Stewardship of Life

Why Stuff Sticks Around

Posted in Just Living by Sharron R. Lucas on March 17, 2010
Tags: , , , ,

No, this is not my stuff, but it's a great picture of way too much stuff.

The reason you haven’t heard from me in almost two weeks is because I have been sorting through stuff in preparation to move. I thought it would be an easy task. Well, by last Wednesday the sort turned into an all-out tearful assault upon the mess that had become my house as drawers, closets, and cubbyholes were emptied. Moving day loomed large, and there were piles upon piles of belongings whose fate was yet to be determined.

Fortunately, good friends came to the rescue on Friday by helping us “toss or treasure” and load the two cars. When it was all said and done, both cars were stacked and loaded as intricately as a tower of Jenga blocks, the three pets were loaded, and we were on the road in a heavy fog that dovetailed nicely with the interior fog of my tired mind. An entire front porch-full and numerous piles inside were left behind for the new community secondhand store, while several boxes of books, toys, and treasures were winging their way toward Tennessee via the United States Postal Service. Do I have any regrets? I sure do wish I could have figured out a way to stuff my beloved futon mattress in the car. Other than that one thing, the rest was just stuff—yep, just stuff.

The trip afforded me 22 hours of drive time and two nights in hotels to reflect on this process of sorting and ridding oneself of stuff—and the concept of why stuff sticks around in the first place. Remember that all this comes on the heels of my determination to rid myself of clutter and unnecessary possessions in an effort to live more justly and simply. Multiply that fact by the sudden need to uproot and move back closer to aging parents. What one gets from that equation is something akin to chaos. Small wonder more folks don’t declutter their lives—it’s flat out difficult! Here are my observations about the process:

It’s a whole lot easier to acquire stuff than it is to get rid of it.

For most people buying feels good. Purchasing something new is fun and temporarily fills some hole or need. The problems start when the adrenaline rush of the purchase wears off and the tarnish of an unwanted, unused item becomes apparent. It’s easier to rationalize a poor purchase if one simply stuffs the stuff in a closet or drawer and forgets about it. The solution to this problem is pretty straightforward. Don’t buy a bunch of stuff in the first place. Buy only what you absolutely need, give gifts that can be consumed or that offer an experience (theatre or movie tickets, for example), and avoid immediate and impulse purchases. Most of all, be honest with yourself about your stuff.

As soon as I toss it, I’ll need it!

This depression-era mental hangover still afflicts many of the baby boomer children of frugal parents and even more frugal grandparents. Who knows when you might need an extra pair of scissors? Never mind that you have five or six better pair in your drawers. Hey, if you hang on to that sweater from high school it’ll come back into style and be “vintage.” An extra coffee maker sure would be handy if your new one goes out. Yikes! If everybody thought this way, there’d be no Goodwill, no rummage sales, and no fun. Trust the goodness of humankind that you’ll be able to find what you need when you really need it and release your excess so that others may have the same opportunity.

But it was a gift…I can’t get rid of it.

Yes, I know, your great aunt twice removed gave you her prized collection of crocheted doilies. You’ve never used doilies in your life and don’t intend to do so, yet because it came from that dear sainted lady you just can’t part with them. They sit, and sit, and sit in a box in the basement never seeing the light of day because somewhere deep in your psyche you’re afraid she might roll over in her grave if they leave your hands. Think about it—how many things do you keep and never use because of the emotional baggage in which the gift is wrapped. Wouldn’t it be much better to find a home where those items will be used and loved?

Going through my stuff takes way too much energy.

O.K. this one is oh so true. Going through stuff does take a huge investment of time and energy. Looking at each item and deciding its fate is taxing. Not only do you revisit its purchase or gifting, you also may take a walk down memory lane for good or ill. What about those high school yearbooks? Can you really just toss them, or are you tempted to sit down and look through them just one more time before they hit the recycle pile? If you want to reduce the amount of time and stress, employ one or more trusted friends to help you. Sure, a few things you think you want may get tossed, but is that really going to cause the earth’s axis to shift? Probably not.

There are many more reasons that we cling to our stuff and that our stuff so willingly sticks around. Even after paring down our belongings to two carloads and a few extra boxes, I’m wishing we could have reduced our stash of stuff even more. Who knows, maybe we will. What about you? What are your thoughts on stuff and letting go of it? Please do tell.

The picture above is from Dr. DeClutter’s well-written blog. Click here to visit.

2 Responses to 'Why Stuff Sticks Around'

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  1. kristin said,

    oh, these are wise words. And I needed to hear them this morning. I am good about decluttering some stuff, but really bad at others – the stuff with emotional attachment is the worst. or the stuff that I think can be of use or value. Sometime. By someone. “I wouldn’t want to waste it!”

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • Good to hear from you, Kristin! Yes, it is difficult to let go of stuff. If it’s any consolation, I’m having trouble already remembering some of the things I left behind in North Dakota! I’m hoping that’s just my willingness to release it and not the onset of dementia or the effects of sleep deprivation.

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