Keep or toss? Our spring-cleaning playlist will help you sort that out – and comfort you through any tough, if inanimate, goodbyes. (Credit: Candice Helfand-Rogers)

Spring cleaning season is upon us. 

If you’re not sure where to begin, there are plenty of women experts to turn to. Maybe professional organizer Kayleen Kelly’s 4-pronged method of eliminating clutter appeals to you. Perhaps GoCleanCo’s Sarah McAllister and her cleaning hacks, popularized on Instagram, will best assist you with your overloaded home. Or, there’s always Marie Kondo’s world-renowned KonMari method of getting and keeping tidy – though even the clean queen herself admits to paying less attention to such matters now that she’s a mom.

Whenever this time of year rolls around, I find myself wondering what gurus like them – and others in general – would make of Brah.

Brah is a toy dog I acquired nearly 23 years ago. I bought him while strolling the Atlantic City boardwalk as a senior in high school. It was a windy November evening – hardly beach weather, but these walks were customary following All-State Chorus rehearsals. I’d taken many of them, all freezing cold and full of laughs. But that stroll stands out. My younger self was on the precipice of a new chapter, giggling and swearing more than needed, carrying a frivolous purchase made with money I’d earned as a part-time grocery clerk. The sense of freedom was so thick, I swore I could reach out and grab it.

Over the years that followed, I’d undergo numerous sea changes – but Brah remained a surprising constant through it all. Every job switch; every new guy and subsequent heartbreak; every moment of enlightenment that made me softer, stronger, more aware; the move away from my parents’ house and into a series of apartments scattered about Brooklyn; acquiring, and sometimes abandoning, titles like “student.” “Cub.” “Wife.” “Mama.” 

Every time my life shifted, Brah found his four-legged way into a packing box that shifted with me. Repeatedly grounding me, by mere sight – whisking me back to that frigid fall sunset and the breadth of possibility laid out before us.

Scientifically speaking, Brah shouldn’t have made it this far. His mechanized movements stopped ages ago. His “bark” is now a degraded yelp; his synthetic fur is patchy and pathetic. The stain near his battery cartridge might actually be atrophied acid. He is somewhat offensive to all five senses – nevertheless, Brah persists.

And when spring cleaning season arrives, I annually wonder: How does one part ways with something so indelibly connected to a life – but is, objectively speaking, crap?

Don’t ask me, because as of publication, Brah remains in my home. And part of me thinks that’s all right. Hell, maybe it’s even okay to hold on to our own individual Brahs – nonsense knick-knacks that, when found and held once more, bring us back to times and places that feel good and warm and sweet to remember. Objects that serve as small totems of our ongoing growth.

For most everything else, as I’m sure the women experts cited above would remind me, it’s time to purge. To help rid yourself of “things” that clutter the pockets of your home, I’ve put together a playlist of songs that grapple with goodbyes and walk us through the process of lamenting, accepting and even celebrating departures. 

So, keep your Brah. But for countless other items, it’s likely time to let go. 


“Walk Away” – Kelly Clarkson

This early 2000s hit is so full of energy and oomph, it feels like a power source. The only downside? You might get too caught up in dancing along to make spring-cleaning progress.


“You Learn” – Alanis Morissette

A hit single from Morissette’s vital opus, “Jagged Little Pill,” this track is about acceptance and making peace with what “is.” A great way to approach all of life’s goodbyes, big and small.


“I Can See Clearly Now” – Jimmy Cliff

A timeless song of hope. Or, what you’ll be singing when you donate those online-shopping outfits that fit like dreams in your mind, and like potato sacks when they arrived in the mail.


“To Begin Again” – Ingrid Michaelson and Zayn Malik

This stirring duet, about our reemergence from Covid lockdowns, embraces the sweetness that comes with new beginnings and fresh starts. A tender reminder of how nourishing those can be.


“Everybody’s Changing” – Keane

Tom Chaplin’s plaintive vocals give added heft to a song about how hard it can be to adapt to change. Perfect for last cuddles with childhood stuffies that need to seek new beds and friends.


“Irreplaceable” – Beyonce

“Everything you own in a box to the left.” Who doesn’t love a positively iconic breakup anthem that also offers an organizational strategy for ridding oneself of excess baggage?


“The Walk” – Mayer Hawthorne

(Warning: Explicit Lyrics) This snarky, snappy song – another from the “fun breakup” files – will bring some good, mildly dirty fun to the pantry clean-out you’ve been dreading all winter long.


“Shake it Off” – Taylor Swift

If spring cleaning wasn’t a celebratory act before, it will be once you blast this one at top volume. Just make sure you’re not holding any old vases when the clapping occurs.


“Grudges” – Paramore

Letting go can be hard, but sometimes it’s better than holding on – to toys our kids have outgrown, or feelings that are comfortingly familiar but ultimately damaging to keep around.


“Let It Be” – The Beatles

Another optimistic ballad – and yes, one of the most well-known songs on Earth – that could also be construed as a missive to let the Brahs in your homes and lives remain in place.