Blogversation 2012: What’s your relationship with stuff?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation here and on their blogs — asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.

Today’s question comes from Mary Jean Babic, a Brooklyn-based writer and a new blogger on a Tumblr site called Her Royal Babicness:

Colleen and I have often discussed how much we had to downsize when moving from a Midwestern house to a New York apartment.

Out went furniture, clothes, books, CDs, kitchen stuff, etc., in massive pre-move yard sales.  And we live perfectly fine without it all, so what did we have it for in the first place?

What’s your relationship with stuff?  Are you someone who goes to garage sales or has them?  Do you have rituals for purging?  Do you have a storage unit?  Does it pain you to part with things, or do you skip happily around the cleared-out space?  Let’s hear it. 


Categories: home and family, lifestyle

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. When I was growing up, I did love to collect stuff like glass animals, dolls from around the world; and matchbooks (which my mom recently mailed to me; there are hundreds of them and i bet many of the places they are from don’t exist anymore!). I also loved Barbies. As I got older, I read a few books about getting rid of clutter and something clicked. Clutter was more or less defined as things that you do not love or use. I started to use that definition as the basis for my decisions to keep or toss/donate things.

    Full disclosure: I worked for more than a decade as a professional organizer, so I’m pretty good at helping other folks to make these decisions as well.

    At present moment, I’m definitely not averse to bringing things into my home that inspire me – books, magazines, bouquets of flowers. I now have a bulletin board that is just for celebratory greeting cards and other visual inspiration connected to birthdays and other special occasions and holidays. It feels good to have a way to “contain” and highlight the stuff that means the most to me in a thoughtful way. So it’s not just a big shoebox of cards that I never look at; it’s cards that are meaningful and uplifting that are in my line of sight each day.

    I’m a big editor of stuff. Every 2 to 3 weeks, I go through all the 16 cubbies in my book / office supply shelf and get rid of the things I no longer use, need, or want. The awesome thing about living in Brooklyn is that I can put all the things I’m letting go of out on the front steps and they are gone within minutes.

    One gal’s trash is another gal’s treasure, I s’pose!

  2. I love my stuff but every few months, my love of stuff comes up against my love of order (i.e. my OCD). Quarterly, I seem to cull my wardrobe and send a batch to the consignment shop or Goodwill. I recently did a pass through all my bookshelves and pulled a pile to give away as well. The thing is, I do have the space for my belongings and I really love the things that surround me in my home. I eat off my great-grandmother’s plates, I treasure my dead cat’s collar, I have bowls of beach glass I’ve collected, I wear my great-aunt’s diamond ring, I gaze at artwork my friends gifted to me, and I love all the things I’ve chosen and purchased myself. I assign a lot of meaning to my stuff, and that includes my books.

    I feel as if my bookshelves offer insight to who I am. My Nancy Drew Collection, my special shelf reserved for memoirs and my Riverside Shakespeare—highlighted and marked up from a college class—all speak to my personality, taste, education, and beliefs. I once went to a party where the hostess had turned the books spine IN so all you saw were the white pages. My first thought was, “WTF?” My second thought was, “That’s weird; my books say something about me and I want people to see them.” My third thought was, “Ah, I guess this configuration says something about the hostess as well.” I’m not a blank slate; my stuff makes sure of that.

    Of course, if I were to lose it all tomorrow, I’d survive. But I’d start collecting meaningful things, one piece of beach glass at a time.

  3. Mary Jean, I think you’ll find this article interesting:

    I spent about six months traveling around Southeast Asia with only what I could carry on my back … or at least that’s what I like to tell people. The truth is, even during that “transient” time, I had a “storage unit!” Midway through my trip, I left a package with a friend of a friend in Bangkok that I picked up before my flight home. That doesn’t count all of the boxes stored in my parents’ basement. So, even though I liked to think that I was a minimalist, I was (and still am) not. BUT, that doesn’t mean I had 50 boxes and filled a room full of junk in Bangkok. I left a hand woven wicker basket that I bought in Cambodia that I use today for picnics (instead of buying a basket at Target when I got back) and it reminds me of the afternoon I spent on the side of a road with a broken down bus when I bought the basket. I try to keep things, “stuff,” in my life that reminds me of something. I participate in and organize clothing swaps with my friends. I buy used items when I can. I make an effort to prioritize what I “need” vs. what I want and what would be nice. I don’t try to deprive myself of “stuff” just so I can say I’m a minimalist, but I also don’t keep things in the bottom drawer that I know I won’t ever use. I try to have balance – just like I try to eat well, but I will never deprive myself of chocolate or bacon if I want it!

    This was a great question. Thanks for adding it to the conversation, Mary Jean, and thanks to all for sharing your thoughts. Stuff can be tough and it can bring up a lot of issues, but I appreciate knowing I’m not the only one that thinks about stuff!

  4. I used to be a collector (stamps, coins, political buttons, etc.), but somewhere along the line I lost that desire. Now I get more fulfillment from purging clothes twice a year and giving tons of books and CDs to the library… when they’re accepting. They’re purging, too, apparently. Move that stuff along! Spread it around!

    • I’m so impressed that you went from being a collector to someone who gets enjoyment and fulfillment from getting rid of stuff. Amazing. Did something happen to make the shift in your mind to move from a “keep” to a “spread it around” mentality?

  5. A few days after Hurricane Sandy, I saw a post on our local parenting listserv that someone was collecting towels and blankets to take out to Red Hook. I emailed the woman and told her I could contribute, thinking that I’d then carefully assess our stock and take out what was usable that we didn’t need. She wrote back immediately saying, “I’m leaving now! I’ll be right there!” So I tore through our closets, making snap decisions, and was barely done when my buzzer rang. If I had had time, I probably would have taken half an hour figuring out what to part with. This way, I threw it together in less than five minutes. And I don’t even remember exactly what was in that bag. It’s created no absence whatsoever in our lives. So why did we even have it in the first place?

    • I like this because it takes the “pain” of making a quick decision away — and for a good cause. It’s hard to sit in front of the things you bought (with your hard earned money!) and know you didn’t use them … and then that you are just going to get rid of it. BUT knowing that it’s going to someone who lost everything in a disaster, well … there’s something about that you can’t argue with supporting at a moment’s notice.

  6. In twenty minutes I’m going downstairs and will place a box of my kids’ stuff out on the curb. I counted: 42 books and 12 stuffed animals. It’ll be interesting to see if they even notice. My prediction is no.

  7. If I haven’t worn it, eaten it or used it in a year, out it goes.

  8. MJ, I wrote a post not long ago about finally letting go of my attachment to a couple of my mom’s items of furniture — I think it’s especially challenging to detach from “stuff” when it’s loaded with memories, at least for me, but in the end, there’s still only so much room for stuff.

  9. I fancy myself a zen minimalist. I got fussy with my parents last year at Christmas when they gave me a nice hanging bag suitcase (that also didn’t match all my others) that they got at a going out of business sale at some luggage store in Florida making it unreturnable. I don’t own a single CD, they are all mp3s now and struggle with ideas for friends and family to get me stuff for Christmas that won’t become clutter. This year, I will take photos of all of my closets to show the family that everything that comes into my house needs a home and there are few vacancies in my place.

    I do, however, suffer from not wanting to get rid of anything. I still wear T-shirts that I wore in college. Old sneakers are good for yard shoes. Some flip flops that Court has been dying to toss for a year just came in handy as shower shoes at the gym. Hell, Gauchey found an unopened teriyaki sauce bottle in my pantry without an expiration date and asked if I could recall when I bought it. It was Ralph’s brand, which is from when I lived in California. So at worst it was 16 years old, at best at least 6. I relented and let her toss it, so I too am growing. Not fast enough for Courtney, but she’s more into dusting than clutter.

  10. It’s always instructive to look around at people who have more stuff than you do and less stuff than you do.

    Anyone who has more than you has clutter. Anyone who has less than you is depriving themselves.


  11. SYDN. Stuff You Don’t Need.


  1. Blogversation 2012: What would you change about your home to make it your dream home? « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally
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