So far on this journey, we've recaptured $629.83

The Law of Conservation of Crap

You’ve likely heard the saying, “What goes up, must come down”. This becomes all too real after you’ve thrown a handful of pennies in the air without running for cover. Forgetting gravitational escape velocity for a second, there’s a lot of truth to that statement, regardless of who first said it.

Similarly, the study of physics gives us the law of conservation of energy. This generally means that in an isolated system, energy is neither created or lost. It just moves around or changes its form. Let’s say that your home is that isolated system; a mini physics experiment in action day after day. Only instead of conserving energy, we’re conserving crap. You see, anything that is brought into your home must, at some point and in some form, leave your home. And so it must be true that:

What comes in, must go out.


The clearest example of this is groceries. Whatever groceries you bring into your home will leave your home in some form. Some of it will end up in the trash can. Some of it will leave, umm, via the bathroom. Some of it is used as an energy source for your body that is either burned as heat or, commonly, stored on your body as fat. Thus, whenever you leave the home, the groceries leave with you. The only problem is that they come back when you do. Rinse and repeat.

Some things take a very long time to leave your home, like furniture. You may purchase a piece of furniture and it may stay in your home for decades. Inevitably, though, it will leave your home via some means. At some point you’re going to die and your heirs may just think your precious sofa is a pile of garbage that needs to end up there.

Dirt that comes in gets swept or vacuumed away. Water comes in via the pipes and leaves the same way. Electricity comes in and is lost as heat. Mail, product packaging, toys, electronic gadgets, clothing, library books, gifts, personal care products, newspapers, etc. They all come in and at some point go away.

What’s Your Problem?

The problem is that having all this stuff in our homes is suffocating us little by little and we’re constantly trying to keep up with it. How many times a week do you empty the kitchen trash and what is it full of? Everything in that trash bag is something you brought into the home. The landscape is littered with self storage facilities that only help you to relocate some of your stuff for a period of time. It left your house, sure, but it’s not out of mind. You know it’s still there, lurking. Just waiting to be brought back in.

My personal trouble spots are gadgets, laptop bags, newspapers, Moleskine notebooks, and clothes. I struggle to balance the seemingly innate drive to acquire things with the mental knowledge that I don’t need most of it.

Takeaway — Literally

What we can do about this is to repeat the phrase, “What comes in, must go out”, when we are out and want to purchase something for you or your house. By doing so, you’re committing to bringing it in your home, holding on to it for a while, and then taking it out of your home. If that’s not something you’re willing to do, then maybe it’s not something you should bring into your home in the first place.

Enjoyed this post? Be sure to follow me on twitter @kenstone. Gottfried Leibniz would be proud.

1 GB IBM Microdrive

This one and I go way back. The IBM 1 GB Microdrive. It’s comical now, but this was a very expensive and powerful piece of electronics. We were good friends, always in each others lives. Like most technology, however, this friendship would not last. A tale as old as time.

IBM Microdrive

The 1 GB IBM Microdrive. $499 in 2000.

I can’t remember exactly when I purchased it, but it was sometime in the year 2000. Prior to that, IBM was selling a 340 MB version of the Microdrive, but this was the big one — 1 freakin’ GB. I used it for all sorts of tasks. Photos mostly, but moving files between computers as well. Back then, laptops had PCMCIA slots to interface with external peripherals. You could plug all sorts of gadgets in them: modems, Ethernet cards, and yes, hard drives. The Microdrive came with an adapter to let you plug it directly into a PCMCIA slot.

According to the files found just before formatting, I stopped using it in 2006, probably around the wedding. It’s been sitting in my big camera bag in some pocket just waiting to be put back in the rotation (more on that bag later). “Put me in coach!” it seems to be saying. Unfortunately, its 1 GB size and need of delicate handling insist that I keep the young guns in the game. Even the 4 GB solid state card I use shows middle aged flecks of gray when put up next to the latest brood. The 4 GB one can be had for $16.00 on Amazon. The 32 GB bad boys are on top now for around $60. 12 years ago, I paid $499 for the Microdrive. That hurts.

So the geriatric 1 GB Microdrive is about to be sent to a farm upstate where hopefully he’ll kick back and reminisce about the good old days. Maybe he’ll find an old Deskstar to hang out with, drink cheap bourbon and yell at the 4 TB models to get off the lawn. Do you hear that clicking? Send an ambulance. Another one bites the dust.

Destination: eBay. If not sold, recycling.

LabelWriter 400

A number of years ago, before I was married, I wanted to start a business writing code for home automation systems. The year or so I spent on it was a great learning experience, but I’m glad that’s over. It started out with a specific idea, but before I knew it, the whole operation had veered off track doing work I dreaded. Somehow, I ended up selling electronic merchandise online and was constantly sending out packages. As that selling increased, it quickly became apparent that I needed some specialized hardware to decrease the time I spent on this.

The Dymo LabelWriter 400 was one of these specialized products. The shipping software I used easily integrated with this product and so I was able to spit out address labels with ease. It was a powerhouse of the process and did its job well.

But as I said, this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. So, right when I got married, I decided I wanted to spend more time with my new wife than in the basement packing products. I shut down that business cold turkey. Easy enough to do when it’s only you (learning not to do everything myself was one of those lessons learned). This label printer has been sitting in my home office for almost 6 years now, unused. Its time has come to move on to greener pastures and put the smell of thermal printing back in the air.

Destination: eBay.

Guitar Hero Aerosmith

Remember 2008 when Guitar Hero mania was in full swing? Everybody seemed to have a copy. Bars had Guitar Hero competitions. Every few months it seemed they came out with a new version of Guitar Hero. Some people had Rock Band which was basically the same thing with just more expensive controllers. Seduced by the possibility of rocking out to some Toadies or “Barracuda”, this series was a huge hit until it the last Xbox 360 version came out in 2010 (Warriors of Rock).

Introduced late to the game by some friends, it was instantly a hit in our house. We were both marching band geeks through college, so Guitar Hero was a game that we could play together and have some good wholesome fun. I would put my drumline focus on and attack it with precision while my wife would make up dances to different songs from the 80s. Classic flute player. It was a blast to say the least.

And then there was the Aerosmith version. Over 3.6 million copies copies were sold as of April 2010 1. We were number 1,323,872. Probably. Prior to this version, we had Guitar Hero 2 which on the Xbox 360 only came with a wired controller. I’m not a huge Aerosmith fan or anything, but the release of this game brought a wireless controller to the Xbox so it seemed like a good opportunity to get another guitar that looked pretty sweet and let us play together. I picked it up on release day at Circuit City (remember that store?) and we played that night. And the next night. And on and on.

I have photos of us playing the night we were introduced and of us introducting it to my parents. Those are the times I’ll remember. We haven’t played the game in years and it, along with the first controller, are just taking up space in one of the closets. According to, the last time we played was 12/27/2009, so it’s been over 2 years. It’s a prime candidate for sale and hopefully someone else out there can have hours of fun with it.

Destination: eBay

1 According to Wikipedia on 1/16/2012

Junk the Junk Drawer

We all have a junk drawer. It doesn’t matter what sort of housing arrangement you live in. Apartment, House, Igloo. There’s always one drawer that just collects stuff. And it has the name “junk drawer”, giving us permission to fill it with junk. I am here to tell you — you do not need a junk drawer. What you need is a “often used drawer”.

I’d be willing to bet that if you went through your drawer, most of the stuff is completely unused. And by unused, I mean that it hasn’t been used in the past 6 months. Your gut reaction may be to say, “Well, I’ll just organize the junk drawer and then I’ll have easy access to what I need!” No! Do not do that. That’s how you ended up with a junk drawer. It didn’t become a junk drawer immediately. It started out organized. Until it wasn’t. One Christmas, my brother was gracious enough to organize ours for us. It didn’t hit me until years later that he was just organizing stuff we never used.

So here’s what you do. Grab a box or two and just start throwing stuff in that box. You are not looking for a reason to keep something. Don’t craft scenarios in which an item might be useable. If you haven’t used it recently, you probably aren’t going to use it again. Your goal is to create a place to keep often used items in a manner that doesn’t create visual pollution every day.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to make these decisions. I had to throw away a couple items that were engraved by my best friend from high school. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen him in years and he passed away last year. But I kept holding onto these things he gave me. I made the tough decision to let them go as those items had no meaning to me. What I remember is all the good times we had, not the engraved lighter.

Take a look at what was in my drawers — old pens, promotional magnets, dead batteries, tape measures, etc. Same as what’s in yours. Then take a look at what I kept. And honestly, there’s a pin cusion and a spool of thread in the kept drawer that shouldn’t be there. Why? Because I rarely if ever use pins and there doesn’t appear to be any needles to use with the thread. Also, nobody in my house knows how to sew.

So stop calling it a junk drawer. It’s an often used drawer. Calling it by a different name will help you think about what you put in there.

Destination: Trash

Check out the Clutterfat Challenge

Leo Babauta over at posted about the upcoming Clutterfat Challenge. This challenge asks you to rid your living space of half of its clutter in 30 days. In his words:

Look around your living space, and imagine that half of your clutter were gone. In one month, it will be. You’ll be living a beautiful, simple, clutter-free life.

A daunting feat if there ever was. I’m not personally participating in this challenge as I’m trying to shed myself of things over a longer period of time, say 300 days. But if it’s something you’re interested in, go check it out. There’s a free webinar on January 5 where he’ll go over the challenge and talk about techniques.

Why would you want to participate in such a challenge? Here are some reasons he lists:

  • Life feels better when you live in uncluttered space.
  • Having fewer possessions means easier cleaning and less maintenance, which means more free time.
  • If you sell your possessions, you can make some extra money.
  • If you donate or give away your possessions, you give them life with someone who needs them.
  • You create space to breathe, to create, to contemplate, to read, to relax.
  • Eventually you could move to a smaller space, saving you tons of money.

Image Credit: somebody over at thingsorganizedneatly


The first item up for removal is a TV console table I got from IKEA back in 2002. This was after college during a period where I worked in Chicago and lived, temporarily, in my parents house. I had a room in their house (most of my stuff at the time was in a storage unit) that was a bit like a dorm room. Nearly everything I needed was in the room save for the kitchen and bathroom necessities.

At some point during the few months I lived there, I decided that I needed a table to put my TV and PS2 on. Off to IKEA I went in search of something that was solid wood. Not the cheap particleboard stuff you usually find. This is because I wanted to put my 175 pound Sony Wega TV on top of it without it buckling. (We’ll get to that TV in a future post).

This has moved with me from my parents’ house to my apartment in Chicago to my house where it’s been in the same place for 8 years. It’s no longer needed because over the past month, I’ve been working on a project to mount the TV on the wall and clear some room. That project is now complete, so it’s out the door we go. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually reduce the number of things I owned as I just replaced the table with a mount. Oh well. Next time.

Destination: Craigslist