Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Shannon, my friend since freshman year in high school, called me in a panic. Her landlady Rhoda, who lives downstairs, has decided to place another tenant in the flat that Shannon, her husband Luca and son Paolo live in. They have to move.

Rhoda recently purchased another property that she's happy to rent to them at a reasonable price if the family will move out quickly so her 90-year-old mother can move in. The new place is a larger single-family home with a backyard. Shannon had me look it up online and the photos revealed a spacious, charming home, vintage 1924.

"So, what's the problem?" I asked.

Shannon and Luca have called the flat on 15th Avenue in San Francisco

home for 37 years. They moved there after grad school. They were

married in the living room. When they adopted Paolo, the library was

converted into a nursery. Now it's a teenager's bedroom.

The last time I visited I was reminded of Shannon's creative talents.

An art curator by trade, she's lavished her home with personal

treasures. She and Luca have traveled extensively and their finds fill

every nook and cranny. Blending in were Paolo's school art projects and

family photos.

Shannon is paralyzed with fear because moving means dismantling her

whole life and reconstructing it in a new space. She called me because

she considers me a mover, a transient. I've moved "so much" she said,

that I must have some expertise to share.

I've lived in eight cities in three states. Not exactly a nomad. But

there were some binges: in Hawaii I moved six times in seven years; in

Grants Pass I moved five times in one year. Perhaps I am more portable

than most.

"Just sort through your stuff and throw out or give away the things

you don't need or want," I offered, "Then put the good stuff in boxes,

label the boxes and haul them to the new place. Don't take a bunch of

junk with you."

"But I want it all," she said plaintively.

That's a problem, I thought.

After we hung up I went online. I Googled packing, moving and

relocation. While browsing I discovered that Martha Stewart, CNN,

organizedhome.com, the New York Times and others all weighed in on

clutter. Clutter's an epidemic, they claimed, and de-cluttering is the

first step toward happiness, better health, even spiritual

enlightenment. And it's a handy tool when you're moving, too.

Several articles mentioned "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui" as the

go-to book on de-cluttering. I decided to read it before mailing it to


The book is divided into sections: Understanding Clutter, Identifying

Clutter and Clearing Clutter. Granted, the author is a little far out

at times, but her definition of clutter as "things you do not use or

love, things that are untidy or disorganized, too many things in too

small a space and anything unfinished" rings true.

Here's an excerpt from the chapter on letting go: "Life is constant

change. So when something comes into your life enjoy it, use it well,

and when it is time, let it go. It is that simple. Just because you own

something, it doesn't mean that you have to keep it forever. You are

just a temporary custodian of many things as they pass through your


I'm sold, but I'm worried about Shannon. I think I'll give her a call

and see how it's going. Will keep you posted.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at

mthomas@triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.