What STUFF means

What does our STUFF mean?

Better yet, what does our STUFF say about us?

Throughout our lives, we accumulate STUFF for diverse reasons.

We aspire to make a statement.

Years ago, while I lived in Wisconsin, an Indiana-based consultant asked me why I don’t wear a Rolex watch. I told him my Seiko works just fine. He advised me that a Rolex would help create an image of success. I reminded him of the irony that he had driven four hours in his Mercedes sporting his Rolex, because he needed my advice.

We acquire a unique item while on travel.

Coke Bottle from Armenia and The Wooden Spoon 5 - webWhile in Armenia, I brought home a bottle of Coke with Armenian lettering.

Take a moment, right now to recall something you acquired within the last week or two.

What was it and why?

I bought a pair of crop pants on sale at Costco. Why? They were a compromise between too-short shorts and pants. I’ll just roll up the legs to just above my knees and they’ll be perfect.

Then we hold onto the STUFF we acquired.

We hold onto a reminder of a loved one.

I still hold onto The Wooden Spoon. If you haven’t yet, read the story in STUFFology 101.

We think we’ll need it, later.

We paid a lot for the item and can’t justify letting go of it.

Yep, these are some of the reasons we accumulate clutter.

Long after the reason for acquiring an item has passed, we’re still holding on.

What’s with that?

Oh, I’m not criticizing. I do it too!

As a STUFFologist, I make it my business to define my own clutter, but it takes time to get rid of STUFF.

Deciding what we hold onto defines who we are. Our STUFF makes statements about how we see ourselves.

WOAH, you say! Not all my stuff!

I agree.

Over time, we try to find containers to store the stuff that we don’t need, right now.

And even though it’s out of sight, we remain tethered to our Stuff.

I still have recordings and videos from over a decade and a half ago when my husband and I taped my father while he lived with dementia. He couldn’t make sense of his image on TV and insisted we call the station manager because there was a guy that looked just like him on TV. I thought about making a video to help people understand what it’s like living with dementia. Enough time has passed. There are far better videos available, today.

I am ready to let go.

Nooo, you say. You can get them converted by a service!

Again, retrieving all the videos and audio recordings and then determining which items to convert, takes time. However, it bears mentioning, we don’t have to reduce ourselves to an all-or-nothing choice. I may choose to preserve at least one of those memories.

Still, I don’t want to live through another Station Fire to be forced into rush decisions about what I keep and what I let go.

An earthquake? A fire? A flood?

I am letting go of things now, so I don’t leave others with the burden of getting rid of my STUFF.

I Start by defining the clutter in an area, Trust in the process, Understand the cyclical nature of clutter, Focus for a time, and Finish getting rid of my S.T.U.F.F. in that area.

These mini successes encourage me to keep going whether it’s getting through emails, a pile of magazines, books, paperwork, and more. I think of Queen’s refrain: I want to break free. It’s not easy, but if we keep at it, we will break free of clutter.

The older I grow, the less STUFF means to me.

7 replies
  1. avatar
    Eric Riddle STUFFologist says:

    Your question, “what does our STUFF say about us?” made me stop and think about my home office and our game room.

    My home office is full of books, and maybe a little paper clutter that I keep under nominal control. I believe that says I like to read and that I value knowledge. The paper clutter says I am not perfect. For me clutter removal is a process not an event.

    Our game room still has some boxes of my toys that I haven’t decided how to display. That says I am a kid at heart and maybe I procrastinate more than I care to admit!

    Your comment, “The older I grow, the less STUFF means to me.” also made me stop and think. The older I get the more select STUFF means to me. Family pictures of loved ones who have left this world come to mind.

    This is article is a great reminder to review our STUFF periodically. If we define it as clutter, then process it (keep, donate, trash). If it means something today, then use it or display it.

    • avatar
      Brenda Avadian STUFFologist says:

      Eric, good point about the “select STUFF means” to you–select being the key word, which for me at this stage in my life is far less.
      Again, it depends on where we are in life and that why our STUFF does define us in so many ways.
      Thank YOU, Eric, for sharing how a little bit of your stuff defines you.

      For those who want more information read the two well-written pieces noted below. I found them illuminating–such as 80% of what we have in American homes can be eliminated. And then the opinion piece… well, it’s funny and speaks to how amazingly and unknowingly, things go viral.

  2. avatar
    Tryn Rose says:

    This is gooooood….thank you Brenda. I have written STUFF steps as a beacon of hope for my continued processing of my stuff, so I may have smooth sailing ahead! 🙂

  3. avatar
    KandidKate says:

    Brenda and Eric,

    I am so glad you established this site and wrote this book. Brenda, you suggested to me (through your own experience) many years ago to not store emails. You might be proud of me for eliminating about 4,000 unread emails dating back to 2010 in my inbox. Pretty soon I will go through the 193 folders I created and start to eliminate many of those. I am also learning to unsubscribe from sites I simply knowing that I have NO time (that’s a CAPITAL No) for and probably never will. I see them now like I use to see my pile (mountain) of mending. One time in my life I had all the mending caught up and then life through me a curve ball, and I did not have any time for mending. I put that pile in storage and realize I may never have time for mending ever again in my life. The clock is ticking pretty fast on this far side of 50. I think you and Eric are doing a huge service for folks!

    • avatar
      Brenda Avadian STUFFologist says:

      WOW, you’re better than I!
      I could never delete all those emails without looking through them first. That’s what’s been taking so long. Then again, it depends on the nature of emails. Those I’ve kept all are correspondence that deserve acknowledgment, response, or filing in some way. And the surprise people feel when I finally reply as I catch up, is priceless. People like to know they’re thought of in our fast-paced world.
      But it may just be YOU who becomes MY inspiration as we move forward in our worlds with less STUFF–digital and physical clutter.
      You must feel a whole lot lighter right now!
      Thank YOU, KandidKate!

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