From the Publisher's Desk: Lighten up: De-clutter and be free to move

By Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate March 09, 2011 07:14 pm

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 Shannon.

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 life.”

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 This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.