Reading Time 2 minutes and 30 seconds 

Let’s start with books (an example that always gets folks all worked up): Throw away your books, I say. 

And in reply, if I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a hundred times: “You can’t just throw away a book! That’s uhholy! Unthinkable! Books are sacred! A home without books is not a home!”

We’ve gotten past that, haven’t we? Stop and think about it. Really consider it.

Do we need to fill our houses with dust-collecting mildew-making allergy bombs in order to prove that we know how to read or that we are interested in literature?

I roll my eyes when someone starts talking about the sanctity of “my books.” Usually he fancies himself an intellectual giant, a writer, an artist, a scholar. He keeps his college textbooks on hand, or an encyclopedia set, or remaindered copies of his ground-breaking 1987 study of students’ speech patterns while cataloging species of birds in Costa Rica.

Yet in this day and age you don’t need those silly books. Get it down to one small shelf stocked only with books you refer to all the time, or books that can’t be gotten otherwise (out of print, not available digitally or through a library). And – okay if you insist – you can also keep up to a dozen sentimental titles. 

While you’re at it, what about that collection of milk bottles, or jelly jars, or old sneakers, or the wetsuit that fit you 23 years ago or that lamp that needs fixing, or your tax receipts from 1998 to 2009, or that stack of glass salad plates your grandmother gave you, or that box of green plastic cupholders that were swag from your first job, or purses with missing straps, or campstoves of ancient vintage, or hair elastics?

I can feel this sort of stuff straining the seams in my own home. Teeming masses of crap yearning to be free. Making it impossible for me to consider redoing the basement or the attic. Making the idea of downsizing such a drudge that I’ll forever postpone my dream to lock the front door and travel whenever I want. Prompting me to just go ahead and stuff one more set of placemats into that dining room drawer.

All that stuff. Blooming like yeast, festering with psychic distress, weighing me down.

If you’ve ever lived out of a suitcase or a backpack for a weekend then you are in fact capable of streamlining your entire life, of making that material shift, of getting down to what actually matters and setting yourself FREE!

Yes, you can be free. And so can I. And so I shall begin. Right now. Getting free of my stuff. Starting right now with this drawer. With this collection of ink pens. Let’s see. Ooh, there’s quite a few of them. I certainly don’t need all these. This one goes. And this one. But I like this one. And this one may still have some ink in it. And these were expensive so I can’t throw them out. And… 

Photo Credit: Ed Robertson 

Cynthia Cummins is the founder of Kindred SF Homes and has been serving homeowners and homebuyers for 3 decades. For information on San Francisco Bay Area real estate visit KindredSFhomes.com. For my writing and mindfulness blog, visit WildHeartWriting.org.