Purging stuff is like falling in love

I decided that purging stuff is like falling in love, and I just had my own experience.

About ten years ago I bought a banjo because I am a huge bluegrass music fan. I imagined how fun it would be to be able to play banjo and join music jams and stuff. I took about two lessons and then life got in the way. Years passed, and I never picked up my banjo.

But I also never tried to sell it. Nor did I fall out of love with bluegrass music.

More years passed. The banjo was getting in my way and collecting dust.

Finally I told myself I’d had enough. I wasn’t taking lessons. I wasn’t even picking up the banjo. It was definitely getting in my way, and I decided it was time to sell it. So one day, emotionless, I took it to a great place that sells used musical instruments.

I put the banjo on the counter while the store owner took a look, turning it around, plucking the strings, pondering whether it was something he could sell. I hoped he’d say yes.

“I’ll take it,” he said, and told me how much he’d pay me. I was delighted. He began writing up a sales slip.

My heart started flipping around

My heart started flipping around. I said, “So, how many lessons would I need to be able to play a tune or two?”

“Just a couple and you can start playing around,” he responded.

“Only two lessons?” I thought to myself.

He finished writing the sales slip and I signed it. My heart was sinking as I took the money and stuffed it in my wallet.

I looked at the banjo and felt a lot of sadness coming over me.

“Uh. Can I change my mind? I’m so sorry! Here you’ve gone to all this trouble but I don’t think I want to sell it!”

“That’s OK,” he said. “It happens.”

My banjo represents my simple, joyful life

I started breathing again. I pulled the money out of my wallet. The sadness lifted. I decided to give myself six months and if I haven’t touched my banjo by then, I’ll bring it back to the store.

My banjo represents a dream to me – a lifestyle of hanging out on the front porch strumming, or joining a jam session, and, well, most importantly, the banjo represents the simple, joyful life to me.

And that’s a big deal. The simple, joyful life.

It makes no rational sense, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my dream just yet.

What’s this got to do with you?

It’s a first-hand lesson for how you discern what to keep, and what to let go of.

Just feel your feelings and make decisions. Get out of your head and into your heart and soul. Do not rationalize. Do not keep stuff because you “should” like it or you paid so much money for the thing you “should” keep it or it’s so trendy cool you “ought to” like it and so on.

Cute child with sunflower in summer field
Go with your bliss

Purging stuff is like falling in love

Purging stuff in your house is kind of like falling in love with someone. You can have a nice, rational list about the qualities you want in your partner and then boom, you meet someone who makes your heart sing, and maybe they don’t have all of those qualities on your list.

It’s not rational. But your heart knows. So when you go through your stuff, keep what you truly love, even if it doesn’t make sense, and get rid of the stuff you don’t love, even if you should.

But if it’s a situation like mine – a banjo I haven’t touched for ten years – give yourself a time limit like I’m doing. If I don’t touch it for six months – then it doesn’t make sense to keep it. Someone else should enjoy it.

Because I don’t want you to go around your house telling yourself that everything has an emotional component and therefore you should keep all of it. What I’m telling you only applies to stuff you aren’t using regularly, like my banjo. If you’re using something regularly, or wearing something regularly – what I’m saying does not apply. My emotional test only applies to stuff you are not using regularly.

Set time limits on your stuff

For these items, set time limits like I’ve done. Say it’s camping or hiking or ski gear – whatever. You used to camp, ski and hike but haven’t in ten years. Same thing. Give yourself six months – a year at most – and let it go if you still don’t use it. Because just as important as it is for you to discern with your heart, it’s also vitally important that you don’t keep a bunch of stuff you’re not using. You don’t want to be overwhelmed by clutter and stuff. That’s awful and it drags down your energy in a massive way. You don’t want your house and garage full of stuff you should use, but for whatever reason, you’re not using.

Make sense? Here’s how it works:

▪ Go through your house and for everything you’re not using regularly – give it the emotional test. How do you feel when looking at it, touching it?
▪ Get rid of everything that doesn’t make your heart sing – at least at little.
▪ For the stuff that makes your heart sing but you’re not using, like my banjo – give yourself six months to use it. Find a new home for it if you haven’t used for six months.

And this is how you lighten your emotional life, and keep your house clutter free.


  1. This certainly speaks to me right now as I have recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. It can be incredibly difficult to listen to the heart, but it is definitely worth trying… It has yet to lead me astray!

  2. My wife and I also read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, it was a revolutionary book. We live in a tiny two bedroom house and managed to throw out 16 bags of trash.

    I grew up with a hoarder and had adopted that philosophy of life, so I needed the change in perspective. She also mentions giving everything the “love” test. You pick it up and hold it in your hands, unless you absolutely love it, find it a new home.

    This way you’re only surrounded by the things you love, it’s a great way to live!

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