How to Stop Holding onto 'Stuff' – Part 1

by | 19 Feb 2015 | Change

I’ve been thinking a lot about attachment these last weeks.

It’s been a recurring theme with some clients (I’ve blogged before about holding onto fantasies of how things, or people ‘should’ be), but I’ve been confronted by some of my own attachment to material things in a big way.

I’ve been conscious for a while that I’m feeling burdened and cluttered by the amount of ‘stuff’ we’ve accumulated in our house in the 11 years we’ve lived here. Without the excuse of moving to force a massive clearout (which previously we’d done every 3-6 years), and with 3 kids and LOTS of gear intensive hobbies in the family (skiing, climbing, cycling, canoeing, camping, walking, squash and badminton, gardening to name but a few) we seem to have accumulated and accumulated stuff.

The loft and the garage groan under the weight of stuff, and every nook and cranny in the house is full to capacity. What makes it feel even worse is that I know, compared to many, we have a big house!

We’re generally pretty organised and tidy; everything does have a place, and we can locate and find things when they are needed. We make good use of storage solutions to try to reduce clutter and have systems that help. But I do feel like I have to work constantly to keep on top of the amount of stuff; I regularly use e-bay, carboot sales, charity donations, recycling and trips to the ‘tip’. But as fast as I tidy, clear out, donate, the more just feels like it ‘magically’ appears and I’m feeling weighed down and tired out with it.

Of course, I realise this external clutter is just a reflection of some of my internal stuff just now – I’m craving a sense of ‘renewal’ and whilst I work on that internally, I also want to refresh and redecorate much of the house this year – it’s not had much attention since we moved in. But for that to feel less of an overwhelming logistical nightmare, we need a radical clear-out!

Unfortunately things may be worse before they get better, as I have a whole other ‘clutter’ complication – clearing Mum’s bungalow. Mum worked hard to keep her home clutter free, fresh and organised. Compared to many, she didn’t have a lot of stuff, but she did hold onto items of sentimental value, small markers of happy times. And knowing those things had meaning for her, makes it hard for me to let go of them. I’m finding it’s part of how I’m holding on to her.

At Christmas, when the whole family gathered to scatter Mum’s ashes and be together in her home, we took the opportunity to distribute the very special items – the things we knew Mum wanted people to have, and those things individual family members wanted, or had good use for.

Since then, together with my brother and sister, I have been gradually working on clearing the house. We’d already dealt with her clothes, and household paperwork and cleared much of what could clearly be binned.

But this last weekend I put aside a few days and went over just myself to do some serious clearing of the house, garden, shed and garage ready for the sale of the property. All those part used paint tins, coat hangers, useful bits of wood and tools, cleaning products, make-up and toiletries, books and cds, records, birdfeeders, garden tools, wheelbarrows, side tables, lamps, pictures, ornaments, plant pot holders, pens and rulers, games for the grandchildren, bedding and towels, ironing boards and vacuum cleaners, nails and screws, Christmas decorations, pots and pans, cutlery, utensils, baking trays, toasters, waste paper baskets, rugs, china and glasses, tablecloths, garden tubs…

I could go on and on – all the ‘stuff’ of everyday life. And that’s without looking at the box of diaries and love letters that go back 60 years, the small mountain of family photographs, the school reports and family documents that cover 5 generations.

And of course the bigger items of furniture – much of which is in immaculate condition and that she was very proud of, but are neither easily rehomed within the family, valuable or very saleable.

I worked my socks off all weekend and I’m proud of what I achieved.

There’s a couple of car loads of ‘stuff’ piled in her garage that I want to take to a carboot sale (which I’m doing to raise fund for Friend of Chernobyl’s Children). The bigger items that are left I’m getting house clearance quotes for. And there are garden tubs I want to bring home for my own garden, but didn’t have room for. And of course, I came back home with my people carrier absolutely stuffed to the gunnels with more stuff. Stuff I just couldn’t let go of…not yet.

More stuff to cram into my own house to add to the overwhelm and burden.

I feel like I’ve been hit by a train, physically and emotionally.

I was daft, I shouldn’t have tackled the task alone (much as I’ve learned about the power of support, I still don’t always get it right!), but the space of just my own company for those days has been helpful for me to get clear on the work I’ve to do in these coming months in order for me to be able to let go of ‘stuff’.

I’ve now a really good understanding of why I, and others, hold on to things.

Now I’ve given you the context, my next blog post is all about WHY we hold onto stuff, and knowing why helps us to see how we can begin to unhook those attachments…




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