Monday, February 25, 2013


Yes, stuff. Have you ever realized how much we define ourselves by our stuff? We all have too much of it. And it's like getting rid of a dear friend to cull it from our lives. For some, stuff is a physical manifestation of the stuff in our heads. Cluttered minds and cluttered living spaces make it difficult to live a calm life.

I got to looking at the stuff I've collected over the years. Even though I purged huge truck loads when Terry and I moved to the lake, we still have too much. And this is after implementing a one-in-two-out rule.

Let's take a look the story my closets tell. If I buy a new shirt, two leave the closet. That's all well and good to keep hanger proliferation under control. My house has seven closets for two people. Six are in guest bedrooms, but each of those closets has outside hooks for guest clothes. That mean, each "guest" closet is full of stuff we don't wear.

How do I know we don't wear it? Easy. At the beginning of each year, I turn all hangers around so the hooks point outwards. If we don't worn an item in the next twelve months, I have a visual aid. But that hasn't always led to filling trash bags for the dump or boxes for Goodwill.

I culled a guest closet a couple of weeks ago. What was in it, you ask? Clothes, every expensive clothes, that no longer fit either of us. Yes, Terry and I have put on a few pounds since we worked in the corporate world. Our life style no longer requires us to wear suits and ties, dresses and blazers, all the time. Since some of these (honestly, a lot of these) items no longer fit, I took the largess to Goodwill. Terry's suits and dress slacks were generally two sizes too small. Mine were worse. I hate to admit it, but I had pants and skirts that were three sizes smaller than I am today.

I had to face a fact: I will never be small enough to wear my skin-tight, size eight black leather pants again. With a huge gulp and a tiny whimper, they went in the box. As did silk trousers. As did wool slacks that I can't wear at the lake, because they are too heavy. Out went various jackets I no longer need. Maybe someone else can use them.

I felt healthier for accepting that I'm no longer a size eight. I also felt emotionally lighter for getting rid of almost an entire closet of business clothes.

I looked around at the rest of the house. I need to de-stuff more of it, but that will come later. And will result in a different post. For now, I am at peace with a leaner closet. More closets remain, but they'll be easier now that the first one has survived a purge.

Does your stuff tell a story about your family's history? Did you consciously collect your stuff? Or did it seem to appear in bits and pieces over the years?

So tell me. What do you need to get rid of in your life?


Monti said...

Betsy, I can so relate to the stuffed closets. My problem is worse though because most all of the clothes still fit. However, who dresses up to sit in front of the computer? Also, as an artist, I collect stuff to use in mixed media paintings. I can't throw stuff out--even dryer fluff--because I might be able to use it! What a mess! Interesting post!

Mary Montague Sikes

Dixie Lee Brown said...

Loved your post, Betsy! So true - we surround ourselves with stuff. I purge annually when the local 4-H program has a fundraiser that includes a yard sale. But there's more that could go. I just don't have the time to go through it to make sure I'm not giving away some great treasure. Yeah, like I've got great treasures in the back of my closet! Oh well. Some day. Thanks, Betsy!

Cairn Rodrigues said...

When my restaurant closed, it happened abruptly and we were given only one month to leave. All of that, very expensive, stuff came to my house and stayed for years. Everything from cases of Tazo tea to catering trays, they were the cat o' nine tails that I used to flagellate myself for almost five years. The day that I gave all of it to the local food closet was difficult, but letting go was the very best thing I could do.

WS Gager said...

Loved the post and will be doing that just as soon as the movers arrive with my zillion boxes. Wasn't time to cull the herd before we had to relocate.
W.S. Gager on Writing

SharonStruth said...

I'm pretty certain we could pare back to 1/4 of the stuff we have and still be comfortable. Once when we prepared for a move, I had to live with only the "bare essentials" in the kitchen for a month. Well guess what? I didn't notice a difference. So what the heck was filling all those cabinets? I unpacked with great care, a lesson in what we use versus what we own. Great post!

Helen Ginger said...

All I have to do is look at my desk -- yes I have too much stuff! I have got to organize and get rid of old stuff!

Betsy Ashton said...

Somehow I figured I'd strike a nerve with this little post. Guess I did. We all have more stuff than we need, yet we find it's oh so very difficult to get rid of it. When we moved, I donated truckloads to the thrift shop that supported the battered women's shelter in Leesburg, VA. When I'd drive up, volunteers would rush the truck to help unload. When I noticed they were setting things aside for themselves, I told them what they needed to put in the cash register. To a one, they put in what I said should be their price.

stitchesthenovel said...

Yes, Betsy, you did rub some fur! I write about it too in my book, Stitches. My husband and I moved around the country for work. Every time we relocated, our stuff went with us - all of it - even down to the beta hifi machine that didn’t work and its useless companion beta tapes of 80s music videos and first-run recordings of Dallas! Maybe today I'll go to Goodwill, yet again, to make another donation!