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August 27, 2012

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I can amen to that, and I have the perfect cure: move every 5 years or so! The last time we moved, we made a vow that we are not going to do the senseless accumulation thing again.

I'd add a corollary to that: pick a smaller place to live in. That way, you simply don't have space for all the stuff. When we bought our existing house, we knew we were approaching retirement age, and so we deliberately bought a house on the smaller size. To be honest, this strategy probably had more impact on our tendency to acquire, because now we have to ask ourselves: where are we going to put that? I can point to at least a dozen purchases that got nixed because of that question alone.

Now, as my wife says, we enjoy the luxury of entering any store without feeling the need to buy something just because it's pretty or desirable.

It's great we live in a world today where we have the luxury of being able to have more "stuff" - items that provide entertainment, enjoyment and improve the quality of our lives. I think the issue is simply one of housekeeping; an inability many people seem to have to throw or give away items they no longer need. It's not the stuff per se that causes the stress.

The city of about 120,000 people in Silicon Valley in which I live in has an Annual Cleanup Program, paid for by a $3.80 monthly charge on our utility bill.

Anything and everything that you put out in front of your home gets hauled away on the day designated for your street. The city feels that in addition to eliminating visible junk it also lessens the fire hazard in the city. However I have found that many times items that I put out are quickly picked up by people that roam around in their pickups looking for anything of value. There are also city authorized stations that you can take items with recyclable value to. I took an old TV with a CRT tube, they weighed it, and then paid me what it was worth to them for parts that were recyclable. We also have three types of wheely bins we put out every week, one for household garbage, one for green garden waste, and one for recyclables of paper, plastic, and glass.

I will be interested to read how other parts of the USA deal with this issue.

I couldn't agree more. For me, "liquidating" stuff--converting it to cash--is extremely satisfying, as is the presence of unused/uncramped space in our house. A few years ago we relocated and downsized to a house roughly half the size. We donated and trashed a lot, and held two massive weekend garage sales. I could actually feel my stress level decline as a big chunk of our belongings evaporated. We don't miss anything! And we made $2,000 at the garage sales, and considerably more selling furniture and other valuable items on eBay, etc. Fun!

Like Old Limey, our neighborhood as trash, recyclables and yard waste bins that are picked up once a week. We also have a once per month "bulk pick up" that our housing management company runs - then again we live on a military base so maybe that's unique to us. We also have a hazardous materials office that will take things like car oil or old paint and dispose of them. We've moved 3 times in the past 5 years with another move to take place in the next 6 months. Moving is a great motivator for clearing out stuff. Not only is there less to pack that way, but there's less to unpack and find a place for stuff on the other end. We frequently don't know the size or layout of the next house. You also get a good sense of what gets used and what doesn't when you find boxes that haven't even been unpack from the last move as you gear up for the next one. I have slowly been culling through "childhood memories" that have been boxed up in our basement or closet for several years. Overall I think we pretty well on the not having excessive "stuff" issue.

That's one reason why we live in a small condo. You can't fit a lot of junks into a 1,000 sq feet home. We still have junks lying around and need to get rid of them. We periodically drop stuff off at Goodwill and will need to sell a few things on Craigslist soon.

I like your comment about the long-term storage unit. I am amazed that some people have so much stuff they have to use Pods or similar and pay for the privilege to store their stuff. Ridiculous!

I find it odd that your pantry has "stuff" in it, and not all food! What if there is an emergency and you can't get to the store to buy food for a few weeks...or months?

Also: Having to move every few years really cures the "stuff" problem. After a few moves, you tend to get rid of as much as possible, because hauling things around (on your own, with no help from movers) gets to be a pain.

Guilty of doing this myself. Never had a storage unit but we have stuff we have not used in years. We are slowly getting rid of stuff but the problem we have is out children are starting to gather stuff.

A collge dorm room is currently in out lving room soon to be delivered back to college this weekend. It will litteraly fill our van and car.

BD --

1. The pantry is HUGE. It's far bigger than a normal one.

2. Do you have food set aside for an emergency that could last a few weeks (or months)? Yikes!

I grew up in a tiny house with a packrat father. I figured I could turn out 1 of 2 ways: (1) be just like him and have clutter everywhere, or (2) be the complete polar opposite and hate clutter. Thankfully, I am the latter. I now live in a home about 2 and 1/2 times the size with less than half the amount of stuff.

Another "hidden" cost of having much stuff - you have to insure it. I didn't realize until recently how much coverage our insurance company was giving us on personal property. Once I looked at this I was horrified. The problem is that they had a minimum - 40% of replacement value - or I would have dropped it to just a few thousands. I guess they assume that everybody's house must be stuffed to the brim with valuables.

We had a pretty nomadic life until 7 years ago, I hate clutter, and with kids and pets we see no point in going for quality furniture - most of our stuff is Ikea or built-ins made by my husband. The only stuff that we are guilty of accumulating is books for me and tools for my husband. Even so, our babysitter regularly leaves with a "gift" bad of clothes or children's toys

However, I can very much relate to the point about kids-generated clutter and messes. Why most children's toys have to have a zillion small parts, never ever to be seen all together after the box is opened? This is my worst chore, picking up after the kids (and yes, this will be their chore eventually, but with my oldest being 4, having her do the picking is an even worse time-waster). Financial side aside, this is very stress-increasing indeed.

DH and I had one room devoted to "stuff"; we called the room our "attic". We figured we might need it all when we retired to a diffent climate. Or just in case...

The problem is he died unexpectedly a few months ago. And now I have not just stuff, but "junk" to get rid off by myself. I sure wish we had followed up on our plan to declutter years ago.

While we have a less-than-average amount of "stuff", we tend to accumulate stuff simply due to the lack of time to clear the old stuff out. As has been said, just owning stuff can take time because it should be organized, cleaned, stored, etc.


Re: stockpiling food -- If you live a hurricane-prone area, it's best to be prepared for you, the grocery store, and the gas station all losing power for a couple weeks. That also provides extra incentive for having a stove that runs on gas, rather than electricity.

I decided we needed to look at how much "stuff" (not really the word I use, but this is a family site) we have in our basement...and given our shelving needed reinforced anyways...

Much to my wife's chagrin, I took everything off the shelves to reinforce them - that wasn't really the complaining part. The part she doesn't like is that nothing's going back on the shelf until we open the box up, go through it, and see if we actually have any use for it whatsoever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

This is classic

I recently moved this summer and when it came to selling off things I didn't want to drag with me it was pleasant to find that there weren't a whole bunch of things I had sitting around. Craigslist was a good friend when it came to getting rid of as much as I could, that's why I wrote a post on how to sell effectively on CL.

We didn't move, but we replaced our carpet with laminate and had to move enerything. I figured out we have too much junk. We've been gradually getting rid of what we aren't using. Mostly thru donations.

I'm lucky in that my wife is a wheeler dealer type. She buys stuff on Craigslist and garage sales and then sells more on it. We rarely pay retail for anything. Any clutter is quickly sold off. The bad thing is that it's hard to keep stuff I like. The garage does stay off limits to her... (mostly)...

I recently purchased a house from elderly family members. We've got the main floor all clean and mostly decluttered, but one basement room is still completely packed with their stuff. It's going to take a long time to sort through it all.

Renting and moving with some frequency will cure you of hoarding too much stuff. If you have to pack it and take it with you, you will invariably assess its usefulness. I’ve gone one step further and am now tracking everything I own in a spreadsheet. Naturally I exclude food, hygienic products, cleaning supplies, most clothing and kitchen utensils, as well as digital items. But, other than that, if it’s over $10, I record it. I’m at 163 items and always looking to reduce the count.

For me, collecting stuff does not only mean spending money but also means collecting junk! And I hate cleaning up the "mess" that these "stuff" make. My philosophy is less mess, less cleaning up to do. We do our regular cleaning twice a year and we throw or give away whatever "stuff" we do not need.

Yeah I hate stuff. But I dont want to make a religion out of avoiding it either. Extremes in either direction both mean that you end up thinking about stuff for too kuch of your precious life, IMO.

That said, I'm puzzled by the comments here and all over the web about how a person can make $$ by selling their excess stuff. In my experience, nobody wants anything used, and garage sales are a waste of time. Unless you have actual antiques, or valuable things like power tools. But stuff like a normal family accumulates like kids clothes, linens, toys, pots and pans, dvd's, old furniture....forget selling it. Maybe it's because of where I live (midwest)?

@MC - all that stuff you mentioned sells like crazy on Craiglist where we live. We do donate most clothes to Goodwill because its easier. My wife does do some swapping with other families when my boys outgrow something rather than wear it out.

Like MC I've never had any true takers for anything I've listed on craigslist (baby clothes, used washer, various household items like heavy stoneware plate set.) Living in a smaller town didn't help. We've always ended up mostly donating the stuff to get rid of it or trashing the very outdated items. Since our last move cross country and to a larger city I have found an outlet for most of our son's outgrown clothes/toys at a local resale shop.

Stuff is really horrible. Less stuff is less stress for sure. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy some things, but less is often more.

I live in 1k sq ft., but still have lots of stuff. Since my kids live far away, I am trying to get rid of a lot of it now. That way, if I die, they won't have to travel a huge distance to get rid of my "stuff". Right now I have about 1k+ books, scads of Star Trek collectibles, and clothes. I recently gave my late husband's tools to the local food bank for a city wide yard sale. I was astonished at how quickly the tools went. I didn't know they were so popular. I probably could have gotten a good price for some of them, but I feel the winnings went to a good place - to help feed local people.

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