Over the last five years, I've noticed that a discussion about our stuff is growing. There are TV shows that examine our stuff ("Storage Wars," "Antiques Roadshow"), TV shows about moving our stuff ("Shipping Wars"), and up-close examinations of people who have too much stuff ("Hoarders").
Organization blogs tell us how to keep our stuff tidy, and for other people, everything — from clothes to plates to cars to phones — has become disposable. Things that used to be repaired, repainted and otherwise cared for are now practically a relief to get rid of. You know the feeling when something finally breaks and you are happy to have an excuse to finally toss it? I've been there. At the same time, I'm always interested in conserving, reusing and recycling, so it can be hard to throw away something that is functional, but maybe just needs a bit of TLC.
I've been thinking plenty about my own stuff. Briefly, I own a home in Connecticut that is full — not overmuch, but shall we say, well-stocked — with things. I inherited at least 70 percent of them from my organized grandmother who lived through the Great Depression and wasted nothing. While not a hoarder, she taught me that everything can be used and if it's broken, repaired (I actually know how to fix plenty of things myself, which then creates more work, but is also a thrifty way to be). I was lucky enough to inherit some gorgeous antiques, oriental rugs, expensive speakers and other must-keep items.
But plenty of other stuff is just ... there. Getting rid of anything that was my grandmother's is incredibly difficult; I totally relate to those people on the "Hoarders" TV show who get teary over an old fork — the silverware I have from my grandma (and great-grandma) is almost impossible for me to give up!
But I will admit, to you and to myself, that I definitely have too much stuff.
So while I want to simplify, I'm also loathe to get rid of something that could be used, or that I have memories of my grandmother using. (Random things I've bought myself along the way are much, much easier for me to take to Goodwill; at this point I only have the best of the best of those pieces left.) I'm always looking for inspiration to remove more bits and pieces from my home, because I find it difficult to let go of things unless there's a good reason of some sort.
In a New York Times Bucks blogpost, CPA Carl Richards approaches the issue from an economic mindset, which leads him to the following excellent point: "When we hold on to stuff we no longer want or use, it does indeed cost us something more, if only in the time spent organizing and contemplating them."
I love this idea, since it points out what is gained when one lets go of stuff, and it helps me to think that I'm getting something when I purge, whether that be peace of mind, or more time to do what I love. All this stuff does take time, after all, to keep clean, to sort through periodically, to fix and paint and even just to think about.
Two weeks ago, before I took my summer vacation, I made one of my toughest giveaways. Since I don't want to have children, I mailed off two large boxes of my childhood Barbies, along with all their handstitched outfits that my grandma crafted them all from my old clothes! They were pretty difficult to let go, because they connected me to some very sweet memories of being a kid. It was hard to realize that they were part of another life of mine, and I cried a little bit when I packed them up and brought them to the post office. They were mailed cross-country to a friend of mine who has two little girls who were thrilled (so I heard) to receive them. These items that had taken up space in my attic for a decade are now being used and played with. And better yet, I realized I still had all the beautiful memories from my childhood, which of course don't take up any space at all.
Just don't bring up "The Velveteen Rabbit" story and I'll be just fine to give away the rest of my childhood toys sometime soon.
What about you? Do you love or hate to give stuff away? Anything that's particularly hard to give up?