I am a recovering stuff accumulator. This is different from a collector. I do that too; but a collection has a theme and an organization while an accumulation does not.

One of the problems with being an accumulator is that people start to give you things they want to get rid of. “Oh, she collects stuff like that. See if she can use it.” These people are akin to those who offer you a creampuff when you’re on a diet. Or a cigarette when you’re trying to quit. You’ve got to learn to Just Say No. Don’t try to help them, they’re not helping you.

At the same time you’re being tempted with more things, other folks start to look to you as the person who has stuff when they need it. You become like the person folks go to with their trivia questions, but instead of asking “Do you know who played bass on ‘Midnight Train to Georgia?'” they wonder if you have something they could use to build a diorama of the Acropolis because it’s due tomorrow. Or “Do you know where to find the blue electrical tape we used to have? Not the black, the blue.” Hard to give up that good feeling you get when you actually have blue electrical tape and enough raw materials to build all of ancient Athens overnight, but it’s got to be done.

A lot of people see all this stuff as meaningless clutter. The real problem is one of too much meaning. I remember a conversation I once had with a friend where we talked about collecting and clutter. I picked up my just-emptied coffee cup and said, “You see this? This is a Styrofoam cup. But if I want, it becomes the cup that reminds me of this breakfast, and the time we shared on this committee. Now this cup has meaning, and it’s not just a cup anymore. And suddenly it’s tough to throw it away.”

It’s hard to let go of stuff. Hard to let go of your image of the newer, smarter, improved you that you could be if you’d only finish reading all those magazines on the night stand. Hard to give up all the sentiment and the potential attached to things. Hard to believe that throwing something away is not a condemnation. Hard to constantly be deciding, keep it? Or let it go?

2 thoughts on “Stuff

  1. I think everyone has the problem you’re describing, at least to a certain degree. Or maybe it’s just the people I know.

    It seems like I spend a lot of time throwing stuff away, but I never get it all done. My rule of thumb is if it has been in the same spot, untouched for a year, I toss it. It’s not a perfect rule, but it works for me.

  2. It is the sentimentality part that trips me up every time, but do I really need every kindergarten lump of clay and finger painting with crackling paint.
    Then, of course there is the compulsive, if one is good, fifteen is better theory. Or, the this might be worth something someday idea, or…..

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