering with my parrot. I am a fun person, I swear, no matter what they tell you!
The “Everything Must Go” experiment is a great mental exercise. We don’t necessarily have to carry it out, but we can play around with the idea. What would we absolutely keep? What would be more expensive to ship than to replace at the destination? What could we get rid of this weekend that we would never miss? What would definitely make our lives easier if we finally bought one? Are there dumb things we keep in place of smart things we ought to have? What do we truly need?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.