Tracy McCubbins has always referred to herself as “obsessive compulsive delightful,” but who knew she could turn that trait into a booming business? While working for a major television director in Los Angeles, Tracy discovered she had the ability to see through any mess and clearly envision a clutter-free space. Coupled with keen time-management and organizational skills, Tracy soon found more and more people were asking her for help. Before she knew it, dClutterfly was born.
Twelve years and thousands of decluttered homes later, Tracy knew it was time to take what she had learned working with her clients and write a book to help others dealing with clutter. She is author of the newly published book Making Space, Clutter-Free: The Last Book on Decluttering You’ll Ever Need and is a regularly featured expert in the media, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, goop, Home & Family, Real Simple, mindbodygreen, NBC, KTLA Morning Show, KCAL9, and more.
In addition to her impressive organizing tool belt, Tracy grew up with family members who hoarded and knows firsthand that the effects of living amongst an accumulation of possessions goes far beyond the home’s walls. This personal experience gives her an advantage over most professional organizers as she has a unique understanding of the mindset of the organizationally and spatially-challenged.
When she is not dCluttering, Tracy is the proud Co-Executive Director of OneKid OneWorld, a non-profit building strong educational foundations for children in impoverished communities throughout Kenya and Central America. OKOW is providing kids with the basic (yet essential) fundamentals like desks and books, as well as paying teachers’ salaries, building classrooms and even installing solar power technology so students can study at night. OKOW’s most recent project #OneGirlOnePad will provide access to reusable feminine hygiene kits to over 4,000 girls in Kenya, allowing them to attend school all year round. OneKid OneWorld is Tracy’s “full time, non-paying passion.”
Please enjoy my conversation with Tracy McCubbins.
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Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 036
Alex Ferrari 0:23
I like to welcome the show Tracy McCubbin how're you doing Tracy?
Tracy McCubbin 1:13
I'm good. Alex, how are you?
Alex Ferrari 1:15
I'm doing fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on the show, we are going to discuss a problem I think society has but really the Western world specifically America has in regards to clutter stuff, accumulating stuff. It is because we're such a consumer based culture that is constantly having to buy, buy, buy, and the stuff is sometimes even suffocating us to death literally not not even figured that literally suffocating us to death and, and trying to find happiness within stuff. And we'll get into all of that. But I want to ask you first, how did you get interested in decluttering people's lives? I'm assuming you had something to declutter in your life before you started helping others? I'm assuming? I'm assuming?
Tracy McCubbin 2:06
Yeah, it's a little bit more circuitous than that. But I was a personal assistant for 10 years. So I worked for two different people. And I was my job was just solving problem solving problems. And the last person I worked for was a television director. And when he would go on hiatus, I would friends would call me or friends of his or just I had an accounting background. And I'd help them my grandmother and I kind of done a lot of sort of administrative odd jobs. So people would call me and say, Oh, my business went out of business. And I've got all the paperwork left. And do you have a couple hours, you could come and help me. And so it started rolling and rolling, and more people told more people. And one day, a friend of mine was like, I think you have a business. I was like, What? No, I'm just helping people out. He's like, No, that's actually a business helping people as a business. So I came up with a name and opened a website. And that was 14 years ago and 1000s of clients later and it just really took off and, and the component that I never connected in the beginning, I grew up with it. I'm the child of a hoarder. So I grew up with a father who was a hoarder. And I saw through my whole life, his struggle with his relationship to stuff. And then I also grew up with my grandmother was a depression era baby and an immigrant. So I saw, I just saw the complicated relationship. And I think that it gave me a lot of empathy. And it wasn't until I had a client who's a Jungian psychiatrist, and he was like, you know, you took your psychic wound and made it your business. And I was like I did. So I sort of gave myself a little bit of opportunity to heal, and then walked into it with a real compassion and understanding that for a lot of people, that relationship is very fraught and very difficult. And so my whole goal is not only to help you get organized, but to also change that relationship.
Alex Ferrari 4:04
It's fascinating, because so, I mean, I just moved to Austin, and everywhere I drive, all I see is storage facilities. Every and I'm not talking about This is Texas size storage facilities. I mean, yeah, massive complexes.
Tracy McCubbin 4:24
Think about you think about those units are averaging about three to $400 a month, and there's probably 1000 each one.
Alex Ferrari 4:32
I mean, it's great business. I mean, if you could own a storage unit business is I mean, it's good business, but I can't myself personally feed into that. But I understand I mean, if you're in the storage unit businesses, business is booming, unfortunately. Unfortunately, but the thing is that a completely unfortunately, but the thing is that I see. I mean, I've never gotten to the place my own personal experience with with I wouldn't say hoarding, collecting, I was a collector, I collected baseball cards and comic books and toys and things like that throughout my my life, I was a collector and held on to things I probably shouldn't have carried along with me. But I never got to the place where I needed to get a storage unit ever. And I didn't live in huge houses that I stored up. So I never really had a major issue with it. But as I've gotten older, I've realized because only time shows you this, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about it too. Only time shows you that haven't touched that in five years. I haven't looked at that in 10 years. And I think it came to a head for me right prior to the pandemic I'd been I'd been a comic book collector, since I was a kid. And I had had a comic book business for a while when I was in my 20s. So I had about 10 to 12 long boxes on if you ever know what a long boxes, oh, I know what they are. So the long box of comic books, and they were it's a fairly valuable collection. And I but I hadn't collected comic books, since my daughters were born, like physically gone to a comic book show or something and bought a comic book, it was just sitting there and I was just like, and every time I move, I'd have to lug hundreds of pounds of comic books and then shove them in a closet somewhere and take care of them. And it was just such a big deal. And I just finally came to the decision. I was like, You know what, let me keep let me take 20 of my favorite books that have some sort of emotional attachment may I remember when I bought them or, or they're super valuable. Let me put those up as as kind of like a safe like an investment. When the rest of the 10 boxes, let me sell. And I was lucky enough to be able to sell it prior to the pandemic and got a nice chunk of cash out of it. And I felt so much lighter and I wasn't emotionally attached to it for a long time I was emotionally attached to it. But I let go of it. And that taught me a huge lesson about like when we moved when we moved from Los Angeles to awesome. I just got rid of I mean, our new house, there's empty like all there was closets in our new house. And they're empty. They're like literally empty, there's just nothing there. And my wife and I both are in the same place just like we don't need more stuff. And I always love using this analogy. I've never seen a U haul attached to a hearse.
Tracy McCubbin 7:25
Yeah, one of my Yeah, I just received anybody driving to the cemetery and a u haul. Like I think it's, it's amazing. I mean, that whole story is so illustrative of so so many things. And I'm gonna just start by saying this because storage units are are activating for people. But having been in hundreds, I'm not exaggerating, I'm sure hundreds of people storage units, I have never been in a storage unit, where the things inside the storage unit are worth more than what someone's paid to store them never.
Alex Ferrari 8:02
In a practical or intellectual way. You're like, well, I'm storing millions of dollars of art in my storage unit. I'm sure somebody does. I'm sure somebody is storing,
Tracy McCubbin 8:15
But they don't. But if somebody has millions of an idea with million dollar art collections, they're in art storage and climate control. Like that's a whole different conversation. Yeah, if you have things in a public storage, five miles away, if you need one of those things, you can't just get it like, you know, that's what I say to people, they're like, well, I might need it, but you're not gonna go get it, you're gonna forget it's in there. You're just, it's just, it's really, truly a waste of money. And then I sort of invite people to say like, Why are you hanging on to it? Like, oh, well, I might need it. Well, but let's do the math of that. If you might need it. Wouldn't it be cheaper maybe to just buy it again? Right? Like, what is the set? Yeah, then to keep paying for it. Because there's a cycle. This is the thing. And this is such an interesting thing that you said about your comic books, is that clutter has an ongoing cost. It's like, oh, I bought this comic book. And that's the end. No, you have to store it. You have to make sure it doesn't get damaged. You have to pay to move it. That's Wait, like there's an ongoing cost to clutter. And if you have parts of your house that you can't use, because they're your storage depots. You're paying for that you're paying a mortgage, you're paying a rent, you're not able to use your home, so I'm always inviting people to look at the ongoing cost of their clutter, right? What does it cost to maintain it? What does it cost to start? What does it cost to have someone haul it away? So before you bring something new into your life, look at the ongoing costs because there's a real monetary cost and then there's an emotional cost.
Alex Ferrari 9:47
And then I wanted to talk to you about emotions because we attach so much emotion to things to stuff and again, I use my example of my comic books. I mean, I remember loving them When I was, you know, 10, or 12, literally lugging them around in a cart, you know, two or three long boxes I would take to my father's house for the weekend, you know, because my parents were divorced. So I would go and I would just study, you know, organize and tweak and, and you know, everything like that. And I had, there was such an emotional attachment that I had to them. But as time went on, I'm like, Well, I've kind of outgrown that. And even the 10 or 20, comic books, I've kept in a shoe box somewhere now, you know, they're valuable comic books or an actual investment. And that's different. And just a small little thing that I've kept them, like, you know, these in 20 years, these are probably going to be worth a lot more than they are right now. So I'm gonna keep them. But I'm not. I don't have 1000s anymore.
Tracy McCubbin 10:47
But it's so interesting that so I mean, I grew up in a divorced home, too. So I understood that going back from the weekend, and so when you tell me that story, what I think is, those comic books serves you really well, during that time, like, I would always take a bunch of books, because I was like, I didn't know what crazy girlfriend my dad was gonna have, you know, I always had a book to like, bury my it was something to do. And it was something to make me feel safe and a little bit of my other house. So you know, those comic books during that time in your life served a purpose, they brought you happiness again, you know, and then as life went on, and you had twins, and you're like, oh, yeah, these actually aren't serving me anymore. And I think that's what people need to understand, too, about their homes and clutter. Like, is your clutter serving you? Is it? Is it making your life better? Is it making you happier? Is it making you feel lighter? Like, what? What's it doing there other or is it draining you? Right? Is it sucking from you?
Alex Ferrari 11:45
Yeah, generally, I mean that that old, that old saying that, you know, the things you own eventually own you. And it's extremely true, because you have to carry it, you have to take care of it, you got to pay to move it you got to do. And it's never more clear than when you move. Because if you're in a place for 20 or 30 years, you just start accumulating stuff and you forget about it. But the second you got to clean out the house to move it. You're just like, Oh my God, look at all the stuff that we're just throwing money being tossed out the window.
Tracy McCubbin 12:15
Well, also when you get the quote from the movers by weight, and they're like, Okay, that's $15,000 to move you and you're like, wait, what? Oh, right. Do I need to take all this stuff like,
Alex Ferrari 12:27
You really start, you really start paring down? Like what do I absolutely need? And when you start figuring out what you absolutely need to function in life, you know, yeah, I mean, as far as wardrobes are concerned, wardrobes are a very amazing place for clutter, because you'll just hold on to things for decades. Sometimes you're like, it'll be in fashion. Yeah, in 30 years do you really need at that point,
Tracy McCubbin 12:50
I had a great of I had this lovely clients, it was a young couple, they were on there, they were about to have their first baby. And they lived in a very small space. And it was challenging to find room for the baby. And you know, he was a firefighter, and this is what they were saving up to buy a home and it's like, we can make it work. And he had a whole closet, he had a lot of clothes. And they were like this is really got to be the closet for the baby stuff. And he's like, I can't get rid of those clothes. They're gonna I'm gonna wear him again, blah, blah, blah. And in there were a bunch of pairs of do remember dolphin shorts? Oh, yeah, they were like that. Yeah. And so he had a bunch of those. And I was like, Alright, I go, I tell you what, if you can put those dolphin shorts on right now, go to Starbucks, get us drinks, come back still in those dolphin shorts, I'll let you keep up. And he was like, of course. And he put him on, he went out the door, turn around. And he's like, I'm never gonna wear these again.
Alex Ferrari 13:44
So at a certain point he like how many how many shirts do you wear? You know, if you if you haven't touched them in 90 days, you're probably not gonna touch him. You know? I mean, winter clothes or winter clothes, and you put those away for the winter. That's fine. Because I have winter clothes. But at a certain point you just like, how much do you really need. And when you start thinking about these kinds of things, it starts really pairing you start paring things down. And again, this is age. This is a I mean, after years of just studying your own life if you're if you're able to have a perspective on your own life, because most many people don't go through their life analyzing their selves, and they'll go through their entire life just hoarding. But if you able to look and just like what do I really need in life, and how much money am I spending and all this kind of stuff. But I want to ask you this question, because you said your father was a hoarder. I've always been I've watched one or two episodes of Hoarders, and I can't I just, I just can't. It's just too depressing. It is. It's too depressing. I you know, I sat and watched it with my wife one day, she's like, why are we this is, this is just so I can't and I've been like I had a neighbor who was a hoarder. And one day I walked into their house, they're like, Hey, do you want to pick some stuff up that we're getting rid of? And we're like, Yeah, sure. This is 25 years ago, and I walked in I'm like, Oh my God. Now I Know where all the roaches are coming from? Like it was it was like it was it was disgusting that 45 Cats it was like it was it was horrible. What causes somebody emotionally to do that? Because there's something, there's something obviously emotionally wrong. There's some trauma that they have caused to take that place. So can you kind of deconstruct that a little bit for the listeners?
Tracy McCubbin 15:23
Yeah, this is great. And I love to talk about this. So for a long time, they they the psychiatric community, put said that hoarding was a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder. But in recent years, they realized, oh, no, it's a standalone disorder. It is a mental disorder, it i i really think that it's an anxiety disorder. I think it's like agoraphobia. You know, I think I think there's a addiction aspect to it, you know, when people are hoarders and they collect, they get a big dopamine hit. So, you know, I think that, and that what they found is people who have, most likely some genetic tendency towards that emotional traumas will kick it off. So for my dad, it was divorced from my mom, and then it was a girlfriend breaking up with them, so we could archaeologically, sort of see when these traumas happened. And, you know, the thing that's so interesting is that there is a lot of help for it, they found that cognitive behavior therapy is very successful, that it's a little bit of a rewiring of the brain, as opposed to like, digging deep. But I think people you know, I think people on the outside, especially family members are like, we'll just throw it all away. It's like, it's like telling an alcoholic, well, just don't have a drink. Like, you know, just moderate your drink. Just stop, just stop, like, have one beer. Yeah. So there's the one just as the one I can have one, why can't you have one. And so I think that they don't get a lot of compassion and a lot of understanding. And they interestingly, hoarders tend to be very, very smart people. And they're very wily, so they can kind of argue their way out of anything. So it's really difficult. There's an amazing book, and I'll send you the link, and you can put it in the show notes. But it's called buried in treasures, by Dr. David Tolin. And it's an it's one of the best books about hoarding I've ever read. It's written very in layman's terms, and it's for people who have have it or with someone they love has it. And it's, if you're dealing, I just say to the listeners, if you're dealing with this or worried about it, pick this book up, because it's a great read, and it will be so illuminating. So illuminating.
Alex Ferrari 17:42
So the difference between, you know, the cases and hoarders, which is basically living in filth, and piles and piles of stuff, versus a collector who might also be hoarding, but in an organized fashion, where his comic books are all organized, and his baseball cards, and maybe his toy collection, but there's a problem because they don't stop collecting, and it just keeps going. So those are two very different
Tracy McCubbin 18:11
Yeah, hoarding disorder and collecting are very different. And, and one of the kind of ways to sort of go like, is this Hoard is like, are there you know, are there rooms in your house that you can't use as they're intended? Like, is the bathroom so full of comic books that you can't use it as a bathroom anymore? So that, you know, that's it, there's also a test and I think you can find it pretty easily online, that you can take, but, you know, for me, I don't I, I work with some hoarders. I don't work with a ton, it's a, there's a lot of complications, and there's a lot of things but you know, I really like to kind of address just all of us dealing with our everyday clutter. You know, where it's so easy to consume. It's, you know, I joke, it's like, you don't even you know, shopping used to be an expedition, right? You'd go to the store and buy clothes and try it on. It sounds like you don't even have to put pants on. You could just order whatever you want, are consuming has gotten out of control.
Alex Ferrari 19:11
Without without question, and do you think that like, I've had, I've had family members who, who fell in sort of a comfort zone with shopping and consuming and constantly buying things that they'll they'll wear one some never wear at all. It's kind of like a dopamine hit. But there is an emotional attachment. There's an emotional, it's an emotional based problem. Is there a way that you can suggest or any advice on if someone's looking at themselves to kind of pinpoint why I'm I need to buy I need to consume I need to get that new dress I need to get that new comic book for lack of a better term.
Tracy McCubbin 19:50
Well, this is so this is fantastic. You just handed it to me on a platter. So my my first book Making space clutter free, is about how why we can declutter the blocks that we have around decluttering. But my second book is coming out in October and it's called make space for happiness. And it's all about why we shop.
Alex Ferrari 20:09
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Tracy McCubbin 20:19
It's, it's basically this seven, emotional kind of, I don't want to say holes, but the like, things that are missing inside of us that we think shopping is gonna fill. So there's a lot of reasons. I mean, the dopamine hit is one like you just, you know, yay, someone bought me a present, like the Amazon person shows up and you're like, I got a present. I got no, you bought that.
Alex Ferrari 20:41
I gotta say, when Amazon does show up, there is a little bit of a dopamine hit, even though I know it's just detergent. I'm like, Yeah, it's weird, like
Tracy McCubbin 20:50
It's really weird. They've done a ton of studies of it. And Amazon is designed that way. And there's a reason that Amazon hired a whole bunch of slot machine designers to design the site. There's a lot there's, they're playing into all that stuff. So you know, it's really for me clutter and stuff and accumulating. It's all emotional. It's all emotional.
Alex Ferrari 21:12
So we're a few of these emotional, like corner blocks.
Tracy McCubbin 21:16
Yeah, they're fantastic. So this, let's talk about clutter block number two, because this goes into shopping. It's my stuff tells me who I am. So this is someone who identity is wrapped around shopping. We know these people, right? Oh my god, I got this on sale. Look at I got such a bargain. These are really $500. I got them for $300. I save $200. Well, now you spent $300, you still spent $300. So it's people whose identity is wrapped up in acquiring in labels, you know that they for some reason? Don't feel like they're just enough, which they are.
Alex Ferrari 21:55
But that's basically I mean, most most of Western war, the western world is attached to labels and brands that make no sense. What's it like just because you have a Nike brand on doesn't make you LeBron James like that's not.
Tracy McCubbin 22:11
Okay. Yeah. And that really came like that dovetailed with cheap consumer goods. As soon as the US stopped making things and send it overseas to be made in prices dropped of consumer goods. Madison Avenue, you know, talk about the advertising world figured out, oh, if we slap a label on this, and we market it so that people want that label, then you know, it ceases to be about the quality of the product and we're, you know, we're all looking for purpose, or, you know, I'm okay, tell me I'm okay. Well, this label this big label, tell me I'm okay. Now. And so
Alex Ferrari 22:46
If you can go even go deeper into more of a psychology psychological breakdown of why we need that those kinds of labels and that kind of attention and validation of who we are. Because we're not finding that within ourselves. We're looking for it outside of ourselves. And that's what all this is, in many ways. Right?
Tracy McCubbin 23:06
Well, and I think that that I think what was interesting about the pandemic, especially in regards to shopping is I think, two things. One, we felt so out of control that it's like, well, if I can find just the right hand sanitizer, I won't get sick. Just the right. Toilet paper, you know that. And then also, our social interaction was just taken away, like, you know, I mean, I remember saying to my fiance one day, like, I just want to meet a girlfriend for lunch and cute sandals, like, I have a bunch of stuff I need to talk about. And he's like, Well, we can talk. I'm like, not to you like, talking about you. Like, I don't want to say, you know, I remember one day at the height of it, like zooming like FaceTiming with my best friend on a cot, like, pulled by his car side of the street, like, I just need to talk to you. And so I think so much of that was gone. It was like, well, it's just shop, it's just shop I've got this will fulfill me. And you know, and I'm not a minimalist, and I'm definitely not like, you know, I think that experiment of not buying anything for 30 days is interesting, not how I live. But I want people to have an awareness like it's all in awareness, right? It's one of the first things I tell people is, you know, they'll say to me, oh, I need a new pair of jeans. As I'm standing in their closet. They have 20 pairs of jeans. I'm like, because you're a rancher, you need you need 30 pairs of jeans
Alex Ferrari 24:30
Because the catalog gonna ruin the first 19.
Tracy McCubbin 24:34
And then I just say like, Hey, let's just swap need for want. I want a new pair of jeans. Great. You want a new pair of jeans. That's a very different point of view to come from. And that's okay. And sometimes when you acknowledge that it's just a want, you kind of don't want it anymore.
Alex Ferrari 24:51
Right! And I was really interested in your book, you have a section about sex in the city, and which was great because I had that revelation. Not to that extent, of course. But she realized that her whatever 400, or 500 pairs of Molano, a heels that were $400, each with basically a down payment on an apartment. And it's kind of like what, you know, cigarette smokers like over if they look at 20 years how much they've spent on cigarettes, or how much someone an alcoholic spent on alcohol, all that money could have been put into something so much more valuable and more of service to them, and their families. And you start going back again, since I just moved. When you start tossing stuff, all I saw was dollars being like, that's $100, that's $50. That's, and you just start going, Wow, look at all the money that was just wasted over the years, by by not even thinking about it. So can you talk a little bit about that revelation, and that, that that story? And what hopefully will help people listening, that kind of focus on what they're buying?
Tracy McCubbin 26:02
Yeah, I mean, you know, the thing. I feel like the journey of life, right, this journey that we're on, I was like that rom das quote, like, we're all just walking each other home, you know, that it's, it's layers of awareness, it's layers of what do I want in my life, you know, you have 10 year old daughters, what do I want for them, I want them, you know, I want that I'm just gonna make this up, I want them to be able to go to college and not have to get a student loan, like, that's what I want for my sure I want an education without a student loan. So then, if you have that goal, a positive goal, then you can start to look at your acquiring Well, what I do I really want $400 pair of Air Jordans, or do I want to put that money in that college account, like, if you start to understand that the consuming and the acquiring and the buying is connected, there's a there's an outcome to it, it has a you know, it affects you instead of just mindlessly like I want, I want I want I want. And if you can attach it to down the road, I always talk about this. And it's in my second book. When I was a senior in college, and I'm not going to get the math, right, but our econ teacher, it was the last day of classes and he put up on the board, he's like you're going to get offers for credit cards, it's going to happen, you're graduating college is like, let's say you get this credit card and you decide that you want to go to on a European trip post graduation, then you charge the whole trip, and it's $5,000. And then you don't pay it off, you just pay. So we added up the interest of what that $5,000 was, versus on a credit card versus putting it in a savings account. And what you would have by the time you were 30. And it was a crazy, you know, you would have saved like, I don't know, you could say like you could have gotten that $5,000 to like I think it was like $40,000 I of course went to Europe and took on that credit card debt and learned it now at this point in my life, I have these moments where there's something I want to do or there's something I want to invest in, like, I'd save that money. So I just want to take it as a learning lesson. I don't want to beat myself up, but like, Okay, so now it's about being thoughtful about those purchases. Is this purchase worth it? Or is there something else I want to invest in for myself and my family?
Alex Ferrari 28:19
Now a when you start to declutter your life, as I'm in this again, I go back to my experience. I'm I'm an entrepreneur by nature, so I started to sell, and I started to sell things off and whatever I couldn't sell, I'd donate or sometimes I was just like, I don't have the time for this. I'm just gonna donate it, you know. So you'd have multiple garage sales, you maybe throw some stuff up on eBay, maybe there's some stuff on Amazon, and you would sell slowly but surely, one warning I want to give to everyone, especially the collectors out listening. Because I know that you've been collecting those baseball cards or those comic books or those those vintage toys or lunchboxes or whatever, and you've got this beautiful collection and you said one day I'm going to forever need money, I'll sell them. It is so hard to sell collectibles in this world. Unless you do a group if you sell the collection and then you're going to take a hit on it, which is what happened to me if I would have sold my comic books individually or by small collections on Ebay. I probably would have made two to three times my money I would also have spent 1000s of hours yes would have been a full time job just to make that money so I sold it as a collection and I was done with it. And I don't know how much I've spent over the years I don't know if I made it very forgiving or not I just knew that this is how much money I got back and I was happy with it. But that was another realization that you think that all I'll just I'll just easily sell this this this than this. Even if you had fun First Run Spider Man from number from the first appearance to the 100. You're gonna have to sell one of the P one time a P, and it's going to be up pain and it's going to take time. It's insane.
Tracy McCubbin 30:12
How is this is so fantastic. This is so fantastic that you have this life lesson. So there's a there's a couple things with this one, when it comes to selling things, everyone's like this is worth a lot. And I'm like, Okay, well, that's a very like it's worth something to you sentimentally. What it's really worth it we're going to look at that is what someone will give you cash for today. So that, you know, maybe people aren't I mean, I helped clean out houses after somebody passed away. And there's all this beautiful furniture that's not in style, right now. They're like, well, they paid a lot for it. It's like, okay, but they also sat at that table every day for 30 years, like, so, you know, you have to be really, if you're trying to sell things, you have to be very honest about what it's actually worth, Beanie Babies, Beanie Babies, Beanie babies, babies Beanie Babies.
Alex Ferrari 31:06
Before 1994 anymore.
Tracy McCubbin 31:09
And just because a company, Beanie Babies, Disney slaps on the word collectible, doesn't mean anybody wants it. So that's a big realization. And then the time factor. Like most people, you know, you can I have a billable hour, I know how much my time I get paid to do my time. You know, people have jobs you can add, divide by 40. So break down what your time is worth. And it's like, is it worth it for me to take a photo? List the photo on eBay? Answer all the questions, take it for the shipping, like, it's really time consuming
Alex Ferrari 31:44
Returns customer service. Don't let me get you started
Tracy McCubbin 31:47
On all those things. And you know, look, some people really love it. Some people love to, you know, put it up and they like the interaction and some people that money makes a difference in their life. But I just want everybody to have to understand, like you said, it's just not that easy. One of the things that I've seen pop up in the pandemic, which is fantastic. Are these Buy Nothing groups? Have you seen these? They're on Facebook are different. Next door has them. So people just put something up. And they don't they give it away. But it's a way to connect with your neighbors. So like, you know, I don't know, I had a client who, you know, she had, I don't know, it was like a, they were like trash bags that had a sense that she didn't like, like, she was like things were expensive, but they're good. But I don't like the scent. Just put it up on her thing. I've sent a trash bag, someone's like, oh, I need them put on our doorstep, somebody came and got him. So those Buy Nothing groups are really great way to connect with your community and give things away.
Alex Ferrari 32:45
It's so funny. And I'll put a point to a final point on this section of what we're talking about. I have a very good friend of mine who I went over to his house a couple years ago. And he was trying to organize his comic books. And they were just literally not organized. Well, I mean, they weren't bad. They were but they were all vintage Silver Age. Anyone listening who understands what I'm talking about? Silver Age Marvel Comics. So we're talking first appearance of Spider Man, I mean, some very valuable nine greatest of shapes, but valuable. And I told her he's like, What do I do, and I'm talking about, I don't know, probably a good 2000, comic books, all that very valuable. But I said, at this this kind of collection, you're going to have to get each of these graded. And that's gonna cost money to get them graded, because that's the only way you can even try to start reselling them, because there's going to be too many arguments on the great of it, because now you're talking about 1000s upon 10s of 1000s of dollars per book. So now this there now there is a value, there's value in time to that, if you're going to make two 300 grand, take a few months and do the job. Yeah, yeah, no question. But he's a full time cinematographer. So he's like, I don't have time for this. I don't have like, it's not easy. Even when you have things that are valuable. They take time and effort and energy and headache and stress to get all this stuff out. It's not easy.
Tracy McCubbin 34:17
And I think the other thing that people need to understand, I just helped her some clients whose mother had passed away, and she had a big couch, and it was stained and they lived on it. And they done all these things. And we had to trash it. It was really dirty. It wasn't cleanable it was like sagging in the middle. Excuse me. And they were like, the kids were like, but this was Liberace couch. It's worth something. And I was like it's first of all, you have no proof that that's true. Like, and not that many people know who live there's a problem. Exactly. People know who live right. And it's also like broken like, you know, so people get big He hung up. And I think it's this interesting thing of like, oh, well, I spent money on it. Ergo, it has intrinsic value. So someone else is going to want it. It's like, it's not, you know, like National Geographics. I get this question all the time. Well, these are worth something. No, no, no, they're not
Alex Ferrari 35:18
To one person who wants to get into collecting National Geographics magazines might come along and buy the entire collection from you. But they live in Minnesota, you live in LA, like theirs.
Tracy McCubbin 35:29
You know, who they're about, you know, who they're valuable to an art teacher at a local school, they love them, take their boxes over, they'll cut them up the kids will do. I mean, that is the greatest joy, like what a great life for those magazines to get. And you know, and I've just, I've had this conversation and I think you're so wise Alex to pointed out like, be really what something's worth is a very slippery slope. Very, very slippery slope.
Alex Ferrari 35:56
If you want, if you want to know what things are worth, look them. First of all, look them up online, and see if there's actual actual true worth to them. Secondly, go to do a garage sale. That'll tell you right, right away what something is worth
Tracy McCubbin 36:09
But even more, even more than looking them up online. This is what I tell people look on eBay under sold. Yes. Not under listing cost sold, have they sold and at what price because I will be panicked when when exactly
Alex Ferrari 36:25
All those Disney pins.
Tracy McCubbin 36:27
You know, so this is funny. So this is this is actually clutter block number seven, the stuff I keep paying for. Right? So this is we're hanging on to things because oh, this has to be worth something, I can't let it go. I paid so much money for it. Ah, and so we hang on to it, and it becomes clutter. I always joke especially during the pandemic, I go into client's houses may have giant treadmills in their bedroom. And I'm like, Are you using this they go, I use it every day to hang my clothes on.
Alex Ferrari 36:57
Because the dust on it says that you don't use it every day.
Tracy McCubbin 37:00
And, and you know, here's like, sometimes we just have to take a moment go I made a mistake, I bought something I should know. I mean, you know,
Alex Ferrari 37:12
Unless you've got a bar of gold Boolean, that's the only thing that doesn't lose its value, and you can get rid of it instantly. There's very few like, if it's a collector's gold coin, no one cares, they're going to go unless maybe a coin maybe, but they're going to go how much gold is in it. That's all I care about. So that's another thing with collectibles and things like that, that you might pay for. You've got to find someone who understands the value of it. And that takes time. And eBay is not that place a lot of times.
Tracy McCubbin 37:44
And also what's the cost to you for hanging on to it. Right? Like how much of your house how much of your, you know, are you fighting with your partner because it's taking over, like, really step back and, and, and kind of get a, you know, a like a big eye view of what's really happening. That's what I tell people they get so like claws in and entrenched and like, I'm not gonna let go of this.
Alex Ferrari 38:09
Because it's emotional. It's 1,000%. It's emotional. So that's why they're fighting. That's why when you see in a hoarding situation, not even the extreme of that, just say like, if someone told, like my wife's like, saw me carrying these comic books for a decade, she never said a word to me, because she understood that there was a lot of emotion attached to it. And there would be a fight. If I said anything. Like, I think it's time for you to let go of those. She was smart enough not to poke that tiger, because I wasn't ready yet. But then finally, when I was ready, she was like, Are you are you sure like because she was like, I don't want you to do something that you're gonna feel later, like emotionally like, like you've lost something and that. And that's the thing that we do as humans is we really attach ourselves to these things. That mean, truly nothing unless they have a value to you, or provide some sort of value to you while you're living. Close a car or a home. You know, if there's a statue or a beautiful piece of a painting that you enjoy every day while you walk by it all, that's great. But at the end of the day, you leave as you came in, you leave this world as you came into it, naked and alone.
Tracy McCubbin 39:23
Well, and here's the amazing thing, and I love to put a pot like I love that thought process. And what I always tell people is stuff comes to you with no meaning you, you all the meeting on it, you give it all the meaning in the world. So you can take the meaning away, right? You can say like, this isn't this doesn't affect me anymore. I um, I was doing a speaking engagement. And this woman came and she had lost her mother. And she was very close to her and it was very difficult for her and she was very mired in the grief. She just couldn't work through it. And one of the things that she just kind of casually mentioned what she was talking about it because she was Talking about trying to let go of her mother's stuff is that on the nightstand when her mother had passed, and I got from the talk that it was a like hospice for a while and very terrible and all those things, there were a whole bunch of pens on the nightstand that her mom had used to write notes. And so when her mom died, she scooped him up. And then she had them on her dresser. And so she was like, every morning, when I get dressed, I look at these pens, and I'm just reliving the night that she died again.
Alex Ferrari 40:30
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Tracy McCubbin 40:39
And I was like, oh, like, first of all? Let me hug you. Yes. And second of all, like, why not flip that? Why not find your most favorite picture of you and your mom that reminds you of the happiest time? Like, why don't we start the day looking at that. Because at the end of the day, the stuff of people who have passed, we don't want the stuff, we want the connection, we don't want to lose that person. So I always encourage people, like keep the stuff that makes you remember them in the best light and the happiest and fills you with joy, as opposed to like, Oh, that was the worst night of my life. And I'm gonna relive it every morning when I wake up. And so you know, people have we have more control than we think we do.
Alex Ferrari 41:19
No there's no question. I have a few items of my grandfather who passed many, many years ago, and I keep them in my office. As part of I see him every day. And it's but it's two or three things, you know, and I made sure we
Tracy McCubbin 41:32
And you see them and you smile. And I mean, you just smiled when you talked about him. It's like, Oh, that's right, I was so lucky to have him in my life. And you go, you have a little memory. And so
Alex Ferrari 41:40
So there's there's not that like you have to become you take away everything and you live like a monk. It's not about that. It's about balance and what serves you I love when you said that serves you what is serving you. And that is how I look at things. Now anytime I purchase something like how is this serving me? What do I what value is bringing into my life? And I try to be as conscious as I can. And it don't always doesn't always work. But you know, like, at Christmas time, like my daughters were like, What am I good? What do you want, I'm like, I want anything I want you to to be nice to each other. Don't fight, don't fight over a piece of plastic. And then like, you know, like you're gonna get each other. And then the next moment you're smiling and laughing. You drive me crazy. But, but like, I don't want anything until I find like broke down. I'm like, I don't know, some hair products, I don't know, something that something useful, like something I can actually use, don't get me more T shirts, I've got friggin enough of them, I don't need, you know. So it was it's I've gotten to that place that like we can't buy anything for you like good, then I've done my job.
Tracy McCubbin 42:43
You know what I want to do, let's go rollerskating in the park together, like
Alex Ferrari 42:47
Let's take a trip, let's take a trip, let's put all our money together. And this goes for a trip. And we actually do that now with our daughters. Every year we give them the option like you can have a birthday party with your kid, your friends, or we can go away for a family as a family on a trip deck. And you can either have that experience of two or three days somewhere going to see world going to Disney going on a trip somewhere in the country. Or you could spend two hours, rollerblading, playing some video games, jumping in a house and a cake up to you. And they have started to learn the difference. You know, maybe it's because we know how much it costs to start birthday party.
Tracy McCubbin 43:27
Yeah. But you know, this is such a great especially on the other side of or as we're hopefully getting on the other side of the pandemic like yeah, like, Let's do experiences, you know what I would I want to see my friends, you know, I my best friend just had a birthday. And I went up there at Christmas. And I hadn't seen her in a year. And this is someone I would see every couple months in San Francisco. And she was like, Well, you just come and help me go through my closet. And I was like, of course and she was like, she was like let me pay you. I know this is your job. And I'm like no Happy Birthday, like your birthday is in two weeks like Happy birthday. I just want to spend time with you. And so I think that we need to really if we, if we come out of this with anything, this pandemic it's like, we like we want that connection. Let's do that. Like let's not get each other presidents let's go to dinner. Let's do a weekend. Let's like, you know, let's spend time because that's times the only thing we can't buy back. You can't get back more time
Alex Ferrari 44:23
No matter how much money in the world you have Jeff Bezos as the same amount of time as your eye doesn't really matter. Now one other thing I wanted to talk to you about is let's say we go through this cleanse, we have found the light we have gotten rid of everything we are in enlightened in the world of clutter and garbage in our life and things and we only buy things that we really need and we've done all of this. And then every year starts to creep back in little by little by little to the point where it's so slow. It's kind of like the boiling the boiling frog in the cold you know The waters like you don't realize it until until the ball waters boiling and you're dead in 234 years down the line, you're like, how did I get all this stuff in my closet? Or is it like you don't even realize? How can you prevent that clutter from creeping back into your life?
Tracy McCubbin 45:14
And so great I call I literally call that the clutter creep. And again, it's awareness. It's, you know, it's focusing on the positive. So How good did it feel to live without clutter? Like how less stressful you come home and relax, you didn't see piles of paper everywhere. So keep that in mind. And then you have to like clutters like dieting, right? You know, we all like, Have a cookie, have another cookie, then we buy cake. And then all of a sudden, you're like, Oh, my pants are a little tight. How'd that happen? You know, it's a constant awareness. And so that's the thing with clutter. Like, how much am I bringing in? Am I shopping again, am I starting to accumulate and I always like to put like, you know, I always say if you can't tidy up a room, get it back together the way you like it in 20 minutes, you have too much stuff in it. So that's a really good litmus test and then build in a couple spring cleaning. There's a reason we all you know, we used to do spring cleaning in the fall before the kids go back to school, put some times and when you reevaluate the whole house and like, is this clutter getting out of control? And is it serving me? And then if you feel like it's really starting to rush back in what's going on emotionally? Right? What's going on? Emotionally,
Alex Ferrari 46:31
It's the equivalent of you eating ice cream out of the out of the jar, you're like, why am I getting Why did I gain five pounds? I don't understand. Because you cuz you're deep fried some cheesecake? That's why.
Tracy McCubbin 46:42
And what did you you know, but what was go? I mean, I know for me that overeating is, you know, it's when things feel out of control. I know what the feelings are. And I know, you know, and it's like when I'm unconsciously eating that. And it's like, oh, instead of like, you know what, I want to have dessert tonight. That's what I want to do. And when it becomes unconscious, I know that things are out of control in my life. So it's if you find yourself accumulating again, Are you lonely? Is there something missing in your relationship? Are you are you not connecting with people? You know, are you not? I mean, I always say that decluttering can be a real act of gratitude. Like when you declutter, and you realize, Wow, I'm so lucky that, like, I got all this stuff. And I wow, you know, so that if you can use your decluttering as a moment to be grateful for everything that you have, somehow the stuff loses its hold on you.
Alex Ferrari 47:40
Now, where can people find out more about what you do and where they work and they get this new book and this book and your new one coming out?
Tracy McCubbin 47:47
Oh, fantastic. So, Tracy McCubbin, TracyMcCubbin.com. We have a fantastic clutter block quiz on the website. So you can take the quiz and figure out what your clutter block is. It's really helpful for people I have a newsletter there. I'm big on Instagram. That's my big social. So it's Tracy_McCubbin. The first book that's out now is making space clutter free the last book on decluttering you'll ever need. And the second book comes out in October, it's called Make Space for Happiness.
Alex Ferrari 48:19
Tracy, thank you so much for coming on the show and also the work that you're doing in helping people declutter their lives. I think this is a, this is another kind of pandemic that's going throughout throughout the West.
Tracy McCubbin 48:31
This was an epidemic
Alex Ferrari 48:32
Epidemic epidemic that needs help, and you're and you're helping, so I truly appreciate you. Thank you so much.
Tracy McCubbin 48:39
Thank you for having me, Alex.
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