The term “dead head” means something different to a Jerry Garcia fan than it does to a gardener. Organization is a feature of each: tie dye wearing, patchouli scented Dead Heads tracked lyrics, players and set lists. They plotted trips cross country, concert to concert, gas station to Terrapin Station. The gardener tracks the garden, nipping dried flowers, ensuring fresh growth and longer blooming periods. When it comes to our stuff, to dead head means to get rid of anything that has just sat in storage, unused and unloved, to the point that not cutting it prevents personal growth in some way.

It finally happened: I was doing some pruning in the kitchen and got rid of my weighty Kitchen Aid mixer. It had been hulking in the back of an upper cabinet for years. It wasn’t really doing any harm up there, besides occasionally reminding me of what a dopey, aspirational bride I had been, back at the turn of the century, to request such a thing on my wedding registry in the first place.

The reason that boulder of a small appliance finally got shoved off the cliff; the reason that muscle-bound survivor had finally been voted off the island, is that I needed the space for a couple of new, much lighter and more useful, purchases. There’s nothing like something fresh—whether a new serving bowl, a new handbag or a new lipstick—to make letting go of something old and tired much, much easier.

When something new and useful comes into our lives it’s the perfect time to assess the old. Even if you aren’t out of cabinet space, as I was, use the opportunity to decide whether or not something old and practically forgotten can’t be pruned away. Leaving a little breathing room around items in a cabinet is always a good thing—it makes putting things back, a key to staying organized, a breeze. It is also a wonderful feeling to open a cupboard or a jewelry box or a closet and see only things that you use and love. For me, it helps with self-esteem and self-definition.

For example, I am no longer the young woman who wore long fringy leather earrings. It makes me feel better about myself to simply not have them mocking me from my jewelry box any more. Only having the jewelry that suits my age (and a few very sentimental items that remind me of amazing times) makes me feel much better about myself. Maybe my self-esteem is pretty shaky if some earrings can disturb it, but whatever works! I feel the same way about huge tomes in my bookcase that I haven’t and will never read. When I finally got rid of Frazer’s The Golden Bough, the sense of relief I felt told me that I should have ditched that door stop 20 years ago!