In which Deb Kristina has too much stuff

As Independence Day has just passed, I’ve been thinking about independence from stuff.

Three years ago, we moved into this house in a rush. We’d been renting the back half of a lady’s house and with our then three-year-old, it seemed frightfully small. So we rushed out of that apartment as quickly as possible and threw our possessions into the house in every nook and cranny.

Also, we had saved everything that my son had ever used as a baby, figuring we’d be all prepared for the next wee one. Then our next wee one was born a different gender in a different season of the year, so none of the clothes really worked as hand-me-downs. Also, being the first granddaughter, she was showered in toys, just as my son had been.

So we had an entire wall of plastic bins filled with baby toys and clothes, which we’d packed and moved twice, and – for the most part – they remained in those plastic bins.

And that doesn’t even cover the graveyard of dead computers my husband has inherited, or the boxes of mementoes I can’t quite part with, or the stacks of kitchen utensils I’ve been given over the years that I don’t really use because as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t cook very well and certainly nothing fancy.

With the craziness of a book launch and my frantic, stressful dash to deadline with my second book, I’m overwhelmed by a need to simplify.

This week I cleaned out my bathroom cabinets, then I moved onto the front hall closet, then the kitchen closet where we hang our coats. Next I’m tackling the cupboard under the sink.

When I clean something out, I feel like I can breathe again.

This need to de-clutter started when we “baby-proofed” our home the first time, putting all clutter out of reach and away from tiny hands. I looked around and exhaled, and decided I loved the clean look. At the next garage sale, we ruthlessly purged the knickknacks.

Now that I work at home, this is my environment, my habitat, and to see jumbled clutter behind every cupboard door ticks my blood pressure up a notch each time.

Unfortunately, this is a hard concept for my son to get behind, maybe because he’s rarely had to part with a toy. At most, it ends up in a storage bin and we’ve been known to retrieve something when he suddenly remembers it months after we put it away (and this kid’s memory for such things is astonishing). It’s not that he’s so greedy he wants every toy in sight, it’s that he remembers how much fun he had playing with it, and so he invests the thing with the emotion, and can’t bear to let it go.

I can relate. I mentioned above my treasure trove of mementoes. And I still have my prom dress. But I don’t want him to be crippled by a dependence on stuff for his happiness. I want him to see that the joy comes from the fun, not from the thing, and he creates the fun himself with his imagination.

We’re working on it, slowly but surely. Here’s to independence from things, a lesson we need to remember at every age.

Deb Kristina

8 thoughts on “In which Deb Kristina has too much stuff

  1. Ah yes, the dead computers. Also the dead televisions, of which I have three. I’m always afraid to throw out the puzzling little gizmos and thingamajigs in the “miscellaneous” drawer. They have wires attached and screws. They look important. I know the second I pitch that baby, something bad will happen. b

  2. My husband actually uses the dead computers for spare parts to fix living computers — it’s all very Dr. Frankenstein — but EVERYONE knows this and gives us their dead computers… I hate those random little screws and bits of things that look important but you can no longer remember what they belong to…

  3. I am so with you on this, Kristina. We did our best to purge before our move,but I know lots of things are coming that I’ll never take out of the box. The job never ends!

  4. Oh, I feel you! After our last move, when we filled every closet in our four-bedroom house, I became a pretty strict minimalist. (Fabric doesn’t count!) I love that feeling of not having clutter around… I got a sheet-feeding scanner for my birthday, and it’s miraculous. Our piles of stuff to sort and to file are all gone. It’s weird… I went looking for something a little while ago and I was going to look through the piles on the desk, but there WERE no piles on the desk! Instead, I found it in the exact spot it belonged…

    Eerie.

  5. Okay, you didn’t actually ask for advice, but when has that ever stopped me? I do not like things. My mother says I’m heartless, I say if I truly were, I’d have even fewer things! Even I have a few boxes of “stuff”, but for the most part if it isn’t attractive or useful or both, I don’t keep it.

    There is a wonderful book, just for you! It is called, “It’s All Too Much.” Seriously fabulous. My husband’s parents were products of the Depression and they saved EVERYTHING (neatly organized, but still!) and we inherited it. 3500 sf of stuff. I have reduced it down to a few things we use, and about ten boxes that my husband keeps in his office. This was not easy and has taken two moves!

    And here’s another tip that you didn’t ask for in regards to the toy situation. Get 4 plastic tubs with lids. Sit down with your son and help him make a pile of toys that he can’t live without and one pile to give to kids who don’t have any toys (obviously the smaller pile…I mean, let’s be realistic). Take the toys he decides to keep and divide them amongst the four bins. Then let him keep one bin and put the other 3 in the closet. Every 3 months, swap the current bin for one of the stored bins. It will be like getting new toys every three months! And also, you kind of have to do that rule of every time a toy comes in, one goes out to charity.

    You do realize that I don’t have kids, right? And I have no idea if it will work or not? But it sounds cool! Let me know if it flies. Haha!

    But seriously, this book is your friend. http://www.amazon.com/Its-All-Too-Much-Living/dp/0743292642

  6. I’m laughing at “Fabric doesn’t count”, Katie! But we already know you’re neat from your Deb Office pictures…

    Joelle, I’m reading that book RIGHT NOW! I picked it up since writing that post (which I wrote a few days ahead of time). And yes, it’s inspirational. Just this weekend I put four never-used cookbooks in the “garage sale” pile and attacked the kids’ “arts and crafts” cabinet. They had six sets of markers. SIX! And they never use markers.

  7. If you think you have stuff, have you ever watched Clean House??? Not being able to part with stuff…is an illness. But I only have some symptoms…not a major disease.

  8. Cleaning and decluttering does give you a huge mental lift, doesn’t it? I always vow to tear through my house, getting rid of all the crap — cheap little plastic toys, ugly knick-knacks that I bought because they were 90 percent off, clothes that won’t ever come back into fashion — but somehow it seems exhausting to start. Much more fun to tuck into a new book and some chocolate!

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