Deciding to Get Rid of Our STUFF!

By Elizabeth Albert
“Can I talk to you about something, Andy?” I ask. “I’ve had an idea.”

My husband takes a deep breath and waits. Poor man. What crazy scheme am I going to propose this time?
.
“I’ve been thinking,” I say. “Perhaps we should become minimalists. We could get rid of all our ‘stuff’.”

Andy lets out his breath. A broad grin appears on his face. “Finally!” he cheers. “For years I’ve been telling you we need to throw stuff out.”

Andy is right. I haven’t been listening.

Our house is packed tight with things. And our garage? You should see it. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. You wouldn’t believe how many things we’ve got crammed in there. There’s all those things we only need occasionally, like Christmas decorations and out-of-season clothes. The bikes and tools and lawn mower (and a buried table tennis table) are in there somewhere too. And so are many, many things I suppose we don’t really need.

Every time we ponder the lack of space around here, I say: “We need to get better organised. I must look for some more shelves, or a chest of drawers, or some storage boxes… Perhaps we need a shed.”

Whenever we need something we usually pray to St Joseph. He never fails to intercede for us. Once we needed a new lounge suite. We prayed to St Joseph and one arrived. Does that sound a bit strange? It’s true. He looks after our family perfectly. I could tell you more but it’s all in a story I wrote. It’s called St Joseph’s Sofa.

Yes, a shed would solve all our storage problems. Now sheds are rather expensive so we began praying. We’ve been praying for a long time, maybe two years. And one hasn’t yet appeared. Has St Joseph let us down for the first time ever? It has only just occurred to me that we have been praying for something we don’t actually need. There’s another better solution to our problem.

“Do we really need that?” Andy asks me. “Can’t we get rid of it?”

“You never know when we might need it,” I reply. “We’d better keep it just in case.”

Just in case? Do you keep things just in case? Do you think that ‘one day’ you’ll regret throwing something out? I wonder how many things we would really miss if we no longer owned them.

Last year, an out-of-control bushfire burnt on the edge of our village, threatening our home. We had firefighters in our road, and water bombing helicopters flying overhead. It was all rather exciting… and frightening. We were put on stand-by for evacuation. We had to decide what we’d take with us if we had to abandon our house and flee to safety. What would we miss if our home and all its contents burnt to the ground?

We each packed a bag of clothes because that seemed practical, and we added some blankets and food. We gathered together our computers and other devices which hold our electronic information and photos. We had our important papers such as birth certificates. And I packed all the things we associate with our son Thomas, who died as a baby: his photos, locks of hair, clothes… because these are irreplaceable.

But I’ve been thinking: Perhaps irreplaceable things aren’t that important either. Would I really be inconsolable if  I lost Thomas’ things? I think I’d survive without them. They’re only things, not him. Thomas is an integral part of me. He is in my memory and in my heart. He changed me irreversibly. And he is waiting for me. None of that will change if I lose a lock of his hair, will it? Yes, I could survive without Thomas’ stuff. And that means I can certainly survive without many other less important things.

Of course, it would be silly of me to throw out everything. Some things we need to live life. There’s nothing wrong with having things which enhance our lives, which we enjoy using. But we definitely don’t need as much as we have. A lot of it has to GO!

So I’m going to cull our possessions. They’re going to be bagged up and boxed up and shipped out. And I’m going to be very careful what new stuff enters our house. I’m going to be asking, “Do we REALLY need this?” before letting something new pass through our front door.

There’s only one problem: Some occasions seem to demand the accumulation of stuff.

It’s Andy’s birthday today. That means birthday presents. Did a big pile of unneeded gifts walk through the door? Did we just add to the overflowing pile of possessions? Or did we say, “You don’t really need anything, Andy, so we decided to give you a hug instead of the usual birthday presents”? (Would we do that?) Birthdays can present a dilemma.

Actually, we bought Andy consumables: stationery for school, and also two pairs of much needed work pants, and a FitBit which he’ll wear around his wrist. It won’t take up any space at all. But don’t tell him. We haven’t given him his gifts yet. We’ll surprise him at dinner time when he gets home from work.

It’s not just stuff that comes through the door that can cause a problem. Have you ever thought about how we clutter our minds and our lives with so many non-physical things?  I’m going to ponder that. Would you like to ponder too?

Does anyone else need to get rid of some stuff? Are there any things you can’t live without? And what do you do when yet another birthday rolls round? Please share!


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Comments

  1. Reply

    It is time for us to declutter, so I will join you in this challenge..

    1. Reply

      Oh great, Natalie! I look forward to sharing ideas and progress!

  2. Reply

    Hi Sue,

    I agree about 'things'.. they can really distract us from what's really important. We also tend to clutter our minds with things that, in the grand scheme of things, aren't all-that important.

    I haven't got all that much stuff – mainly because, I think, since I still live at home, I haven't needed (or wanted) to go out shopping for 'stuff'. But there has been some things coming through our door that I just think 'really?' about. We don't need half the things we have. But, I guess, humans like to see and touch things, so maybe why we're so inclined to buy 'stuff'.

    1. Reply

      Helena,

      I moved out of my parents' home with a suitcase of clothes and a couple of bags of other 'stuff'. It didn't take long before I gathered a houseful of things!

      There are certain things I like shopping for… books and running shoes and art and writing supplies… All useful things. I hate clothes shopping!

      Maybe we're inclined to buy stuff when we're at a loose end. When I'm busy writing or running, I don't even think of going to the shops!

    • Hwee
    • July 18, 2014
    Reply

    I'm the one who throws stuff out, while my husband is the just-in-case-we-need-it guy. However, for the past few weekends he has been in a clear-out mode (I think he's finally had enough of clutter) so we've been throwing out and giving to the charity shops many things that have been left untouched for years. We reckon that if we haven't used something for 5 years, chances are that we won't and don't need them, so they're better off somewhere else!

    1. Reply

      Hwee,

      Giving stuff to charity shops is a good way to get rid of stuff, isn't it? I used to visit charity shops every week, coming home with bagfuls of bargains. I told myself the money was going to a good cause. These days I think it would be better to donate both money and items they can sell, and not buy a single thing!

  3. Reply

    I abhor the "stuff". It makes me feel suffocated. Every six months or so I go through my house and donate anything I see that we aren't using or most likely won't use. It's such a freeing feeling to live simply.

    1. Reply

      Luksky,

      Oh yes, a freeing feeling! I've been thinking about how simple life is when we go away on holiday. We take a few clothes and some books and we have a great time. There's not much work to do because we don't have much stuff to wash and clean and look after. Living light. A six monthly clean out is a great idea!

  4. Reply

    Oh gosh, do I ever understand this. Clutter is a problem for me, and I've been working so hard to get rid of it. This post is giving me just the boost I need today (which I have already planned as a de-cluttering one)… so thank you!

    1. Reply

      Nancy,

      We shall have to compare de-cluttering progress! Have you started yet? I haven't done much because we're all unwell, but I have big plans!

  5. Reply

    I've been doing this for two years now and have almost been through our entire house and given away stacks of stuff. I have about half a room left to go through. I've been told I ought to tackle my rather extensive book collection next. Personally I think that's a job for the future. Way, way into the future…….

    1. Reply

      Claire,

      It feels good to give stuff away, doesn't it? I love bagging up clothes to give to friends with younger children. I think I need to give away much more than clothes though!

      You sound very organised. I like the idea of doing a cull room by room. I've been thinking about books too. Some people say we can't have too many books but I've been wondering… We have lots of older books no one reads. They all look good on the shelves but really they're just taking up space. Perhaps I should throw lots away!

  6. Reply

    We've been doing quite a bit of "minimizing" this summer, and we've really been enjoying the fruits. I have another post about it coming up Monday.

    For us, it always seems to be a balance between prudence (will I need this again?) and trust (God will make sure I have what I need).

    Also, home schooling for so long, it seems like I actually *use* less and less. I found early on that when I buy something that "teaches X", after buying it, I feel like I have taught X, not just bought an aid to teaching X. I don't go to the curriculum conferences anymore because I know I don't need more stuff. I need to look to the kids for what they need.

    I liked what you said about not actually needing the reminders of Thomas. I don't have anything from mine that have gone before – a line on the pregnancy test, I guess. It was a good reminder: they're waiting for me, safely home. And that's something that never needs to be rescued, stored, or dusted!

    1. Reply

      Wendy,

      You make such a good point about prudence and trust. I was chatting about clothes the other day. Everyone seems to store away outgrown clothes, keeping them for the next child in line. It's the sensible thing to do. But sometimes I wonder if it would be better to pass them on, so a friend can use them immediately. I have found that things always 'appear' when we need them. Someone always gives us a bag of clothes just at the right time. It seems silly to store things away when someone else could be using them right now.

      Buying homeschooling stuff is such a temptation in the early years. I can understand the attraction completely! I don't buy much either these days. I think the Internet helps with that too. There is so much available for free online. We don't need to buy many books and other resources. I will probably throw out lots of the things I did buy but never used!

      "they're waiting for me, safely home. And that's something that never needs to be rescued, stored, or dusted!" Oh I do like that! You understand! It's nothing to do with Thomas not being important. He is. He's much more important than his things. Actually I've been pondering his bears. I love buying those for his birthday and Christmas. But they are mounting up. I am going to have to solve that problem without taking away the tradition and pleasure it brings for our family.

  7. Reply

    When we had that awful earthquake in Christchurch there were quite a few people who lost everything. It really hit home that we need to use and appreciate everything we have in our home (ie things should not be put away for special) and also not to have so many possessions. I still see a lot of antiques amongst other items advertised on one of our local selling sites from people down there selling whatever they can to simply rebuild and repair their homes. It really makes you think about what is necessary.

    We have so much stuff you would be shocked. We keep the house relatively clutter free but if anyone needs some kind of gadget the are bound to find it here, out in the garage. I have been purging for a while now as we wish to move later in the year. I gave both girls plastic storage bins and said the only stuff to go in there was stuff they had outgrown but wished to keep. The Fashionista requested a second bin in minutes and Agent Smelly hasn't even half-filled hers. It's not easy …

    1. Reply

      Lisa,

      We don't have many special things except for good clothes. I have always encouraged my girls to wear their special things for everyday because they grow out of them so quickly!

      What a lot of heartbreak the earthquake must have caused. I guess it's a bit like our bushfires. Everything disappears in an instant. Very very sad and hard to come to terms with. I imagine it involves a lot of grief. Last year when we contemplated the possible destruction of our own home, I wondered what it would be like to start afresh. In a way it would be freeing but difficult at the same time.

      Garages are terrible places! They encourage us to gather things we don't really need. I admire people who actually keep cars in their garages! I wonder if they have store rooms instead for all their stuff.

      I heard about someone who gave a shoe box to each of their children for their treasures. Everything else was apparently excess. My girls have so many shoe boxes they need a huge cupboard in which to store them all! Even a plastic storage bin would be far too small. It's hard when kids are given gifts from family and friends and are expected to keep them. Yes, it's not easy!

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