Overwhelmed with Stuff

I moved another van-load of stuff today, bringing us to approximately 85% moved in.  Well, 85% of our stuff has been moved to the new house.  There’s still that whole part about unpacking and putting things where they belong.  Some day.

At the moment I’m really wishing I had less stuff.  I’m pretty good about getting rid of things periodically but there’s a lot I hold onto.  I have a hard time figuring out how much is enough.  I’m sure I *could* live with only three pairs of underwear, but would I really *want* to?  It’s this kind of attitude that makes me skeptical about the “100 Things Challenge”.

The concept is straightforward.  Pare down your possessions to 100 things.  Yeah, right.  I think I have 100 things in my spice cabinet.  Of course, there is still some debate about what counts as one thing.  An individual fork?  A place setting of silverware?  All the silverware?  Regardless, it seems like a bit of an extremist approach to me.

I’m more intrigued by the concept of inventorying everything I own.  I originally saw it suggested in a personal finance book with the goal of calculating how much money I spent, how much the stuff is worth now, and whether or not I’m comfortable with those spending habits.  However, I would be more interested in simply finding out exactly what I own, how often I really use it and whether or not it’s worthwhile to keep in my life.  It’s easy to ignore things when they’re packed away in a closet somewhere but they really are taking up space and energy which could be devoted to something else.  And Will and I just moved into a rather large house (by our standards) so I want to make sure I don’t start acquiring more belongings just because there’s space available.

How many things do you own?  I’m pretty sure I’m in the thousands, if not the tens of thousands.  And I don’t believe that’s necessarily a bad thing, as long as it’s stuff that I’m using and that is supporting my dreams and goals.  I hope to do at least a cursory inventory as we settle into the new house.  The key for me is identifying and removing the stuff that is no longer serving me.  I know I have a weakness for:

1. Things that seem like they might be useful some day (cool bottles, empty canisters, bits of wrapping paper, craft materials)

2. Things that I feel bad getting rid of because I’m sure they’ll end up in a landfill even though they’re semi-functional (really old shoes, nonrecyclable containers, ancient computer equipment)

3. Practical things that I could cut back on except that I’m emotionally attached (books, clothes, art supplies) – although I’m getting better about this category.

I do know a guy who can fit all of his personal belongings into the trunk of his car but I don’t quite aspire to that lifestyle yet.  All I want is to keep my stuff from controlling me and to minimize the hassle of moving.

Or perhaps we should just never move again.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Steve said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 4:33 pm

    Fun and thoughtful essay, Maggie. Having, myself, just moved a year or so ago, your reflections are very much in the forefront of my own mind. It has amused me to observe that I rid myself of a few things prior to my move, but it was only at the time of unpacking that I found myself asking repeatedly why on earth I had bothered to pack and move certain items. So then I got to move them again, to the new homes I found for them.
    Steve Stroup

  2. 2

    Jessica said,

    August 5, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

    I sure hear you on this. I actually think I have a bit of a stuff problem. I’m one of those people who, if I wasn’t careful, would probably end up in a house full of crap and only little goat trails to get from one room to the next. Eventually I will die after a 10 foot tallk stack of newspapers falls on me and I can’t get out from under it.
    That being said, I’ve really had to get a handle on my hoarding problem. I’m still working on it, but I’ve started by putting a limit on how many crafts I will likely do, and to get rid of any craft item that is not used for one of those crafts. Knitting, Painting, Sewing, Jewelry making (although I’m thinking of eliminating that one), and Embroidery. I’ve also put a ban on further crafting purchases. I need to use what I’ve already got.
    I can’t stand to throw things away, so I try selling them on Craigslist, or giving them away on freecycle, or donating them to goodwill or my church or the local homeless shelter or something. If I can’t get rid of it that way, I know it truely must be trash, and I try either recycling or throwing it away.
    I try to sort through books every now and then, but I think I’ve pared it down to about as small as it will go. I’m not very good at not buying them either.
    Sigh. I just moved, and I’m glad I at least have another room to put all my junk in now. I used to have it all crammed in my bedroom, what a mess!

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