I had gotten a little too cozy with my stuff. And like most people, I had no idea.
I’ve always been sort of a pack rat. When I was a kid, I kept every single thing anyone ever gave me. I never gave it any thought, though, until I moved out of my mom’s house at 19 and packed up all my stuff.
I had boxes and boxes of trinkets, do-dads, and tchotchkes. We’re talking happy meal toys, party favors, action figures. And birthday cards! Oh, I had shoe boxes full of birthday cards! I don’t think I had EVER thrown one out. I even had those little Valentine’s cards we would pass out in elementary school.
But that’s not when I broke up with my stuff. Back then, I still loved my stuff and couldn’t imagine letting it go.
I just packed it all up and stored it in my mom’s attic for a few years.
Then when hubby and I bought our house, my mom brought it all over and gave it back to me. Boxes and boxes of stuff I hadn’t looked at in over a decade. On top of that, I had lots of stuff that I had accumulated as an adult. I mean, I had LOTS of stuff. But that’s not when I broke up with my stuff either.
Looking back, I think part of the reason it took me so long to realize I had so much stuff was that the house we bought is huge compared to our teeny-tiny apartment. And being just the two of us, much of it was empty.
So all those empty rooms continued to fill up with more stuff. All kinds of stuff. Clothes, gifts, craft supplies, old electronics – VCR, tape deck, etc., hand-me-down furniture, linens, decor items… Just stuff.
I don’t really know how or why I came to the realization, but while I was pregnant with baby number 2 (Little Miss K) I suddenly felt as if I were drowning in all of our stuff.
I didn’t even really like most of the stuff. I just held on to it out of (perceived) obligation or guilt. And sometimes I held on to things “just in case”.
And that’s no reason to stay in any relationship.
So there was only one thing to do. Break up with my stuff.
But for some reason, I just didn’t know how. I couldn’t bear throwing things out just because I didn’t like them. And there was just SO MUCH – surely I could sell some stuff and make some extra money. So I started out trying to categorize and label and determine where to sell things and for how much.
I was listing things on eBay and Craigslist. Selling books on Amazon. I had even joined several of those virtual garage sale groups on Facebook.
That went on for MONTHS.
I eventually realized selling everything was NOT the answer. It was just drawing things out. Stringing my stuff along, giving it hope that maybe I’d change my mind.
That’s when I knew I needed to make a clean break.
Being the ever-systematic-analyst, I started by setting some rules.
Rules for Getting Rid of Your Stuff
First rule: If it stays, it must have a logical home that doesn’t add to clutter.
Second rule: If it is broken or damaged, it either gets repaired right away or it goes.
Third rule: Don’t sell anything for less than $10. If it’s not worth $10, donate it or toss it.
Fourth rule: Don’t bring any new stuff into the house until ALL the ex-stuff has left. (That’s just common relationship courtesy.)
Then I got busy sorting through my stuff, following my rudimentary set of rules. At first, it was excruciating. I would look at things that people gave me and feel so guilty to get rid of them.
But once I hauled out the first truckload of stuff to be donated, and I saw all that empty space, it got MUCH easier.
I went through our house, room-by-room, sorting and purging. It still didn’t happen quickly, but went from taking months to taking weeks. That’s progress.
Then I saw a decluttering challenge online and participated in that. There’s even a book that goes along with it. That REALLY got me going!
The only area that posed a roadblock for me was my closet. I just could not get through sorting and purging my clothes.
So I came up with my own way of handling my overflowing closet. It takes longer than just sorting and purging, but it has worked wonderfully for me. Better than any other method I’ve tried.
And I’ll be honest: It’s a work in progress. That all started 2 years ago and I still find myself going through stages of purging. Things I just couldn’t bear to let go of last year are a little easier to sell or donate this year. It’s a honed skill, decluttering, not a one time act. You get better and better the more you do it.
So the real answer to how I broke up with my stuff? Slowly but surely. I didn’t walk in one day with an “It’s not you, it’s me,” speech and expect my stuff pack itself up and move out by the next day.
And I think that’s ok. I learned a lot by taking my time. What kinds of stuff we need, what we love, what we like the idea of but never actually use.
And now I’m much better at keeping new stuff at bay. It easier to say no to new stuff moving in when you know you will probably be evicting it in just a few months.
I’m no minimalist. I actually do enjoy the look of more eclectic decor – the kind some might call cluttered. I like gallery walls and vignettes and knickknacks tucked in between books on a shelf. I grew up in houses with bare walls and now I can’t stand for a wall to be bare.
But my relationship with stuff has changed. I no longer love my stuff. We’ve agreed to just be friends.
Images from Pixabay.