Are you burdened by your stuff?

credit: misteraitch

Yesterday I watched the show Anderson.  It was only the second time I’ve ever seen the show and this one was about a mom and her hoarding issues.  She was a regular mom with piles and piles and piles of stuff.  I found it so interesting that she viewed her stuff with a similar love that you would have for a child.  The idea of throwing something away for her hurt as if she was giving away her own flesh and blood.  Those are some intense emotions for the things.  I can imagine that to be just as overwhelming as all the stuff.

When Anderson showed this mom the video footage of her home, you could tell she was surprised.  When Anderson asked about her reaction, she replied “this is the place I go to everyday for solace and that’s what I live with but I don’t always see it”. She then said “I see a ton of stuff with no where to put it.  I use all of it”.  Denial.  She had enough piles of clothing in that house that even if she wore something different every day for a couple of years she still wouldn’t be using all of it.  The Professional Organizer hired to help her found many many pieces of clothing with the tags still on.

And then I thought of another show I’ve been watching lately, the new one with Peter Walsh called Extreme Clutter.  Over and over again Peter talks about the power stuff can have over our lives.  We allow it to keep us from living in the present and truly living in the now.  We allow the stuff to call the shots and push us around until we are “living” in a fraction of the house we own thinking we just don’t have enough space.  The stuff holds us captive, and can be crippling.  Then when we can’t take it anymore, rather than deal with it once and for all, we rent storage units and transfer the stuff to there just so we don’t have to think about it anymore.

Cluttered = procrastinated decisions

Do you know that North American’s spend over 20 billion a year on storage facilities?  20 BILLION DOLLARS!  A YEAR!  Wowsa, let’s let that sink in for a moment.  I learned this staggering stat while watching yet another show called the Million Dollar Neighborhood, where a community in BC, Canada attempts to get out of debt.  One couple had two storage units full of stuff that simply sat there collecting dust, they hadn’t used any of it in years.  In all the years that they’d had these units the amount they paid for them was over 5 figures and yet they had no retirement fund to speak of.  They’d never stopped to think about it, the stuff had that much pull over them.  One of the show’s challenges was to have a huge community garage sale together.  When it was all over it was so moving to watch how relieved families were to not to be burdened by their stuff anymore.   And the couple with the two storage units were beyond ecstatic to have such a huge weight lifted off their shoulders.  A weight they didn’t even know was there until it had been removed. Very emotional.

Recently I had to make some storage decisions in my own home.  And while it was on a much smaller scale I did realize that the shelves my basket and bins “in waiting” were taking up could definitely be used for things I do use regularly.  You’ll remember that just a couple of months ago I purged some baskets from this area but it was time to do it again.  It was fine if I didn’t need the storage space but I do so the decision was made to part with even more of my baskets.  You know how I love my baskets!!

My stash is almost next to nothing now.  I’ve come a long way from my “container for my containers” days:

Do not be burdened by the stuff.  Don’t give it more power than it deserves.

If you are having trouble making these decisions, please ask someone for help.  Whether it be a friend, family member or professional, it’s amazing what happens when we try to explain out loud to someone else our reasoning for wanting to keep something.  It might even be the first time you hear yourself say it and it can be very powerful.  Try saying it to yourself in a mirror even.

While going through the list of challenge participants I loved what Elizabeth from Ready, Set, Simplify had to say.   “Part of this project will be analyzing what happened and coming up with some solutions to prevent it from happening again”.

To do this, ask yourself some questions:

1.  What am I hanging onto today that takes up valuable space that could be used for more needed purposes?

2.  What am I allowing to rule my roost?  Is the stuff calling all the shots?

3.  What isn’t working?  How can I make it better?  Why do I want to make it better?

4.  What is working?  Why am I able to maintain these particular solutions and not others?

5.  Am I trying to organize clutter to avoid making the tough decisions about my stuff?

6.  Am I really seeing my clutter or am I in denial?   Looking at pictures of your space really helps!

7.  Do you have a storage unit?  How long have you had it?  Could you say what was in it?  Is it worth it?

I would love to hear some of your answers!

Filed under: Clutter Control, Motivation-Encouragement, Organizing Basics


32 Responses to Are you burdened by your stuff?

  1. 1
    se7en says

    This is such an interesting post!!! We started decluttering and stopped shopping for anything other than consumables a couple of years back when we started blogging… and decluttering is a way of life because stuff just happens!!! But the key for us to stop feeling “overpowered by all the stuff” was to really stop shopping. For instance, no more craft materials until we had finished what we already owned – we are still using those same crayons!!! We got rid of half of our books and I know we could easily do it again. We really had to put a stop to stuff coming into our home, decluttering wasn’t enough!!! Our house was a squash and a squeeze but as the stuff diminishes we fit so much better, and we are so much more content… You can’t buy contentment or piece of mind and the more you pursue it the harder it is to find. Somehow going for a walk together is so much more fun than heading for the shops… really as a leisure activity shopping is not a great choice!!!

    • 1.1
      Laura says

      Yes I totally know what you mean. These last few years I’ve really learned the value of experiences over stuff and now that seems to have become a mantra for me.

    • 1.2
      Dawn D. says

      “You can’t buy contentment or peace of mind and the more you pursue it the harder it is to find.” I love this quote! Where I struggle most is the kid stuff. Toys and books and gadgets everywhere! It definitely consumes more of my day than anything else and I am having a hard time getting it under control.

      • se7en says

        Hay Dawn… When I look at photos of the amount of toys and kids stuff we had for two kids I shudder!!! And it wasn’t a lot by most standards, but more than I could handle. Our house wasn’t getting any bigger but we were having more kids… I reduced our toys and educated the main gifters (grannies) about the type of toys we were keeping and the toys we no longer kept: lego/duplo/zoobs/wooden cooking toys and Wow toys pretty much sums it up… if it wasn’t in those categories it just went out… not a single kid has ever asked for it back and I have some hoarders!!! So our toys were streamlined over time. Last year we wanted to put a bunk bed in but we had no wall space… we had to get rid of a wall of books and everyone said it was impossible!!! So book by book we went through the pile: “Do you love it or not?” And we did it… my hubs couldn’t believe it and then he got into it and before you new it we had reduced our household books by half.
        It can be done in fact, I know we could do it again… I’m just biding my time for the right moment!!!
        Wishing you the best of luck – you really can do it even if it is just a small bag a day – get it out!!!

  2. 2
    Michelle @ Getting Through the Day says

    The last year has been so much about purging in this apartment. I was feeling like our family of 6 was outgrowing our space, like our space was caving in on us, but then I realized how much stuff we have that really wasn’t being used. We realized it was MUCH cheaper for us to give away all of our baby and toddler stuff and re-buy it later if we ever have another than it was for us to rent a larger apartment. Just getting rid of those things has made such a huge difference in our storage space. Since getting rid of those things, I’ve spent a lot of time reevaluating other things as well. The most discouraging thing for me is to realize how much money I’ve wasted along the way in having too much stuff that didn’t really get used. Live and learn.

    • 2.1
      Lisa says

      Michelle I am greived in this economy by the amount I have spent on past wants and luxuries. I guess we live and learn right?


    • 2.2
      Bernice @ The Stressed Mom says

      And this helps me when the “I would love to haves” come along. Knowing that I have gotten rid of SO much stuff that I just had to have, it keeps me from buying most of those things I am wanting. I have learned to see things and say, “Oh that is cool, pretty, unique, etc” and just let it go. I very rarely will spend or buy anything that is not consumable now.
      Moms, stress, and matters of the heart

  3. 3
    Becky L. says

    i went to my favorite store the other day because I had a $10 cpn for my birthday. I looked around, looked at baskets–no, don’t need any right now…, more glasses….um, well I bought a grater with large and fine holes. I have been wanting one and so I got it. Yes I will use it. My desk still needs work and my linen closet. Yes I have some baskets sitting with stuff in them I don’t need so they need to be purged! I love the concept of baskets and I’m as bad as you are with them! I don’t have storage units. I have a garage and that’s gonna go this summer since I want to have a garage sale and put the money towards my mission trip to Nicaragua next year. That will propel me to do it! I rarely watch Hoarders any more as it’s the same thing and can’t really stand that. I guess it’s more fun to see American Pickers where two guys go and buy stuff from people who have collected stuff for years and store them in sheds and barns. Oh my! Thanks for encouragement!

  4. 4
    Jen says

    I will never understand people who have storage units and actually keep them for longer than just a few months (I can understand using one if you’re in between homes, and need a temporary place for your furniture, etc., before you move into the new place or something like that). What a waste of money, storing stuff in a place where you can’t even easily access it (and so likely you never do)! But then again I am the type of person who walks into my MIL’s cluttered kitchen, where you can’t open some of the cabinets without some tupperware falling out, and has a panic attack. It takes every ounce of self control I have not to go in there and purge/reorganize her whole kitchen. And that’s just the beginning.

  5. 5
    More Than A Mom says

    It is posts like these that make me continue to marvel at all the things that are easily accumulated yet hold a love/hate relationship with wanting to keep but not having places to store it and constantly having to clean around or move it. This is continuing to motivate me as I plow through the household.

  6. 6
    Susanne says

    Of course you would post this the day I do a post on my books. Are you spying on me? LOL.

  7. 7
    Emily @ Random Recycling says

    I am always surprised when we fill up our donation pile spot and need to call for a pick-up. I guess it’s time I realize that organization is not an end result, but purely a process. I find it most helpful to only shop for containers when I have a specific need in mind, like my coffee scoops. I just cleaned out the extra items in my coffee mug/grinds/sugar cabinet and I just need a small container to keep the scoops in for regular coffee or espresso.

  8. 8
    Lara says

    My stuff is why I must have a garage sale this month! LOL! It is AMAZING how much stuff we collect over time!

  9. 9
    Charli says

    Doing the February challenge this month has really got me thinking about what I need and what I don’t, especially when it comes to my daughter’s things. It’s like I don’t want to get rid of her things because they’re hers.
    We have a storage unit because we have a washer, dryer and fridge that we can’t put in our current apartment but being in the military, no living space is too permanent and we don’t want to get rid of those items. However, there is also a lot of our daughter’s baby stuff in there that we will be getting rid of as we get ready for the next baby (appearing this July). I’m kind of nervous to see just how much stuff we saved that we won’t need.

  10. 10
    Heather says

    This post was so wonderful! I have been working on this issue in my own life. Just before Christmas, I recognized the importance that the Stuff in our lives had taken and I didn’t feel good about it. We had put our house on the market because we felt we just didn’t have enough space for our growing family. We rented a storage unit and took at least half of our stuff to it and my mother in law’s house. There were a few things here and there that I thought…oh I wish that weren’t in storage or that I had to retreive from my Mother in Law’s house – but surprisingly – so much of the stuff we just “had to have” wasn’t missed. We have taken our house off the market and I’m going through room by room, closet by closet and I’m amazed by how much stuff I’ve been able to donate. Trying to sell some of the items. It’s crazy how emotional letting go of some stuff that you don’t even use can be!

  11. 11
    Lisa says


    this post is perfect timing for me! I am organized, yet still drowning in my own “Stuff”!

    I am going to declutter one hour each day for the 40 weeks of lent. I find that my procrastinated decisions and fear of not having enough” have ne stuck in a cluttered home and heart.

    So I am using my Facebook page to challenge others to partner with me in:
    Cleaning our homes from Clutter ~ a 40 day journey (begins February 22, 2012)


    • 11.1
      Bethany says

      I would love to read that

  12. 12
    Diane says

    I’ve been on a purging tear. I’ve allocated 1) things to be donated to a pick-up charity 2) things to go to a consignment shop 3)Things to just go!. It’s been such a breath of fresh air, though it’s all been stored in my foyer area and am amazed but how much stuff it collectively amounts to. Love your blog.

  13. 13
    Nonna Beach says

    Thank you for this great post ! I am in the midst of purging 40 years of stuff and it is hard but I am determined to get it done over time. I’ve given myself until December 2012 to get it done, no storage units, just get it all out before Christmas !

  14. 14
    [email protected] says

    This is such a great post and it got me thinking about things that we have been keeping in our garage. For example a bed that we used to have in the bedroom that now belongs to our daughter. That bed has been there now for years, and we keep telling our selves when we move to another house and have an extra bedroom we are going to use it. Yeah not sure when that move is going to happen in the meantime that bed is just there taking up space. So just right now I told my husband lets sell it.

  15. 15
    Tara says

    I completely identified with everything you said. Everything. I grew up in the home of a hoarder who doesn’t want to change. (Oh, the things I could tell you! They have FIVE storage sheds. FIVE! And tiny ant trails through the stuff in every room of their home. And stuff spilling out of every door onto the patio and into the yard.) I too have trouble with stuff. In the first ten years of my adult life, I amassed so much that it’s taken my husband and I over a year to begin to clear it out. We put bag after bag of unused items out for the charity that picks up in our neighborhood. Just this week, we donated six large boxes full of books to the library. I’m still overwhelmed by it.

    This – “Am I trying to organize clutter to avoid making the tough decisions about my stuff?” is exactly my problem. I try to organize my kids’ toys to avoid getting rid of some. I try to organize my books because I don’t want to lose something that I might read some day.

    Thanks to AboutOne, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the papers that were cluttering my living room, but the toys, clothes, and books still leave me feeling like I’m drowning.

  16. 17
    Bernice @ The Stressed Mom says

    The amount of money spent on storage units is amazing! And so many people are out of work and broke and others are throwing away thousands on stuff they don’t even remember! Unbelievable how many storage companies we have in our area. And I think the storage companies count on the fact that many people would rather store it and not think about it, than go through and make those decisions. So they’re making a killing!

  17. 18
    Donna W says

    Love the motivation I get from these posts!! I don’t have a problem parting with stuff if I know where it’s going like to a friend or specific charity but I have trouble boxing perfectly good stuff and taking it to a place where I know it won’t be put to good use…like craft/scrapbooking supplies. I feel like I should try to sell them first and then I never get around to ebay/craigslist…and the stuff just sits there. Do I need an intervention?

    • 18.1
      Laura says

      Check with your local thrift stores Donna…all the proceeds from ours here in town goes to buy equipment for the hospital. Now I don’t think twice about bringing anything to the thrift store no matter the cost because I know it’s going to such an awesome cause.

    • 18.2
      Glori says

      You can also check with local groups & clubs such as 4H clubs, Girl Scouts, Church Youth Groups, etc. They would probably love having donated craft supplies and put them to good use also.

  18. 20
    riddly says

    STOP BUYING STUFF- if you feel the urge, give the money to the charity instead- you will get a much bigger buzz than buying more forgetable junk and then donating it five years out of date…………..

  19. 22
    Frustrated organiser says

    I definitely feel burdened by stuff and could use some advice when your dear husband just doesn’t concur. Every time I organise a space (for example our entrance hall – the dumping ground of all dumping grounds) and get everything put away, surfaces clear, floor space clear etc it just gets filled up again! I swear that if my husband can’t see an item he just buys another to replace it: without looking in any drawers first! I recently started to clear out my stepson’s room which has become an extension of my husband’s garage/shed for all the stuff he dumps in there (really not fair on my stepson even if he does only stay with us every other weekend) and I found 7 backpacks, 3 still with tags on, none of which get used. I don’t want to just get rid of his stuff (it is his after all) but when I ask him to keep one or two items he refuses to part with any. His clothes litter this bedroom (he uses the ensuite shower room as ours only has a bath) and despite moving a chest of drawers into the room just for him it’s overflowing with clothes he doesn’t wear – not to mention his wardrobe in our room which I genuinely think he’s not even opened since our daughter was born (she’s nearly 2 years old!). Again any time I try to purge, he resists a nd refuses to part with stuff. Now I’m not saying I’m a saint – I have loads of shoes and books and need to purge my own wardrobe due to recent weight loss, but my husband’s stuff (apart from the clothes) is spare bike and motor bike parts, 6 bike helmets(!!), actual bikes in the house (a mini moto in my stepson’s bedroom!!) loads of huge stuff which takes up most of our decent storage space (under the stairs, utility room, downstairs cloakroom etc).
    Please tell me how you would deal with this…??? I’m getting a bit desperate now!

  20. 23
    LM says

    # 5 on your list : Am I trying to organize clutter to avoid making the tough decisions about my stuff?
    really got my attention. I love organized space, but can’t seem to get there. Reading this question made me realize why. Thanks


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