After the death of my grandma, it fell to the family to sort through her worldly possessions and decide what to do with them. Some things will be sold, some given to relatives, some thrown away. I helped my mother sort through some and there was a lot of stuff that was destined for Goodwill. Not to belittle what she chose to keep but there really was just a lot of stuff that was no use to anyone.

This last weekend I went to my grandpa’s house to help him pack up his stuff so he can move to assisted living. My grandpa has a basement full of stuff. I’m not sure he uses anything down there very often because he can’t get down his stairs at all. While there, I also helped my aunt go through her things in preparation to move as well. My aunt has to downsize her possessions by about 80% because she’s into tiny living and is moving to a smaller space.

What really amazes me is how much stuff we accumulate over the course of our lives. I have the smallest bedroom in my house and my stuff spills out onto a landing area. It’s not like I have an excessive collection of possessions but it certainly feels like a lot. I mean, when you look at just my clothes I think I’m up to 6 dresses, 9 shawls, and 8 skirts with three pairs of dress shoes to go with those. That’s just my nicer clothes. I probably have over 40 tshirts and tank tops. Then come jeans and pajamas and sweaters and everything else. That’s just looking at my clothing. Now come books and movies, notebooks, pens and markers, paint and canvases, posters, blankets, stuffed animals, suitcases and backpacks, etc.

I look at it all and think, “Do I really need all this?” And now that I’ve had to help (notice, just help, my mom did 80+% of the sorting) go through a deceased person’s possessions I think, “Do I want someone else to have to go through all this?”

If I died tomorrow, these items are what I would leave behind for my family to deal with. They would have to decide whether or not to keep the little knickknacks. Should they donate a bunch of my things? Do they keep things they don’t really want just because it was mine? Is it wrong to throw away all my old journals (YES IT IS OKAY PLEASE DON’T READ THEM)? Is there anything hiding under my bed or in the back of my closet that I would rather my family not see? What about my computer? What would they do with all my documents and half finished stories?

Maybe it’s a bit morbid but if anything happens to me, I don’t want to leave behind a bunch of junk. It makes everyone feel badly about throwing things out. If you can’t keep it and no one wants it then it should be thrown out, right? But this once belonged to a beloved family member! How can we just trash it? You can. Do it.

Obviously there are things that people keep from the deceased because they hold sentimental value or are useful and that’s great. Do that. Hold onto that little piece of personal history.

But no one’s going to hang onto every item I own right now. Some things are only sentimental and meaningful to me. But I don’t even want to deal with all my stuff right now. I can’t find things. I haven’t seen some of this stuff in 3+ years. I’m tired of not having a place for things. I don’t have the space for what I own so I need to downsize my pile of possessions.

A day or two ago I went through one of the six boxes I’ve been storing under my bed. I ended up throwing out a lot of stuff I’d been hanging onto. Most of the things I’ve stored I only have because they hold a memory of an event or person or moment or I’ve just had a thing so long it feels like it should mean something. Instead of keeping every little thing, I took pictures of the items that mattered the most and then got rid of them (either thrown away or put in a box to donate). I have to remember that those memories are not dependent upon holding a small glass box or a little wizard bear figurine. I have those memories with me all the time. The items bring it to the front of my mind but it’s not as though it ceases to exist if I don’t have the item physically with me.

In the end, I can’t take any of this stuff with me when I die. I’m not sure how to get across how I feel when I look at my worldly possessions. It’s something like annoyance, disgust at consumerism, frustration, and exhaustion. I don’t want all this junk in my life yet here it is and I keep getting more of it. Hopefully over the next few weeks I can go through a lot of this stuff and finally throw out what I don’t need or haven’t used in years.

Not sure what I’m really saying in this post. It’s just a few thoughts I’ve been having. Does anyone else look at their things like I do? Like, “How did I get all this junk?” Yet, you feel like you can’t gt rid of it either because it either cost too much, you’re not ready to part with it, or what if it might be useful someday? I guess in the future if I need a broken figurine I bought at the dollar store when I was 12 I’ll have to live without it.

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4 thoughts on “Why Do I Have so Much Stuff? What Will I Leave Behind?

  1. I am still very sorry about Grammy. I was glad to have met her before she passed. I know how the process of going through things go. My grandmother was a hoarder and it took us a very long time to help her downsize before she moved into a nursing home. It took an even longer time to go through her things and decide what we wanted to keep after her passing. The majority of the items that she had, like a class ring for instance, was very hard to dictate on whether we should have pawned it all or kept it. This was mostly because I knew that my future family wouldn’t know who this woman was and wouldn’t know what to do with her jewelry after I passed. To this day we still don’t know what to do with these things and some of the family has held on to it for the past six years.
    I will also be down sizing quite a bit! After Dawson and I moved from our little house in Lansing, we couldn’t help but notice how much stuff we had accumulated over the course of six months. Of course most of it was from the wedding, but it didn’t stop us from feeling that we had so much junk. We didn’t realize that we were trying to fit a two bedroom house within a bedroom and a half, a small portion of a basement, and a garage until we moved into our own house. Meanwhile trying to share a house with four others that were trying to make more room in an already well stocked household. At the time we knew that we would need this stuff in the future and that took care of the twinge of guilt that we had for over crowding the house. However, looking at all of the things we own, I’ve noticed there is more stuff here than what we moved in with. It raises the question, “Do I really need this stuff?” more often than what I would like to admit. Sometimes I feel that we attend to place value in ownership and having things rather than enjoying experiences or memories that a little space can hold.
    I wish you luck on down sizing!

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  2. Great post, and I’m sorry for your loss. The death of a loved one can make you see the world in a different light. Advertising tells us that one of the reasons for our existence is to accumulate ‘stuff’ – which will then have to be dealt with by someone else when we pass. But knowing that and living that are two different things.

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    1. Thank you for the condolences.
      I completely agree, we live in a consumerist culture and living against that is difficult. I’m going to do my best. I have found that it’s easier to not get things than it is to get rid of things later on. Hopefully I’ll have an update on this post in a few months to share how well (or how poorly) it’s working out 🙂

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