Jan 30, 2024

I Couldn't Throw It Out by Michael Small

by Michael Small
"I am America's worst Swedish Death Cleaner -- unless, of course, you are"
Introduce yourself.
I Couldn't Throw It Out was created to share the stories behind the special treasures I've saved for decades — and give our friends and listeners the chance to share their treasures too.
Then comes the hard part. It’s called Swedish Death Cleaning, and it involves getting rid of each object so no one else has to toss it after we’re gone. For co-host Sally Libby (a pal since fifth grade - I save friends too), it isn’t easy to convince me and others to toss or give away our stuff. My treasures — including tapes of celebrity interviews from 16 years as a People Magazine reporter — are too precious. The question in each episode: Will I finally lose my claim to fame as America’s worst failure at Swedish Death Cleaning? Or can I actually throw something out?
Share an experience that has shaped who you are today.
As a manager of websites for NBC News, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Wired, and others -- and as a reporter for People Magazine and other publications -- I learned how to tell stories and help others tell their stories. This led me to start telling my own personal stories at New York City's Tale storytelling show. It was so much fun that I wanted to continue -- but that wasn't possible during the pandemic. So Sally and I started I Couldn't Throw It Out, to continue sharing stories and giving others the chance to do the same.
Tell us about your podcast audience.
Everyone saves things. This isn’t hoarding. It’s collecting, and people do it even without realizing it.

I Couldn’t Throw It Out is for the people who value what they've saved --- and have reached the point where they realize they have to do something with it. In each episode of I Couldn’t Throw It Out, they listen in on discussions about why we save things, what the options are for keeping or discarding them, and why it’s so difficult to toss them. The constant variety of objects that are discussed on the podcast — from very personal items to celebrity interviews — provides a sort of social history of past decades.

Every episode is a surprise, justifying the value of saving a broad range of things while facing the reality of what will eventually happen to them. Ideally, this will inspire listeners to get out their own treasures, share the stories behind them, and try to decide what to do with them.
What makes your podcast unique?
In the first two seasons of I Couldn’t Throw It Out, we’ve shared my never-heard interviews with Joni Mitchell, Eazy-E, Jennifer Beals, Kiefer Sutherland, 2Pac, They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh, and others I met as a reporter for People Magazine and as the author of the 1992 book about hip-hop, Break It Down.

We’ve shared stories of encounters with Diana Ross and Bill Murray. And we’ve had guests — award-winning playwright Theresa Rebeck, Olympic skating producer Meg Streeter Lauck — share their treasures. In the mix are personal stories too — family history, the tale of a kidney donation — that are remembered through objects I’ve saved. The common element: It’s wonderful to find lost memories of the past through the things we save, and that makes it even harder to throw out those things.

Vinnie Potestivo, Editor-in-Chief of
I Have A Podcast®

Vinnie Potestivo,
Editor-in-Chief of I Have A Podcast®

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