s-l-o-w-l-y, less stuff

I have been embracing the lessening of my stuff.  Like most people around here, I have a sordid relationship with stuff.  I love it, I buy it, I have too much, I need less, I hang on to it.  It drives me mad.

Ever notice how contrary children are about stuff?  On one hand, they are primo hoarders.  Every single child I've ever met.  And not just the good stuff.  They love it all, even if it's broken and they haven't played with it in the last three years.  Trying to clear out a child's broken toy hoard feels a bit like dental surgery without painkillers.  My kids like their stuff so much they sleep on it, stuffing their favorite toys in their bedsheets, books under pillows.  They remind me of dragons sleeping on their glittery piles of precious metals.  Except these tiny dragons love plastic and paper.

But, children also love open spaces, empty rooms and places neat, organized, and stuff-less.  They are natural minimalists, being able to live happily in one change of clothes for days and use a single item to fill many needs, such as how one stick or one cardboard box can entertain for days.  Girl child will take notes when she visits particularly tidy and minimalist homes and tell me all about how much she liked it there.

So, which is it kids?  Do you need lots of stuff or is it better to have much, much less?    

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I think we are all in love with potential.  Empty, clean spaces are full of delicious potential.  So are craft supplies, tools, fabric, clothes smaller than we are.  Then we buy too much of what could be and fill our empty spaces.

Bins and organizational things seem to marry these two contradictory ways.  We can have lots of stuff while creating more space in your house by organizing it and stashing it all in stacking bins.  Best of both worlds?

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No, of course not.  Having stuff doesn't give me skills.  Nor does it make me prettier, slimmer, or better at anything (unless it's a book - that's another topic for another day).   It certainly doesn't improve my organizational skills.

So much time cleaning, organizing, moving, sorting, getting rid of stuff.  It feels like stuff and freedom exist on opposite ends of a continuum, although I know that is over simplified.  A toothbrush is a stuff I would never want to live without.  Of course, right now I have at least twenty toothbrushes in my house.  One for each member of my family (including cats), plus two more that were bought and opened on trips when toothbrushes were forgotten.  And then there is the stack of new brushes to be used in the future (some have been there forever because after buying the brand we discovered we hate them but can't justify throwing out perfectly good things) and the old ones kept for cleaning groat and skate wheels.  I even have a couple of toothbrushes that have become toys due to the novelty handles and another that has no bristles but seems to be a good thing for holding bits of paper and sticking into plant pots.  Plus there is a couple of burnt out electric ones that were a complete waste of money and I don't even know why they are still here.    

Why am I talking so much about toothbrushes?  See how stuff steals my time?  And it's all tangled up, useful stuff, stupid stuff, stuff to go here, there, or keep?

S-l-o-w-l-y I am wading through the physical and the emotional. I am letting go of the idea that stuff will bring me more good stuff.  That shiny new things are nothing more than shiny new things.  I admit, as a maker of stuff, I feel a bit betrayed by the false ideas I have carried with me since I was a child (advertisers, I am looking at you).  I am sifting through the murky ideas I have about stuff and trying to separate fact from fiction.  A decluttering of my ideas about stuff, if you will. 

Since I've come to the point that I believe stuff equals potential, I am looking for other ways that I can find potential, novelty, appreciation and feelings of contentment without holding onto my things.  (I actually stopped buying new stuff a while back, with much help from my cold heart.  Also, being poor and staying out of the shops helps too.)  Reading, cultivating skills (rather than acquiring things), appreciating nature and deepening my relationships are some satisfying alternatives.  I am thinking self-improvement more than stuff-improvment.

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Now, how can I be better with less stuff?  I like lists, which is intangible stuff, arranged neatly.  Here is a few things I enjoy when I have less stuff:

- More room on the floor to wrestle with the kids.
- Seeing baseboards.  I don't know why, but I like their crisp borders and scuffled evidence of all the life lived around them.
- Being able to find what I'm looking for.
- Having blank spaces to rest my eyes on. 
- Having to make do.  Honestly, I feel a smug thrill whenever I make do.  Plus it pushes my crafty skills into areas of genuine need, rather than crafting just for the sake of it.
- Less stuff equals more time.  Time is the only true wealth we have in our lives.
- More time for: my family, my craft (ironic!), reading, sleeping, roller derby, being contemplative).

There is more, but I've inspired myself enough to go fill a garbage bag with stuff for our garage sale coming up in a month or so. 

Anyone else feeling disenchanted with their stuff?


  1. Last summer I began to downsize our household contents, and I am still working on this enormous job! Our spare room is full of boxes to donate in a timely fashion (timely being the church's spring garage sale/non-profit fundraiser). I struggle letting go of books, mementos, fabric, and stuff we could need but not right now. Some areas are getting a second decluttering. I have a huge list of hiding places that still need to be sorted. It makes me feel low-maintenance and environmentally awesome; I certainly do know what you're going through. Best of luck! There are many, many encouraging blogs out there that have great ideas for becoming minimalist....it's nice to know there are other struggling under the mountain of stuff, too.

  2. I'm pretty sure my marriage won't survive unless we downsize our stuff. We're seasonally oriented with our stuff. Inside stuff is important to tolerating winter; outdoor stuff helps us thrive in spring, summer, and fall. It's all the in-between stuff that begins to suffocate us. I'm the primary hoarder of stuff so it's my job to clear it out but when there's so much else going on, it's hard to prioritize. Glad I'm not the only one who struggles with this. Thanks for your insightful reminder to be intentional with the stuff I have.

  3. Amen! Wow, you hit the nail on the head. I don't know why I have such a hard time throwing things away. Indecisiveness and sentimentality are qualities I have that certainly don't help. I'm trying to learn how to "LOVE" getting rid of stuff. I'm a slow learner... but I'm gradually starting to like it. I don't know whether to envy or completely pity minimalists. You know? But I DO want to seriously demolish my empty desire for "more, more, more, more". Your closing suggestions/ reflections are very helpful. Good luck to you!

  4. It's been a long progress in our house to get rid of stuff. Every time I make a trip to drop off stuff, I feel good. Then I get back home and groan cause we still have so much stuff. We currently have a huge pile of stuff to donate, it's just a matter of getting it out the door.

    We are going to be traveling for the next few weeks and I've decided that, for the most part, whatever we didn't truly miss would be donated.

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