Tuesday, April 05, 2016

In Defense of Keeping Things

It was just a drywall trowel and tray, but it started me thinking. Tim had used the tools to patch up the wall after replacing the shower in our ensuite bath. As he washed them out, he said, "I bought these at Northern Hardware in Prince George. That must be 30 or more years ago. I don't use them often, but when I need them, they are there." He has a shop full of tools, used infrequently these days, but there when he needs them.

There's a movement in some circles that getting rid of one's things is beneficial. I agree, to a certain extent.

I've moved house over 20 times in our marriage of almost 39 years, including moves overseas and back. Each time I've packed, I've discarded stuff. Papers. Clothes. Books. But there are always items that I hold in my hands and consider, "Do I need this? Will I want it someday? Will I ever use it again?"

Tim's trowel and tray were stored for many years in my parents' basement (thanks, Mom and Dad) while we were overseas. So was much of my china. Am I glad that we kept those things? Yes, without hesitation.

I don't think anyone would call our home cluttered. My decor style is on the spare side, yet I have a collection of items that I rotate in my decor. Cupboards are full; organized, but full. I like pretty linens and have more cloth napkins and tablecloths than many. There's a large selection of vases. For me, the key is using my stuff, not storing it away "for good" and not letting my stuff control me. 

There were a couple of times during our years in Ecuador when we packed emergency bug-out bags - a war, a volcanic eruption, a military coup - if we had to leave the country in a hurry, what would we take? In the end, our bags held little but essential papers, a change of clothing and a few photos. Stuffed toys for the children when they were small. Easily carried.

I like my stuff. I like opening a familiar book and turning to my favorite lines. Setting a pretty table is a fun thing to do. Introducing my grandchildren to china teacups is a delight. If breakages occur, it won't break my heart. The people who drink from them are far more important. 

Rearranging the decorative items on various surfaces is a creative outlet. I have tons of craft and sewing supplies; currently on hiatus while I'm teaching full time. I like having the ability to go in search of threads and tools for small projects. I like the memories that are sparked by many of my things - wedding gifts, presents from children and loved ones, items purchased on vacations, treasures passed down from family. 

When our stuff, in storage at the time, was subjected to a flood, an older woman said to me, "Learn to hold your stuff lightly." I've taken that to heart - if dishes get broken, I don't fuss, if things get ruined, into the trash they go. It's just stuff. I like it, but it doesn't own me.

Does this rather wordy post have a focus? I'm not sure. But I do know that I'm not ready to become a minimalist. Everyone must find the balance between stuff and space for themselves. I'd be interested to read your thoughts on stuff and minimalism.  


  1. I agree with your way of thinking wholeheartedly. I definitely do need to purge and organize and agree that what we have should be used and useful. I could never be a minimalist. But I definitely would like to lighten up. I used to get upset when the kids were little, even when Jingles was little, and things would get broken. Now, I don't much care. Like you said, it is just stuff and most of us have much more than we really need.

  2. I could never be a minimalist, equally I do not like mountains of clutter. I don't get upset when things get broken. I love to shop my craft room when deciding on a new project and recycle as much as I possibly can so things do not end up in landfill.

  3. Like you, I had years of moving before we came to the Island. Like you, I have had to pack an emergency evacuation bag and have had to think about what really matters. I like my 'stuff' and don't need anyone to tell me about holding something to find if it 'sparks joy'. Stuff is stuff - if it is useful, if it gives me and mine pleasure in its use or in the memory it prompts then I'll keep it. I love the advice to learn to hold stuff lightly. That is just how I feel.

  4. The catch phrase that Pondside mentioned, "what sparks joy", is the key.

    Yes, I have lots of books on my shelves, along with little memorabilia from our travels. And they do indeed spark joy, as do my photo books and collection of linen tea towels. Even the ironing required for the towels does not quench the joy!

    Special things kept are like touch stones in the busy-ness of life.

    It sounds like you have found a happy medium, and your words resonate with me.

  5. Hooray! You are saying all the things I feel.
    I know that the 'decluttering' word has been appearing all over the web, and I slightly envy people who can simply say good bye to things. I can't. I cannot live in a muddle either.
    If it has a meaning and memory I find it difficult to let it go. Things that don't matter, papers, some books, china, can go. But other things, completely without use but with sentimental memories stay (such as a bedjacket knitted by my Grandma, too small to fit anyone, but beautiful).

  6. Anonymous3:57 AM

    If I use it or love it, I keep it. If it is just stuff that I haven't looked for or used in a long time, I don't have any trouble donating it so someone else can reuse it. Beautiful tulips. :-)

  7. I've been thinking along these same lines recently. As you know, I've been decluttering my home this year. I stopped doing it around the beginning of March. I was reading advice for decluttering that just wasn't connecting with me. So many people think you have to get rid of everything to feel restful. There are things that I have now that are irreplaceable. I like my stuff. But I don't like having a lot of it weighing me down, and I think I have cleared out enough things that were making me feel this way. Things of my parents that reminded me of them, but were not things I enjoyed myself. I haven't regretted getting rid of any of it. I just don't want to be a minimalist. I want a comfortable, cozy home, with things of interest around me, not a bare home. The things I have kept I know I will use, and that's what's important to me. That used to be my mantra when I was young "if I don't use it there's no point in keeping it". But I do like to find a new use for some things just so I can keep them. I think all this decluttering has to bring everything to a balance that each individual is comfortable with, and that's different for every person.

  8. There is stuff and then there is STUFF. In Denver there is a huge outdoor flea market that my mom and dad used to visit every Saturday, ritualistically. They'd bring home stuff, bargains. Good stuff--they thought. When dad finally passed it was my job to wade and sort through the stuff, everything from boxes and boxes of office supplies to buildings and sheds full of stuff that he might use someday. He was very attached to his stuff. The Mile High Flea Market used to run an ad to attract vendors, referring them as the Over Stuffed. I loved that term, the over stuffed. Sometimes when I am looking for something, I feel like my drawers and closest are over stuffed. I have gotten rid of things then I forget that I got rid of it and go searching for it--deeper. Anyway, as I read your post, I was reminded of friends who have lost everything due to fire, flood, and tornado and in the end they are thankful to be alive. Stuff is just stuff, and I like the idea of holding it lightly. As for your comment on "focus" I am chuckling to myself, "she sounds like an English teacher." Loved the post, focused or not.

  9. I enjoyed your post very much! I have lots of decor stuff, but enjoy changing things up and using what I have. I like my home to be organized and have things easy to find. Darrell often teases me when I bug him about all his unorganized stuff....he knows exactly where most things are though and many times says aren't you glad I am a pack rat of sorts!! He has been accusing me of getting rid of one of his favorite shirts he bought on a trip we took to Cancun many years ago....the other day, while cleaning out some tubs there is was!! I kept re assuring him that I did not pack that shirt off to the thrift store. He was quite thrilled when we found it!! It is now hanging downstairs in a spare closet!! Lovely pictures you posted today as well! Pictures are one of my most treasured items ! Have a wonderful day!!

  10. Anonymous7:28 AM

    I'm not ready for minimalism right now. I like the idea of holding things loosely though. One thing I've done when decorating a table for a special event is to send home something from the table with my guests like the egg cups I used as place card holders at Easter. I have sorted through some stuff so it's not a daunting task for my kids when we leave this earth. It's quite funny how often we say..."wish we wouldn't have gotten rid of that"...

  11. How would we ever have treasured heirlooms to pass down to our children, if we pitched everything? I'm saving it ALL!!! Daughter can throw out what she doesn't want when I'm gone.

  12. Such an interesting post! I wonder if with all your moves, the things that have travelled with you have helped to make your new house a home. I do like our things and am glad that over the years they have for the most part travelled with us to different places we have lived. I like to organize and change things around often and I find it hard to bring new stuff into the house unless there is a reason for it. If something is no longer useful, I am happy to donate it.

  13. Such a good post, Laurie. I've done a lot of de-cluttering lately, but there are those treasures that I would not turn loose of that have special meaning to me and I'd like to hand down to the children.
    We lived in a camper for 5 months when our children were small and it was amazing how little we found that we really needed to live!

  14. I'm on the same page! I love my stuff...but not clutter. I like to think I hold things loosely.

  15. I am definitely not a minimalist, but certainly taking a look at the things I don't use. Sorting today through some drawers I haven't opened in awhile. I do sometimes think about what would I take if I had to live smaller. Good to think about.

  16. Overall, I'd say we're of the same mind on this, although we're at rather different stages as I pack up to prepare for a considerable downsize. Too much of the minimalism that gets touted is merely a short-lease version, with replacement of the minimal a year or so later. . .
    And I enjoy idiosyncratic evidence of a life well lived when I visit a home, love to have such reminders of my own life around me, although no, not to the point of clutter. It's a fine line. Holding things loosely is a great concept. . .

  17. When we downsized to our bungalow I got rid of a lot of things but have let them pile up again. The important stuff to me will stay - like you there are many cloth napkins and tablecloths and they are rotated on the kitchen and dining room tables. It's the other things that I don't really need, never got used etc. that I'm in the process of packing up to take to a thrift store that sells donations to raise money for bibles and expenses for missionaries. A good cause and a good way to see the items repurposed.

  18. You have really nailed the situation, Lorrie. We have our prized possessions and yet we instinctively know what we can live without.

    I am a clutter bug and I always have huge plans to clean out things and simplify...and I will!! I really do have a good idea of what I would keep and what I'd donate. I am much more sure of myself and what I need. Now I have to get that energy up!!

    Wonderful Post...very honest and food for thought.


  19. I agree with you. My house is not cluttered, but I do have many a sentimental item I've kept. I think I may keep less now as I get older, but the things I've kept for such a time as this, I'm not sorry about. My six year old granddaughter commented recently that it's fun to have a mommy and a daddy and see their things. (as in toys they played with)

  20. Your post today resonates with me too Lorrie!
    We lived in Australia for three years in the 80's.
    I had a huge sort out of "stuff" before we left Auckland.
    We stored our good furniture at my MIL's and sold everything else on Trade Me or donated to the Hospice shop.
    I'm not an acquisitive person and happily pass things on.
    It is now time for another mammoth de-clutter!
    I've been hanging on to china, blankets, beds and linen for the children should they settle back here one day!
    We have a piece of 'good news' our daughter and her family are coming to live in NZ next January! So the "sort out" will have to wait until then!
    I always enjoy your thought provoking posts Lorrie!
    Lovely photos today.

  21. Beautifully said! No more words needed! xx

  22. I totally agree. I'm such a visual person I like to have things around me that make me remember their stories. Things that bring warmth and beauty. And while it's good to keep things moving if they aren't needed or bringing joy, I still enjoy using many of my things -- and that's the key as you so well said, using them, not keeping them in cupboards for some special occasion. I learned early on to hold things with an open hand--probably living overseas helped with that. And yes, so often if I have gotten rid of something, I will need it soon after!

  23. A pleasure to read your thoughts on the matter. I could probably write a book. Once my son was playing ball in the living room where my cocoa pot was displayed on the mantel. It got pretty scary there for a few seconds. He looked at me with wide eyes and said, "If I broke that, you'd kill me." I suggested that he stop tempting fate and that I certainly would not. He was and is more important than any cocoa pot. It is good, at least, to have our priorities straight. I also think that, if I had to move a few more times, I'd eventually get things sorted.

  24. I found this to be an interesting post as it seems like I am spending a lot of time lately dealing with stuff. I could never be a minimalist as I do enjoy being surrounded by pretty things and changing them up a bit for the seasons. On the other hand, after watching my parents and in-laws go through the process of cleaning out their homes to move to assisted living, I am on a mission to greatly pare my belongings so when we make our next move it won't be quite so overwhelming.

  25. I have minimalist tendencies that stem from my dislike of clutter and dusting. So I'm particular about what I bring into my home...Of course, tea-related items are my kryptonite! My collection of teacups, teapots, etc. grew exponentially when I moved into my own place, but I'm trying to curb new acquisitions as I'm running out of storage space. My tea pretties are also on a rotation so that I can enjoy them throughout the year. I can be ruthless when I'm decluttering, but I've also held on to items with sentimental value such as beloved stuffed toys and cards.


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