The best thing you can do for yourself and your home is throw shit out. Look around at any given time: I guarantee there are at least 15 items you can toss, recycle or donate. This is not just a good way to live—it is a way of life.
You should throw away three things right now. They don't have to be big things. Here are some small suggestions for where to start.
1. Your refrigerator. Look at it. Not in it, at it. There is a lot of crap on there, I bet. Postcards from people you don't talk to anymore, photobooth pictures from divorced people's weddings, drawings made by children who are now adults. Throw this shit out. Now look at your refrigerator. So clean and nice.
2. Candles. What? Why do people have so many candles? Big gross balls of wax that usually smell horrible and get all greasy and charred after a few rounds through the tip of the match. And then after unuse the grease and char mixes with dust and just—throw them out. Knife out the wax and use the glass or mason jar or whatever as a drinking glass, pencil cup, or vase. Look, Mom, I DIY'ed.
3. Books. If you are literate and still "believe" in paper books, get rid of some books today! Every week I like to cull my collection for books by misogynists, which I leave on my stoop for passers-by in Brooklyn tradition (I know, how quaint). Once I purged my apartment of Norman Mailer, the space indeed took on a new lightness, a special kind of gleam.
Now you try it. Go. Come back when you're done.
I look forward to throwing things away every weekend. I have been living in shitty studio efficiency apartments for the better part of the last seven years. This precludes me from owning very many things. I guess I could own a lot of things, but then I wouldn't have a lot of space for myself. Also, most stuff is crap. And there is nothing more beautiful than an almost-empty apartment.
Throwing things out puts me into a trance-like state. Fuck juice cleanses. There is NOTHING more cleansing than throwing shit out. I threw out some great things Sunday: Three crusty American Apparel shirts that I had cut the collars out of (?), a sad pair of brogues that did not fit no matter how many pairs of socks I wore with them (to be donated), The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins (stooped), and two bottles of nail polish (do you want these?).
OK, now go throw away three more things.
Strangely, no matter how much I throw out, there is always more I can throw out. I own very little. I can list it here: a bed, four small bookcases, a small desk, a desk chair, a night table (no storage), an imitation Eames chair from Overstock.com, three lamps, various plants, wall-hangings, electronics, and sundries. What is my goal? To have nothing? Apartment zero? No-impact-person? No, I am not that abnormal. I just don't want to have a lot of crap. Crap breeds more crap. Asceticism is a nice religion. "It is the privilege of the gods to want nothing, and of godlike men to want little," said Diogenes of Sinope.
Sometimes I am in other people's apartments because they have accidentally invited me over and I survey their clutter. Something I see quite often is that people save the boxes of their Apple products. Why? Why do people do that? Throw that shit out! It is clotting your existential arteries. It is taking up your life-and mind-space. Do not give up your air square-footage to the ghost of Steve Jobs. Who do you think you are? Or, more aptly, who do you want to be?
Throw your Apple product boxes away right now.
It's hard. It takes time to throw things out. Also, sentimentality bogs us down. In a dark corner of my bathroom cabinet, I have a red plastic Vodafone bag that I got while I was in Cairo reporting on the Arab Spring. In it is my burner phone, some weird Egyptian anti-itch cream (for namoose bites), and even some receipts for guava juice. I try to throw this bag away every weekend but I just can't do it. We all have our little red Vodafone bags, I suppose.
But other than that there's just no excuse. Throw everything out. Do not save packaging products. Get rid of clothing you do not wear. Toss rotting food. Never go to Ikea. Cleanse thyself. Be free.
An apartment I lived in a few years ago, Austin, Tex. I had a a lot of stuff then.
[Illustration by Jim Cooke]