A dispatch from Stuff Mountain

I have left the serpentine caves and see the light once more

I loved my time at VeloNews, but one thing always irked me — and it’s the part of the job that most of my friends were incredibly envious of.

Stuff Mountain.

Mounds of it. Piles of it. ALL OF THE STUFF. It took over my desk at work. It took over the empty desk next to mine at work. It took over my garage.

At first it was exactly as awesome as you’d expect: All of the fancy bits from the bike world right at my fingertips? Yes please!

Then it became tedious and I found that having all this stuff stressed me out. A lot.

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Little responsibility reminders

All around me were reminders that I had work to do. Weekdays, weekends, even leisure time (when, ya know, I’d go for rides) were all filled with things that reminded me I had words to write. And when I finished writing about that thing, there was another thing, and another thing, and another thing, ad infinitum.

After parting ways with VN, I brought a truckload of stuff back to the office. Anything that couldn’t be returned (used chamois, anyone?) remained in my closet or garage. I’ve been culling through it ever since, and every time one of those things makes a departure, I feel a tiny bit of relief. The stuff I like? It stays. but I no longer need this mountain of stuff cluttering up my life. And it feels good to see it go.

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Losing the stuffing

I know how it sounds. Talk about looking the gift horse in the mouth, right?

But here’s the thing: My mental health is more important than a garage full of cool stuff. I had heard of the whole Marie Kondo thing, and while I’m not saying you need to follow all of her advice (getting rid of my books? No thank you.), she certainly is onto something important: Stuff doesn’t make us happy.

I wrote in my last newsletter about a pair of boots I’ve owned for 23 years, and I wondered if I could keep them booting along for another 23 years. That, to me, gets at the heart of the stuff obsession that I admittedly have as a ‘tech guy’ in the bike industry. We tend to obsess over the new and cool — precisely because it’s new and cool — but if it’s truly cool, we’d want to keep it for decades. How much stuff in your house is stuff you’d want around for 20 years? Keep that stuff. Give everything else a really critical look.


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Purging some of your stuff leaves room for your thoughts. It feels really good.

When you’re not thinking about stuff management, you suddenly have time to think about self-management. I started reading more. I started stretching more. I started finding ways to entertain myself that didn’t involve twiddling with yet another bike gadget. Sometimes I just stared out the window at the sky and imagined things. Can you believe it? Imagination! It’s still a thing!

It also made me think a lot about how I consume, not just in terms of bike gear, but generally. I have a closet full of clothes that I never wear. (I took piles of it to the homeless box here in Arvada.) There’s plastic in my home, everywhere. It’s unnecessary and harmful. We throw out food all the time; does the fridge need to be completely stocked all the time, or will most of it just go to waste? (Shut up, stomach, I’m not talking to you right now!)

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Throwing things away needlessly carries its own problems of course. So I’ve tried diligently to find other homes for the things I no longer need rather than simply tossing them in the trash.

I’ve got more stuff to give away. The process seems unending. But every time I find a home for something, a weight disappears from somewhere in my chest. I’ll take that feeling every single day.


A few requests from you fine folks

Mark and I have been building quite a library of videos and podcasts at The Practical Still, where we talk about getting into whiskey and de-mystifying all those intimidating labels.

But we need some help: We could use an enthusiastic designer to help us with branding, and a website redesign. If you’re interested, I’d love it if you could shoot me an email with links to some of your work!

Take a peruse of our current website; it needs some love, but you’ll get a sense of what we’re about.