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Cherishing Your Stuff

Not a Wasted Word and I share a deep love of talking about decluttering.  I would say we share a deep love of decluttering, but the reality is that I schedule my declutters far more often than I do them.

A few weeks ago, she sent me a New York Times article celebrating clutter.  Not declutter.  Celebrating clutter.  The article points out how useless it is to stress about the accumulation of stuff because accumulating things (intangible and tangible) is part of the human experience.  Why should we get rid of the things that we once wanted or that remind us of happy times or which simply bring a spot of colour into the corner of the room?  Why should we get rid of books we’ve read or clothes we rarely wear?

The part that really resonated with me was this:

The stuff we accumulate works the same way our body weight does. Each of us has a set point to which we invariably return. Each of us has been allotted a certain tolerance, if not a need, for stuff; each of us is gaited to carry a certain amount of weight in possessions.

Some of us, rare breeds, tend toward the minimalist; some tip into a disorder of hoarding. Most of us live in the middle range. How marvelous it is to simply accept that, and celebrate it.

If this is true, it explains a lot.

I love minimalism, but I don’t think I really have a minimalist “body.”  Just as I’m more curvaceous in nature, my possessions bulge in places like my pear-shaped body: piles of books for my wide hips and stacks of paper for my big chest.  And a lack of knickknacks for my thin arms and no decorative touches for my thin legs.

I do have to declutter regardless of what this author says, but I am going to allow myself to keep whatever my heart wants.  After all, it’s mine.  And I love my stuff, too.

15 comments

1 gwinne { 06.17.15 at 9:53 am }

I think probably if the items are truly loved and wanted it has a place in your home.

2 gradualchanges { 06.17.15 at 11:03 am }

Thanks for this perspective. In these times of celebrating minimalism against the overwhelming consumerism of our time, this thought makes me feel a little better about my own tendencies – which skew more to the pack rat/what-if-I-need-this-thing-one-day side of the spectrum.

3 Working mom of 2 { 06.17.15 at 12:22 pm }

I like this. I’m kinda irritated by all the “keep only 5 shirts” etc. type articles. I think de cluttering is useful on occasion espec if you lean toward hoarding but I’m not remotely there. So thank you. Getting sick of the judgy articles.

4 Sharon { 06.17.15 at 12:55 pm }

Hmm. Interesting perspective.

For me, a lot of my clutter isn’t stuff I love; it’s just stuff I’ve shoved away because I didn’t have the time/energy/patience/whatever to deal with it at the moment it needed to be dealt with. Which is why I have boxes in my garage containing the contents of desk drawers from the last three jobs I’ve left, and an office/guest room closet with boxes of unfiled/unorganized paperwork and personal correspondence from 4+ years ago and clothing I haven’t worn in 5-15 years.

Reading back over what I’ve just typed, I realize my home is ripe for one of those “Clean Sweep” type shows. . . .

5 Katherine { 06.17.15 at 3:55 pm }

I’d agree with the analogy, only… a body doesn’t take up as much space as clutter. And, when we die, it just disposes of itself. Maybe I’m just a macabre weirdo, but part of my decluttering impetus comes from not wanting those left behind to be doing my decluttering…

6 SRB { 06.17.15 at 4:44 pm }

Hmmmm. I have written a lot of decluttering, in the sense that clutter is whatever you think it is. If it doesn’t add to your life, get rid of it. Keep whatever you want and give yourself permission to let go of the things you don’t. I truly find the majority of blogs that write on the topic of simplicity/minimalism/decluttering have this message as well. It is worth thinking about why one might find that message as judgmental.

That said, I do like the analogy. We all have a natural state of being at which we feel most comfortable, and tend to return to that state. Which is why I do NOT feel that purging or capsule wardrobes are whatever are useful. Decluttering really is about creating the space to be in that natural state of being.

7 Working mom of 2 { 06.17.15 at 5:01 pm }

I find them (the few I’ve looked at–perhaps not a completely representative sample) judgmental bc the tone is such that it’s wrong to keep more than 5 shirts, you need only a 200 SF house, etc., and if you have more than that, well, something’s wrong with you. There’s no lurking secret reason I find them judgmental.

8 illustr8d { 06.17.15 at 5:22 pm }

I have a tendency to collect “treasures”. I love yard sales and second hand stores and so on. But I also know that for practical reasons, I’m ready to downsize. Partly because I know I need to move across the country at some point in the next 3 months. That will make you look very sternly at your stuff. Trust me there.

9 torthuil { 06.17.15 at 5:35 pm }

If it adds value to your life, and isn’t preventing you from enjoying life, then nothing wrong with keeping it. I dislike clutter / too much stuff because I feel like I spend too much time trying to keep track of it / figure out what to to do with it and I’d rather spend time on something else. But I’m not a minimalist, especially not with clothes. Again I don’t want too many, but I find it dreadfully boring to wear the same things or styles all the time (or at least not have the option for a change). So I couldn’t do the five shirt limit exactly (but do limit myself to 2-3 shirts in a specific style, because how many will I wear anyway?)

10 Cristy { 06.17.15 at 6:20 pm }

I aspire to minimalism. Mainly because we have to but also because I love the feeling of being free of possessions. The problem is, there are memories attached with the stuff. Hence there’s a whole mental process I find myself going through prior to a purge. And it’s draining. Maybe it’s because of the negative association that I have with this clutter? That celebrating it prior to wishing it Bon Vovage would be less traumatic?

Thanks for the interesting post and sparking an interesting discussion.

11 Justine { 06.17.15 at 8:47 pm }

I like this.

I think that it’s OK to have stuff as long as the stuff has meaning (and the amount of stuff is probably, as you point out, different for everyone); the problem starts, I think, when people use stuff as a barrier so that they don’t have to deal with meaning. Or when meaning becomes so diluted by so much stuff that it’s almost meaningless. But I don’t think you’re even close to being there.

12 loribeth { 06.17.15 at 9:28 pm }

I saw this article & loved it. And I love your post & the comments above. I probably do have too much stuff — and I think illustr8d is right that the prospect of moving makes you seriously consider just how much stuff you have and how much you really need. But personally, I could never live a completely minimalist lifestyle. I think of the photos in the home decorating magazines of homes that are all white and glass and stainless steel — a house like that would have no appeal to me whatsoever. I love to walk into a house that is clearly a HOME, with bookshelves and stacks of CDs that I can browse through and family photos on the walls & tables and refrigerator. 🙂 Stuff is what gives a house its personality, I think.

13 Mali { 06.18.15 at 12:00 am }

I suspect we all have slightly different definitions of “clutter.” The main thing though is that the things you have bring you joy – whether because of the article itself, or the memories it holds. Minimalism is elegant, but I think quite cold and, for me at least, unrealistic. Yet I’m actually working on a post about how I’ve lost my attachment to most of my material belongings. (Watch this space – it should be up in the next week).

I remember a conversation with my sister-in-law. For the last fifteen years, she has been living the expatriate life, packing up and moving every three to four years. She said to me once that her dream was to sell all her belongings, and be able to fit everything in a couple of suitcases. It would make moving easier! I remember at the time that I was horrified. I certainly couldn’t (and still can’t) fit everything I own into two suitcases. I couldn’t (and can’t) fit all my clothes into just two suitcases! So maybe I do need to declutter my wardrobes. Five shirts though? Outrageous. Also, impossible.

14 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.18.15 at 12:01 am }

I consider space a thing rather than an absence of things. So sometimes, what I want is to acquire is more space. That’s when I get rid of stuff.

I like stuff and I also like space. I can have both if I pay attention and prioritize (which I don’t always do).

15 Ana { 06.18.15 at 9:29 am }

I’m definitely not a minimalist. But I like decluttering (or the IDEA of decluttering) because I want all the stuff I have to be useful and loved, and not have the useful stuff obscured by the loads of crap. I have no desire to get down to 10 books or 5 shirts or 4 plates or whatever, but I want the books and shirts and plates to all be ones I use and like. I don’t find that more than the minimal amount of stuff “takes up time” to maintain—I guess I’ve gotten used to living with a little bit of mess?
Like Lori said, I also like space. I like having bare flat surfaces and not having to shove things into drawers and bins.

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