David Treadwell

David Treadwell

“Get it out! Get it out!” The feisty Greek-American real estate agent minced no words when she explained how to make our Boxborough, Massachusetts condo more salable before our move to Maine in 2002. She was referring, of course, to all the clutter, the stuff that accumulates as you go through life, at least it does in our house.

As I enter my 75th year, her admonition reminds me of the musings of Henry David Thoreau: “Our life is frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify.” So that’s my mantra for the new year. And it’s not just about dealing with household clutter, although that’s a necessary start, not that we’ve started. It’s about simplifying all aspects of life.

Let’s start with writing. Ever heard of the Gunning Fog Index? The Index determines the readability of someone’s writing by a formula which incorporates the average length of the sentences in a piece of writing and the number of long words per word. (Google the term if you interested in more details or want to check out your own writing.) I hereby pledge to reduce my Gunning Fox Index. Now. Today. (See, I just cut my Gunning Fogg index down by using those two one-word sentences!)

Let’s continue with television news. Or, rather, let’s cut down on news. The local television news programs tend to feature fires, crashes and crimes with an occasional high school athletic highlight tossed in. And the national news? It’s all about the bottom line: Contention and controversy sell. And when our new president (elected by the electoral college, not the popular vote it’s worth repeating) comes into office, we’ll be treated to a steady diet of cringe-worthy gruel. The good news stories? Not so much.

Be prudent when shopping.

Do I really need it, whatever “it” might be? Adding stuff to the house may add to short-term satisfaction but it contributes to long-term clutter.

Support locally. When comparing the real value of supporting, say, a local food bank versus contributing to the campaign coffers of a candidate for a do-nothing Congress — also known as the black hole to nowhere — the choice is clear. I plan to give only where it counts, where my investment will have a direct impact.

Trim the small talk, go deeper. I dreaded boy-girl “mixers” back in my college days; if we had been able to review resumes in advance, the conversations might have been more meaningful. Perhaps today’s dating web sites have eased this problem; perhaps not. I’m also no fan of cocktail parties for two reasons: First, I don’t drink; second, I like to hear the person I’m talking with. Give me a small party with six to eight people any time over a boozy loud-fest. I guess my age is showing.

Ease up on tech. I confess to being a hard-core Facebook participant. In truth, 90 percent of Facebook “content” consists of mindless fluff or heated rants to the (usually) like-minded. I plan to cut back. Email also has me hooked and, increasingly text messaging. Note to self: ease up.

All this simplifying and cutting back should free up time to focus on what really matters. And that’s a good thing.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary or suggestions for future “Just a Little

Old” columns at [email protected]

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