Do You Have Your Stuff or Does It Have You?

Post by: Kelly Murphy-Briley

I just finished looking through some pictures
from a few years ago, 
and that question
of why came back again.. The 
why-as in:
Why did I keep all that stuff!? Why did I
need all this stuff? So as I delve into that
question, maybe you should ask yourself
the same one, unless you already have a
beautifully kept minimalist home. 
And if that’s true, then you probably
don’t need to read this blog.
Even from 
my youth, I can remember
living in a house full of stuff. 
I remember a huge Mayflower truck
coming to our house when we moved
from Louisiana to Arkansas.
The Mayflower guys came in and
wrapped and packed everything for us. 
I think the truck was one of their largest,
but of course, to an 8-year-old, I thought
it was the biggest they rented!
Once we moved to the farm, I remember
much of our things we didn’t use still
packed in boxes in the basement.
And that was years. Some of the reason,
was because our house was in constant
renovation, and I guess Mom figured it
would get ruined by kids running around
the house.  And I don’t think she ever did
unpack her purple drinking glasses, unless
it was after I went to college. 
I think some of the reasons we tolerate 
too much stuff, or dare I say..clutter-
clutter has been the norm
for us. That is what we know
The clutter of the parents, will shape
their children’s clutter.  Yes, kids are thrown
into their parent’s issues, whatever they are.
Children learn by example.  
So, if you are a clutterbug, there is a 50/50
chance you will pass it on to your kids.  
I know my parents definitely passed that on
to my sisters and me.
Why did my parents have so much stuff?
They had their reasons, and some were
legitimate. Growing up during the
Depression, and with lots of siblings,
may have been some of the reason.
And on a farm it is very possible
that the saying, “I might need it later!”
was really true. We lived a bit
far from town, so couldn’t
always run out and buy
something. That would have
been two hours back and
forth with considering
shopping time. And the
had their scheduled milking
 time, and it cost money,
which did not grow on trees.
There was no reason to spend
money on something we already
might have had.  Of course, you
had to find it. And that might or
might not be difficult.  
Oh, and what about the culture influence?
 The American way….It seems
bigger is better, and the more
stuff you have the ‘richer’ you
must be. Right?  
When we visited people who
didn’t have much stuff, it was
usually because they were poor
since they were in crisis-
maybe a mom whose husband
had just died, or left her with a newborn,
or a family who’d had a fire,
or an elderly person who had
to sell much of her china,
and farm equipment, to keep
the farm in the family. 
NOBODY had less stuff
just because!
That would just be weird
I love watching House Hunters,
and sometimes I watch House
Hunters International
. Have
you? Ever notice the difference
in the comments between shows?
On House Hunters, (a show where
realtors show couples homes
only in the U.S.) you almost
always have one of the couple
commenting on how “Oh, honey!
I don’t think this closet will hold
all of your clothes! Oh, where
will we put my shoes?” 
If you watch it, and nine times out of ten,
you will hear a comment similar.  
But, on  House Hunters International,
couples or families from any and other countries,
(besides the U.S.) who look for homes,
don’t freak out when they see a small
closet or home.
 They say, “It’s cozy!” But if it is an
American couple or family, they
usually reference how “small the
closet” or how “tiny the bedrooms”
“What! There’s a washer/dryer
setup in the bathroom!” 
“Oh, I love everything about this
house, but we can’t buy it,
because the closets are tiny!
 Oh me! Oh my! Oh paalease!
Oh, come on, just get rid of
some of your clothes, already!
(That’s me, yelling @ the T.V.!)  
Let’s face it. We Americans,
 have been sold the idea that
bigger is better,
(especially in houses) and
is equated to success and wealth! 
 This is why the hoarders
shows are popular. We are
fascinated that someone
could let things get so bad!
And then we feel better about
ourselves because we have less
stuff than they!  Because,
(I say to myself) at least my
stuff is good stuff, not just crap!
Oh really?! Watch the hoarders
shows more closely….
Much of the time you can see
things with store tags still
on the items!
So clutter, for some of us/me
has been the norm. 
Which brings me to the next 
why do I still need all that stuff?
Why am I holding on to it?
Now, I am not even talking
about the stuff for everyday use.
I am talking about the stuff that
has accumulated in attics and
closets, and dressers, and
Let me bravely use myself
as an example: 
One year I taught a beautiful,
and loving group of students.
We had a mutual love for each
other- each with his and her
own personalities, and quirks.
We had a sweet community
in our classroom. 
Words cannot express how
much I loved these kids. 
But, with the same fervor
the students and I loved
each other, the principal
disliked me. I will even
say hated me, because
of being assigned and not
‘handpicked’ by her.
She was controlling and
“always got her way.”
That was a quote from her. 
Anyone who disagreed
with her on an issue,
was “insubordinate.”
She felt better by going
out of her way to be
controlling and mean.
Not just to me, but I
was the unlucky one to
be on her radar that year.   
After surviving a whole
year of hearing what an
awful job I was doing from her,
and a year of what a great job
I was doing from my parents
and teacher colleagues, the
last day of school finally
arrived… It was bittersweet.
Although I knew I wasn’t
returning,  my principal
refused to let me reveal
 this to the parents or students.
And since I wanted my paycheck,
I listened to her. One of my colleagues came
by my room to announce that
Principal Meanie-Face (as I will
call her) was leaving in 45
minutes, and anyone who
didn’t have her room packed
up and empty would be required
to return the following day,
(my precious Saturday,
first day of summer vacation,
away from Principal
Meanie-Face) to finish,  
because our principal was
locking the building.  
Well, I wasn’t going
to spend one more day at
that school.
throwing stuff in boxes, and
trash bags, right and left,
using anything I had, 
frantically trying to get out.
I made it in time, but it took
more than 5 years to
the strength to go through
those boxes. Not because I
threw stuff with proper packing,
but because my confidence
in myself was so damaged
I hadn’t possessed the bravery
to deal with all those memories. 
Good or bad. But I finally
found the gumption to do it.  
I didn’t throw everything out.
I kept pictures and notes
 from 1st graders telling me
they “wished I was their mother”
and added them to my teaching 
scrapbook.  It was emotional
but I got through it. 
 I needed to hold on to that stuff
until I had the courage to deal
with the emotions
. All that
sweetness of the children,
my teacher of the year nomination,
(Yeah, go figure) concern of my 
teacher buddies, and meanness
of an angry, power-hungry
principal were all rolled up and placed
in one section of my attic. 
The point is: I had kept
those things for a reason.
And eventually, I had to
deal with the reason.  
Because to stay emotionally
healthy, we all have to
eventually deal with the reasons. 
It was hard, but I am able
to look back and say:
I survived a horrible situation.
I learned that 
God doesn’t
always take away a tough
situation or stress. 
Sometimes He wants us
to learn how to deal with it
by leaning on Him, and
calming ourselves. 
That leads to peace
in difficult situations,
and not simply peaceful

I want more out of life than my stuff.
Don’t you? So, these days, I look
@ weird a bit differently, 
and the
more evolved and older I get…the
more I like weird. 
What about you?
What’s your why? Why are you
holding on to stuff? And are you
holding on to your stuff
or is it holding on to you? 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. marv53
    Mar 28, 2011 @ 21:56:56

    A lot of stuff is holding me captive. There seems to be two catagories of stuff filling up my house. One is memorabllia from the past mostly from times spent with my kids. This catagory is fairly well contained, boxed and taking up little space. These are things I will pass on to my kids sooner or later(now would be OK). This catagory is not a real big problem. The other catagory is stuff that has been collected over the years pertaining to past interests, events, activities, styles and on and on. This catagory is the problem. Hording things that likely will never get used again. This group needs to go. It has been holding on to me too long. I need the space and want the freedom.


    • mooving2minimalism
      Mar 29, 2011 @ 01:40:42

      Hi Marv53,
      Nice to see you back! It sounds like you are getting the mindset and that desire which will keep you motivated. And that is the first step! Good for you!
      Unless you own a storage unit business, I agree that it would be a great time for you to pass the baton, and “award” your children with their keepsakes.
      As for the other stuff, it sounds like you are ready to start sorting, recycling, and setting up a Craigslist account! Happy Minimizing!


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