My Stuff Is Trying To Kill Me

Michael Levin
3 min readJul 12, 2021


We’re moving to Teaneck, New Jersey on July 26th, because our three oldest kids will be in school in the New York/New Jersey area in the fall and it doesn’t make sense to remain four to five hours away from them.

As we pack, I find myself haunted by something I learned from a client who declutters high-end homes.

The average American family, she told me, owns more than a quarter of a million things.

That’s right.

Your home, and mine, contain, on average, 250,000 items, from kitchenware and vases to clothing to hammers and nails, to artwork, to piles of old stuff moldering in boxes, to God knows what else.

My client teaches her clients that we have relationships with each of those 250,000 items.

We know where and why we acquired them, where we keep them, what we use them for, or whether we use them at all.

She teaches that having 250,000 relationships with objects is emotionally exhausting, and the stress this exhaustion creates is in no way compensated for by the usefulness of the objects we own.

She says that the presence of too much stuff is especially draining for children.

We simply weren’t wired to be so acquisitive, such hoarders.

And yet, in an era of online shopping where you can add even more items to your quarter of a million with a few taps on your iPhone, it just gets worse and worse.

I am a devotee of decluttering.

I was Marie Kondo before Marie Kondo was cool.

I keep certain treasured items — baseball programs from the 1960s, theater programs from the 1970s, my bootleg Beatles LP collection.

But not much more than that, aside from the clothing that I wear on a consistent basis.

Everything else has gone to Goodwill or the trash.

So it’s somewhat upsetting to find that my house is a sea of boxes as we prepare for the move, with very likely tens of thousands of objects making the journey with us.

So here’s my plan.

The movers get here Monday, July 26.

We expect to have everything that we do not use on a day-to-day basis — clothing and kitchenware — packed by the previous Friday.

On that day, I’m going to call Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and have them pick up all the boxes.


We will move to New Jersey with only the clothing we deemed essential and the kitchen items we use every day.

And when my wife finds out, I will blame the movers.

Of course, this just means that once we get down to New Jersey, we will replace everything that I so cleverly disposed of.

All right, I admit it.

That’s just an idle fantasy.

I have carefully winnowed out the stuff I own, and I like that stuff.

I like it a lot.

I’m not throwing it out.

But I’ll be damned if we move 250,000 things to our new home.

At least I hope we don’t.

So if you find yourself surrounded by more stuff than you need, consider getting rid of all you can.

Because you never know.

Your stuff might be trying to kill you, too.



Michael Levin

New York Times bestselling author, Michael has written, planned or edited more than 700 business books, business fables, and memoirs over the past 25 years.