the value of possessions and the just in case syndrome

So yeah, I’m talking about this again! I’ve been thinking a lot about the real value of the things I own. As I pack and declutter I’ve been trying to make truly thoughtful decisions about each and every item.

I’ve never really done this before, at least not while I’m in the process of selling a house and moving. Usually I’m in such a hurry that I practically throw everything into boxes and figure I’ll just deal with it when I unpack. Except I never do deal with it. I just store it all. Because someday I might need it, just in case.

This time is different. We know we want to move into a smaller place and we just can’t keep it all. This a good thing!

Anyway, all of this has really made me take a hard look at the value of stuff. I ask myself questions; Does this thing add to my life or take time and energy away from it? Does it take up space that could be better utilized? Does it affect only me or others as well?

One of our unspoken rules has been that the owner of the item must be the one to make the decision if it stays or goes. I cannot get rid of Damon’s electronics or Josh’s toys any more than they can get rid of my yarn or baking pans. You heard that right, Josh is the only one who decides what toys leave the house and when, and it works really well for us.

I don’t know how Damon and Josh make their internal decisions on what to purge but I’ve come up with bit of a system for myself. I’ve realized stuff has three different types of value:

I’ve been weighing these values along with the item’s positive or negative impact on our household and then making my decision if it stays or goes.

I prefer most items have at least two positive values, like the buffet my mother gave me many years ago. I have sentimental family feelings for it, but it also is useful as a storage piece. Same goes for my mother-in-law’s hope chest.

Some of the items may have positive values but they also have a negative impact. For instance, the piano my MIL gave us years ago. Although it was very sentimental to all of us, it was basically a dust magnet, a knick-knack catch all, took up lots of space, and would have been expensive to move again. The negatives outweighed the positives and it had to go. My MIL was FINE with this btw or I wouldn’t be using it as an example. 😉

I’ve found along the way that the smaller items are often the ones that are harder to decide on. Large pieces of furniture either have value or not but the little things aren’t always so clear cut. It’s too easy to think, well this is small,  I can just put it in a box and decide later. No, I can’t. All of those little things add up and fill too many boxes. So I have to decide; is this candle holder (and the half burned candle in it) necessary? How many cookie sheets do I actually use? Do I need to hang on to books I’ve read 2-3 times already? Do I really have to save those torn t-shirts just in case I need a rag? But, but, but…I might neeeeed it.

What exactly is this “just in case” scenario in my head that makes me put aside so much stuff? Will I ever really need it, use it, fix it? No. The answer is almost always no. From now on, if it doesn’t have an obvious value right this very minute then it has to go.

Are you a saver or a purger? Are you a just-in-case-saver or a but-it’s-got-so-many-memories-saver? Or both like me? How do you decide on what to keep or not? An acquaintance of ours told us tonight that he once got rid of a bunch of things by  imagining he was dead and looking at his stuff through his someone else’s eyes. The key there is someone else’s eyes. If you did that would you view your stuff differently?

no more stuff

My last couple of weeks have been filled with frantic get-it-on-the-market-quick house prep. It’s utterly exhausting. I have emptied every closet, cupboard, drawer, and nook, and sorted out what’s to keep, to giveaway, to recycle and what’s just plain trash! It’s amazing how much trash a house can hold.

We’re painting, packing, changing out flooring, deep cleaning, and basically finishing up every little project we’ve been putting off for years. I go to bed at night with muscles aching, and get up the next morning and do it all again.

Remember last summer when I had my yard sale? Well, we suspected at the time that a move like this might happen and we wanted to get a head start on decluttering. So we got rid of all of the stuff in our basement storage area. It’s a good thing we did. I don’t know if I could deal with all of that too!

When we first started this process we thought we’d get rid of about 50% of everything we own. In reality it might end up being about two thirds. 2/3s! Can you imagine that? Look around your house and tell me, could you give up more than 1/2 of it? A year ago I would have said no way, and yet here I am doing it.

I’m trying not to be sentimental about “stuff” anymore – I know that the stuff doesn’t hold the memories and really it’s just holding me back. I also no longer save everything that might be useful someday. It never will. It’s a lie I’ve telling myself so I didn’t have to part with it all.

I’m tired of having a big house so I have extra room store these things. I’m tired of dusting tchotchkes because they’re there. I’m tired of constantly shifting things around but never really using them. I just don’t want them anymore. I want smaller, fewer, cleaner, better organized. I want to live to do things, not to have things.

I hope you all don’t mind going through the journey with me. 🙂

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