I made a confession on Facebook the other day. “I have too much stuff”, I posted. This simple five-word post generated fourteen comments and quite a few “likes”. Clearly I’m not alone in this dilemma. Recently I read a short story where the protagonist decided on a whim to leave his family unbeknownst to them, and live in the attic above his garage. (Don’t ask—it was a very weird story) He began chronicling the stuff in the attic—broken toys, old furniture and clothes—nothing priceless and no understandable memorabilia, begging the question, why on earth was he keeping it. Let’s face it; this is the question we can all ask ourselves about a fairly substantial portion of the stuff we possess.
Yesterday I reluctantly threw out three or four years of Yoga Journal and Yoga+ Joyful Living magazines that had been collecting inside a beautiful hand woven basket from Ghana. Why reluctantly? Because I had an irrational fear that there would be some article that I had read or meant to read that I wouldn’t have access to anymore. Why irrational? Because every article in Yoga Journal and most in Yoga+ are now online. Now the basket, a thing of beauty, sits nearly empty. Nearly because I admit to keeping a few back issues of Ode Magazine. Ode is now only an online magazine so…well, you know…
One of the comments from my “too much stuff” post was a facetious, “you should move”. Unlike some people, the fact that I have too much stuff doesn’t automatically trigger the “I need a bigger place” response. People often say they’ve outgrown their current home. But many times this doesn’t mean their family has grown, i.e. children or even pets. It means their stuff has grown. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to get rid of some of the stuff? I live in a one-bedroom condo. I moved here from a small, but still, three level house. I could use another bedroom for an office and guests, but really—it’s enough space for me. I have a storage unit that comes with the condo. A few years ago I hired a professional organizer to help me to sort out my storage unit and get rid of things I no longer needed to store. I still have the most organized unit in the storage room.
The most obvious thing most of us have too much of are clothes and shoes. Why is it so hard to purge ourselves of clothes and shoes, the likelihood of which we will ever wear again is very close to zero? That sweater that I got for Christmas from my sister years ago, which I’ve only worn once and didn’t like, still hangs in my closet. Why? The skirt that makes my butt look too big so I never wear it—what is the point of keeping it, pray tell? The shoes that were dyed to match my mother-of-the-bride outfit have never been worn again—and indeed, the mother-of-the-bride outfit itself. I’ve been waiting nearly fifteen years for another opportunity to wear it. The good news is it still fits.
What about collectibles, art, fine china, memorabilia, etc? We all have things that we deem valuable either for sentimental or monetary reasons or both. Things that are both sentimental and valuable should obviously not be discarded without serious deliberation. But things that are valuable but have no sentimental or familial value can just be taking up space. I had never had a set of fine china. Years ago I bought a beautiful set of china from an estate sale. I then bought a set of quilted china storage protectors. I have never used this china. Nothing in my life is formal enough to warrant using it. So guess what? It’s going. I love Carnival Glass and started collecting it some years ago. I think of Carnival Glass as proletariat antiques. I have a few thousand dollars invested in these beautifully colored vases, pitchers, compotes, candle holders, etc. But beautiful as these pieces are to me, I’m seriously thinking about selling the entire collection. I have far less expensive pieces that have more sentimental value that I could never part with. What do you have in your life that’s just taking up space? What will you do with it?
How To Get Rid of Stuff
Here are some ways to rid yourself of unwanted possessions:
1. If you have a lot of stuff and a yard, have a yard sale
2. Sell it on Craigslist. But be careful about giving out personal information.
3. Take everything to the Salvation Army or Goodwill and get a tax deduction.
4. Just put it outside on the curb. I often put things outside in the hall of my building and they’re usually gone the next day. Recent examples: cycling sunglasses, an old but perfectly good television, a working vacuum cleaner, vases from flowers I’ve received, my old Yoga magazines. You get the picture.
5. Auction it on Ebay. I don’t have time for this although this is how I bought most of my Carnival Glass.
6. Hire a professional organizer who will dispassionately help you to let go and will haul away all the stuff and donate it accordingly. I recommend Organizing Maniacs if you live in the DC Metro area.
7. Watch Hoarders on TV. That ought to inspire you.
And if you have never seen The Story of Stuff, take 20 minutes to watch it. This is an eye opening video tells the dirty and compelling story of how our stuff impacts our world.