Why We Keep So Much Stuff


imagesDo you ever wonder why we keep so much stuff in our homes? We know we have more than we need, often more than we even want, but we have a hard time letting go just the same. Why is that? I think many of us feel guilty wanting to get rid of things that have some sentimental value. We feel connected to things that remind us of the past or connect us with a loved one, and we think it somehow would be disrespectful to get rid of said thing. But the memories we have of time spent with those closest to us don't reside in possessions; we can get rid of things we don't use or love and still hold dear to our memories.

I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions. Our memories are within us, not within our things. Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing. You can take pictures of items you want to remember. Old photographs can be scanned. An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.

I don’t think sentimental items are bad, or evil, or that holding on to them is wrong; I think the danger of sentimental items (and sentimentality in general) is far more subtle. If you want to get rid of an item, but the only reason you are holding on to it is for sentimental reasons—and if it is weighing on you—then perhaps it’s time to get rid of it, perhaps it’s time to free yourself of the weight. That doesn’t mean you must get rid of everything, though. - Joshua Fields Millburn

That's not to say we can't keep anything that is sentimental; it just means we don't need to keep every birthday card or every piece of our grandma's jewelry if they'll just sit in a box in our closets. We need to evaluate items outside of the sense of nostalgia they carry and choose to keep just the ones that really mean the very most to us.

We may keep gifts from friends and family members because we feel bad about donating or selling them, even though they're not things we particularly like or use. We hang onto them because we've created a sense of shame surrounding the idea of getting rid of gifts from loved ones. We think they'll notice if we don't have their gifts around our house, but the truth is they really won't. And they'd likely feel bad for making you think you had to keep something just to appease them.

Maybe we hold on to things with the intention of maybe using it someday in the future. But if we dug a little deeper and asked ourselves how often we've really ended up using things we've stashed away for that "just in case" situation, we'd maybe be more willing to let things go. The truth is that we rarely need the things we keep by this kind of justification. We make ourselves feel better for holding onto things we don't need by saying we may one day need them, but we often never do. And, frankly, many of such things could be easy to replace if we find out we do surprisingly need them ten years down the road, and we would have saved ourselves the storage space for those ten years in the meantime.

We might even delude ourselves into thinking we'll use miscellaneous items for a rainy day craft or fix our collection of broken things, but most of us likely don't follow through with those ambitions. We store up boxes and boxes of craft supplies, scraps and tidbits of various things we can't justify throwing away, hoping we'll get to make something beautiful out of them eventually. We ought to be more realistic, keeping what we'll actually use, but realizing we're probably not going to take the time to fix most things (unless you're especially gifted with upcycling, then more power to you!).

We keep things out of fear of not having enough down the road. We think that if we let go of something, life's circumstances will take us by surprise, throwing us a curveball we don't know how to react to. But we need to realize that holding on to more and more stuff isn't the answer. Facing the underlying fear is a much better solution. And it will free us up to get rid of the unnecessary things that are cluttering up our homes and our lives.

What other excuses do you find yourself making for keeping things around? Will you join me in letting go of the guilt and fear?



Fear Is Why We Have Too Much Stuff by Leo Babauta, zenhabits.net

How to Let Go of Stuff Guilt by Ruth Soukup, livingwellspendingless.com

10 Ways to Let Go of Your Stuff by Erin Rooney Doland, realsimple.com

Letting Go of Sentimental Items by Joshua Fields Millburn, theminimalists.com

How to Simplify Your Stuff and Honor Your Memories by Courtney Carver, becomingminimalist.com

Image source: https://hotcutegirlygeek.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/too-much-stuff/