dear reader | to the one with a “stuff problem”

by | Jul 20, 2016 | All Things Home, Decorating, decorating dilemmas, Secret Weapons | 85 comments

Dear reader,

A few minutes after I put my sons to bed a few weeks ago, I heard the sound of feet on the steps. “Mommy?”  My oldest son had crept out of bed with something on his mind.  I walked around the corner to the bottom of the steps.  “What is it, buddy?”

Earlier in the evening, we talked with him about buying a new bike.  He had outgrown the one he had in ability and size.  I thought he would be dreaming of the new bike, but instead, he was distressed about the fate of his old one.

As we got into the conversation a bit further, with a frog in his throat and tears welling up, my tender-hearted nine year old confessed, “It’s just sometimes hard for me to let go of things that I’ve had for a long time and I really enjoyed.”

His moment of raw emotion and honesty about that bike so clearly articulated how a lot of us feel about our stuff.   Even a too-small bike with a broken pedal and chain that is always coming off can be hard to let go of.

A few months ago, I wrote a post about styling tips for the home and many readers responded with the same issue…they had a “stuff problem.”

Much like my son and his bike, the idea of decluttering and getting rid of some stuff seems really hard.  For some reason or another, you have some emotions deeply entangled in that stuff and even the idea of selling it, donating it, or pitching it feels like a personal loss.

The big problem with relying solely on our emotions to determine if something is worth keeping or not is that you can end up buried in your stuff.  Can you imagine if we kept every single bike our two boys ever own?  And all of their clothes, school papers, toys, stuffed animals, etc?  We would have to have an entire room of our house just dedicated to the past.  And there would be so much stuff that it would be impractical to even interact with that stuff in any kind of meaningful way.  It would just sit there, for the sole reason that sadness was associated with letting it go.

I, personally, don’t want to have a relationship with stuff that’s dictated by negative emotions.

Believe it or not, I used to feel a lot more connected to my stuff.  I know it’s hard to imagine that the girl who will sell furniture straight out of her house would be hesitant to part with something, but it’s true.  I used to have a “stuff problem.”

The more stuff the merrier!

I remember one day, though, when I was flipping through a decorating magazine and paused to take in images of a home that I just loved.  Instead of just looking at the pictures, I decided to read the article as well.  It stuck out to me that the home owner/designer talked about how selective she was about the things that she had in her home and her “less is more philosophy.”  A few well chosen items were preferable over a lot of stuff, even a lot of good stuff.

I actually thought that was a little radical for me.  I liked all of my collections of stuff and the idea of parting with some of it seemed unthinkable.  I had so many things I would “never, ever get rid of”.

As the years have gone by and I have purged and paired down and sold most of the things I would “never, ever get rid of”, I have come to know the joys of letting go – the freedom from feeling an obligation to keep stuff that I don’t need, use, love, or have the perfect spot for.

If you’re ready to address your stuff problem, here are a few things that helped me…


You’re not getting rid of memories or people when you get rid of stuff.

This is a really hard one for people and it was for me, too.  (And that was the root issue for my son and his bike.  He had a lot of great memories associated with it.)  We know in our heads that we don’t need a thing to remember a special person or event, but our hearts beg to differ.  Getting rid of an items feels like we’re getting rid of the memory or person it’s associated with.  I realized at one point that I had a lot of stuff from my Oma & Opa’s attic that didn’t mean anything to me.  I only had it because it was theirs.  But, I did have some things that belonged to them that I use and love…the rug in my home office, the little wooden rocking chair in my boys’ room, my Oma’s sterling flatware, and a large ironstone soup tureen to name a few.


I didn’t need to keep everything I dug out of the attic.  So, I slowly started letting things go and it gave even more value to the pieces I decided to keep.

You should not feel obligated to keep stuff you don’t use, need or love.

Your house is not a storage unit.  You do not need to be the keeper of stuff for all of your extended family who “gifted” you with the “family pieces” that no one else wants, but they’ve insisted that “someone in the family needs to have it.”  I decided a few years ago that some beautiful antique pieces I inherited from my great aunt just weren’t my style.  So, I offered them to other family members and, if they didn’t want them, they were going to be sold.

It felt so good to give myself permission to not keep things I didn’t want.

A beautiful space is not just created by what’s added, but by what’s omitted.  

I think it’s true that a lot of people have all of the components to create a space they really love, but there is so much extraneous stuff that the beautiful space they dream of is buried under it all.  A shopping trip is not in order, but rather some editing.  Just try it!  Try removing things from a room and only put back what you really, really love.  You might be surprised.



Stuff is just stuff.  

My Oma was a big time collector and was very sentimental about things.  I knew that already, but was reminded of it when I helped clean out their attic.  She had boxes full of keepsakes…autograph books, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs.  It had all been stored away in an attic for decades and the memorabilia was eaten away by silverfish.  I had a few teary, quiet moments in that attic.  In the end, it’s all just stuff.


So, keep the things you love.  Use them, cherish them, enjoy them, put them on display.  And let go of the things that don’t add anything of value to the home that you’re trying to make or the life that you’re trying to live.

This does take a lot of work in the beginning and then upkeep through the months and years, but once you get a taste of the freedom from your “stuff problem”, you’ll want to keep it up.

From a fellow former stuff-lover,



  1. Sandi

    perfectly spoken!!!

    • Terri

      This was a much needed post for me! Knowing this and actually putting it into action is very hard!
      But.. I’m in that process, and good points with the sentimental stuff. I’m going to pass this on to my sister as well. Thank you!

  2. Christine


    I think I am going to share this story with my daughter. It has been difficult for her to give up some of her toys that she has outgrown. I have told her we could have a yardsale to raise money for a trip, donate, and/or just toss some out.

    I have been wanting to purge everything in my house for quite some time. Thanks for the tips. Now I just have to get started!

  3. Dana

    You could take a good photo of your sons bike and frame it for his room.

    • Cindy in Oklahoma

      I love that… or maybe a piece of furniture in his room could have its own scene painted on it with some of his favorite treasures added over time as he lets them go…

    • Kathryn in Snohomish, WA

      And how about HIM WITH the bike, so he can look back with perspective. I completely understand the angst involved all the way around. Thank you, Marian, for highlighting this challenging issue and sharing a thoughtful & useful approach to stuff.

  4. Donna

    This post speaks to my heart. I have most of my families heirlooms, as well as my husband’s family. We love them, but over the years, we will find a piece we like better, and then look for a home for the “heirloom”. Of course there are some that will never be given away, and are already claimed by the next generation when we are no longer here. But we use them, they are meant to be used, remembered, and loved. After my mother died, I just could not just throw away her stuff, she was a seamstress/crafter, she had closets full of fabric, tons of STUFF. It has taken me years to find homes for it. But it is leaving. A house too cluttered is too mind cluttering.

  5. Sue

    I too had this change in thinking after cleaning out my parents’ home after they passed away. The same realization – it is stuff. Letting it go to others who will cherish and use it is better than letting it rot in my basement. Great post! 🙂

  6. Becky

    Good advice, Marian. I agree with Dana’s comment about taking a picture of him with his bike. That way he will always remember it. Also, maybe passing it on to another child he knows for them to enjoy might help too. right know my husband and I are in the process of sorting through his parents things and it’s a slow process indeed. Lots of memories, but you just can’t keep everything. I do the six month method sometimes. If it’s been in the closet 6 months and you don’t use it you probably won’t and then I pass it on.

  7. Melinda

    So hard to handle the “stuff” of life! I am, once again, collecting items to take to a charity shop in an effort to de-clutter my closets. I ❤️ decorative items, candlesticks, big bowls, shiney things, vases, etc. You can see the problem…but things I’ve been glad I kept are: selected toys that belonged to my kids that my grands now play with and dresses I made that the grands now wear. On another note, one of my children upon receiving a new toothbrush said, “I always feel sorry for the old ones…” It’s a wonder I could let go of anything after that!

  8. Alice R.

    Thank you for sharing this. Having lost three parents just a few years, having to clear out four homes, I too have this problem. A couple of collectors, and depression era childhoods all. You can imagine the scope of this problem. I find that as I get a bit further away from the worse grief, I am able to let go of more, but I’m not sorry I kept it in the begining. It was all so emotionally challenging that I didn’t know what to keep and what to let go of. I still have way too much,but I’m hoping the process of grieving will help me continue to let go.

    • Lisa

      I’m in the midst of the same thing. My mom died in October and I had to clean out her apartment by the end of December. She had so much stuff. It’s so hard to decide what to sell and what to keep. The one positive thing it did do was make me realize that I don’t want to do the same thing to my kids so I’ve been decluttering as I go along. I still have stacks of boxes full of photos (as well as report cards from my parents from the 1930’s…why?) that I need to go through but just getting organized and getting rid of some of it has been helpful. I tried to only keep what was really meaningful to me but it’s really hard. When I get overwhelmed I walk away and come back later. That seems to help.

      • Rebecca

        I really like to use old papers with handwriting in some of the mixed media art work I do. If you really have things like report cards from the 1930’s and are thinking of just pitching them, please contact me — I’d be happy to pay you to ship them. I like to work with papers from the first half of the 20th century and before. You can check out my website to see some of my work.

  9. Cheryl

    Marian, you are such a beautiful writer. This struck so close to home for me. We just moved –literally blocks down the street and the toll that the move has had on me has been overwhelming. I have a lot of stuff. It is so hard for me to let it go. Out of sheer exhaustion i gave away – threw away and just walked away from some of the things. Over these next months I need to continue to sort and move things on. Thank you for your words – i will refer back to them as I make those hard decisions – and let family pieces go that we also have been storing for many years.

  10. Becky

    I like what Dana said about taking a picture of your son’s bike – but perhaps you could even have a painting of him done with him riding his bike and then hang it in his room. OR….make something with parts of a coat rack. What a sweet boy you have.

    Being an antique dealer myself, I listen to customers say over and over again that when they die their children won’t want any of their “stuff”. It makes them sad to even think about it. I just respond by saying that we all have different styles and perhaps they enjoyed your style but have been inspired to choose their own. I know my mom’s style was not my own, however I did keep a few small things of hers, like an antique leather bound Lutheran hymnal and her paintings.

    An idea to help “contain” the “stuff” and “clutter” is to corral a collection inside of a cabinet or on a shelf. It can be daunting to wrangle collections and purge for a lot of folks. A good tip for letting things go is if you haven’t looked at it, thought about it or wore it for a year – it is time to let it go.

  11. Lorie

    Your son’s story reminds me of a recent conversation with my granddaughter, also nine.
    My youngest son moved into a new apartment and my husband and I gave him a chair that we no longer needed. When my granddaughter discovered it was gone she was so upset and when I asked her why she said “because it’s a memory and now it’s gone!” She has pictures of her as an infant sitting with my husband in that chair. I explained to her that just because the chair was gone, we would always have the memories.

  12. Sarah


    Thank you for this post. You described this dilemma perfectly. Stuff, really is just stuff and the memories….You keep those always.

    I will reread this post often as I forge ahead with letting go of “my stuff”

    Have a lovely day,
    Sarah 🙂

  13. Marlene Stephenson

    Marian thank you for this wonderful post. I am in the middle of doing this and this is so true,memories are something no one can take form you. So back to purging.

    • Mary

      Thank you for reminding me what is important. Two years ago I inherited my Mother’s “stuff”. Everything that the other family members didn’t want and what I was too sentimental to let go of. Ever since, I have been drowning in sadness and clutter. I’ve tried to pass things on to other family members, but no one really has room for more. Last year when lightning struck my uncles storage building, I actually thought for a fleeting moment that I wish it had struck my house. Then I could be free of everything without the guilt of giving my Mother’s treasures to strangers. I’m getting rather old to manage a garage sale, but guess I need to give it a try.

      • kddomingue

        I’ve gotten so much joy, over many years now, in finding wonderful things at Goodwill and other such places that other people have donated. Vintage items that I couldn’t have afforded at an antique store but were only a few dollars at Goodwill or similar places. We were so broke for so many years of our married life and we couldn’t afford to spend much on “pretties”. I’ve always been so thankful that there were people who donated nice things so some unknown someone else could discover and enjoy them.

        Because we were broke for so many years, I developed a “stuff problem”. It was miserably hard for me to let go of things…… I guess out of fear that I might need something or fear of not being able to replace the thing that I got rid of. Then, as elder members of the family started passing away and a lot of their things came to live at my house, it became too much. So, I started purging. I’m STILL purging, lol! But my house feels SOOOOO much better, like it can finally the take a deep breath after years of being suffocated. And, I’m passing on the happiness that strangers have gifted me with over the years by donating the items that are leaving my house. I take great pleasure in imagining someone’s delight in finding a “treasure” that I’ve donated.

      • marian

        Aw, Mary. Yes, it is time for you to get rid of some of that stuff, so you can live in a space that isn’t filled with stuff from other people and you can actually see and use the things you love, that are meaningful. Do you have any family members who would help you out with a sale?

  14. Heather

    Love this post! I have recently (the past year or so) been letting go of things I don’t absolutely love or use… And it has been so freeing. You described it all beautifully!

  15. Peg

    Well said:D

  16. Kaelsma

    The problem I have with getting rid of my STUFF is that I am seriously in debt and I keep thinking about the money I could make selling a lot of my STUFF. But then – the prospect of getting it ready to sell and actually doing the selling overwhelms me – and here I am – drowning in debt AND stuff.

  17. Jelena

    Oh, how I wish I could get my husband to read this post!
    He has a major “computer museum,” and I am not even allowed to suggest that he should get rid og some of his “museum pieces.”

  18. Nancy

    Yes, it is hard to let go of “stuff” that has emotional attachments. When we moved 8 years ago, my mantra was, “if the kids are just going to throw it away anyways, I might as well do it now,” on another note, your post spoke to me about something I have been contemplating. My mother made me 2 crewel designs of children praying, framed in oval wooden frames that had been my grandmother’s. My kids aren’t interested, but I love them because of where they came from. I have just decided to give them to my niece, she will love them.

  19. TRACY

    I am s-l-o-w-l-y purging away “things”. It is tough, especially if it was something passed down from a family member. But I really started to dislike that “old school” look of every single thing you ever collected on display, which I actually loved at one point. If you look back at say some old Country Living magazines from the 80’s-90’s, pages and pages of rooms covered from head to toe with “stuff”. Aaah it is enough to make you suffocate. Love your story about your son and his bike-how sweet. One of those things that makes you want to give them a great big hug and hold them forever.

  20. Lin

    What a wonderful post! It is important to acknowledge that it’s hard to let go of “stuff” and that it’s tied to memories and people. That’s why I liked Marie Kondo’s advice to “thank” items and why I try to find good homes for my “stuff.” I have realized that small items are sometimes more special than big items (my mom’s mustard jar, for example) and take up less space! I also realized that my parents’ photos, travel souvenirs, and collections contain THEIR memories, not my own. After cleaning out my parents’ home, I am committed to leaving less for my kids to deal with but, of course, I still struggle. Thanks for this very honest and helpful post!

  21. Mary T

    Hi Mirian!

    Perfect timing on this post!! I, too, have a stuff problem but I don’t know where to start!! Or how much things are worth in order to sell. Then actually selling it, then taking money for it and then giving it to that person! The whole process of getting rid of the “stuff” is so overwhelming!! How do I even get started?? By all means, I’m not a horder or anything but I have too much stuff. And I want to downsize but its so overwhelming that its keeping me from doing that! Ugh!

    Well thanks for the post!

  22. Benita Arnett

    Thank you Marian, you spoke to me. I needed that little push and encouragement.

  23. Robin Seefahrt

    I too have an Aunt’s, Brother’s, Mother’s stuff besides all my old collections. I have a 2 car garage full and an old barn too, Oh my, where do I start? And sometimes I just can’t say no to another goody. Shopper, hoarder, yes I’m guilty. Worst of all I don’t have room to even organize for a sale. I have many old antiques that I don’t want to give away but wold gladly give a great deal on. I’m not very techy so I’ve been reluctant to post on line. They do have a town site where you post pictures so I might do that for big items just to make room.

    In front of my barn I have 3 or 4 old kid’s bikes lined up like artwork, LoL@

  24. Lisa Mothersead

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Perfectly written. I super agree.

  25. anneb

    Thank you.

  26. kristyn baker

    I have had to go through the same lesson.. it is very freeing!

  27. Cheryl

    So very true! I’m a stuff collector and would take everyone’s “don’t want” stuff! This year I had two storage sheds full of stuff so I decided to get rid of them and set a goal to have them cleaned out by December. Happy to say I started in May and by the time the end of May came around I had both sheds emptied and a wad of cash to go with it. It was soooooo freeing. I really didn’t think it would be but it was like a weight lifted and now I am working on doing the same thing to the house. Great article!!

  28. Linda Carr

    So very true. I have been going through my “stuff”. Remodeled the kitchen so everything was out of the cabinets. I have some beautiful green crystal goblets – 3 sizes – a neighbor gave to me. They were wedding presents in the early 1920’s. I have started using them when I have friends over. Yes I do hand wash them. A couple have nicks of the foot but what fun we are having with the fancy glasses when the girls get together. We will have memories even if the goblets are broken and gone!

  29. Gwen

    It is true for little ones. I had them give away ten things they were done playing with but I had the final say. Because often they’d only give a happy meal toy. But it seemed to help. We talked about a child who needed the bike/toy/books. I don’t know if it helped into adulthood. I don’t snoop around! I’m talking my own personal sanity. I’ve long been one that likes to change decor. Now I love my piano. I like my bookcase and don’t mind my 15 year old coffee table and sofa table. But I got for a reasonable price fun metal trendy heavy duty counter stools! I’m like my Mom? Keep a plate from my great grandmothers. Silver plate from my Grandma. But this summer I pledge to get rid of all goodwill stuff from five years and four years ago when I was doing a shower and craft projects and have used them. I don’t want them to be confused for anything I’d treasured!!!! I have quite a bit to get rid of now!!!! I have piles in garage. Time to call the Salvation Army truck!!!!!
    Thanks for the push to find more to add to the pile.

  30. Leslie Collison

    Great post. Like many of your readers, I was over stuffed with stuff I collected and thought I would never part with. That has all started to change starting last year. I felt that the stuff I loved began to own me. I have been selling lots of treasures and only keeping what I use or absolutely can not bear to part with. It has been freeing and now I am able to enjoy my special treasures and family keepsakes and not have them stuffed in closets or in storage for someone else to deal with later on down the years.

  31. Dana Black

    I’d have to keep the bike !!! I would probably find a sweet spot in one of my flower gardens to put the bike with a basket maybe to hold a plant. Or I’d hang it on the outside of my garden shed. I’d also be tempted to keep it, paint it red and stick it on the front porch at Christmas as I do now with my daughter’s little red wagon and wooden hobby horse that I never could let go. Sounds like a really sweet little boy!

  32. Pink Camellias

    I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I have to let stuff go. If I don’t, it becomes overwhelming to me. I have a tall laundry hamper that I keep in our garage, and I fill it up every 1-2 weeks. When it is full, off to Goodwill it goes. I’m not even a shopper, so I don’t know where all this stuff comes from! 😉

  33. Nan, Odessa, DE

    I know what u say is true but, as soon as I get rid of something I have a need for it!
    Doesn’t this happen to you?

  34. Suzy

    I do have a stuff problem too ! 🙁 Thank you for reminding me that it is “Just Stuff “

  35. Debbie H.

    This is a WONDERFUL and though-filled post…… THANK YOU ever so much; great food for thought (and do!)

  36. Kimberly Bruhn

    You know how you read (diligently) those “Magic” books about tidying-up and clutter and you swear you’re going to adhere to the principles?
    Well, it didn’t kick in until I read what you wrote today to take everything out and only put the things you love back in! I feel new inspiration coming over me and cannot wait till my 6’6″ son gets a day off to help me move the heavy things out (and possibly, back in).
    Thanks again for “permission” to get rid of stuff…

  37. Sue

    Some thoughts that have helped me: When everything is “special”, nothing is special. Think of what you are spending – mortgage or rent – to just store stuff… wouldn’t you rather that your square footage be a calm oasis from the stresses of life? If the stuff you have is stacked and piled in a basement or garage, you’re not really honoring the memories attached to it all anyway, so use it or give the items the dignity of being useful or loved by someone else.

  38. Karen from

    I taught my kids to think of their stuff as borrowed from God. He has blessed us with the use of this item and when it is time to get rid of it, just remember that it will now bless someone else like it has blessed us. It still wasn’t easy for them, but by practicing this philosophy all of their youthful lives they have grown into two very giving and grateful adults.

  39. Vicki

    Such good advice!

  40. Alice




  41. Terrie from Atlanta, GA

    Marian, before you pass your son’s bike along to another child, one note: the chain keeps falling off because it is too long. A trip to a bike or hardware store to have a link or two removed and the chain oiled will fix this right up! Perhaps someone in your community is a biker and could help, too. Best of luck … sweet story! Xo

  42. Rose

    Once I got rid of the excess “stuff” I try to stick to the rule of “something in, something out”. But it can be really hard sometimes.

  43. Teresa

    I have been reading all the excellent comments on your post but Mary’s message really hit my heart.. I just feel the sadness in her words.. Here is a lady who has inherited her Mothers things and she like so many of us has guilty feelings about letting go of some of it. Instead of her Mothers things bringing her happiness it now brings her sadness and clutter by her own admission.

    I hope she can get pass her feelings of guilt and realize that her Mother would not want this. For seven years we had a rather large religious picture stored in our guest bedroom closet that belonged to my husbands late grandmother and had belonged to her mother. No one in the family had room for it or wanted it so my husband felt badly and brought it home with us.

    Recently, I was looking for something in the closet and saw the picture in the corner collecting dust. Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head!

    My husbands late grandmother was a member of a small Methodist church in her community for many years. Why not donate this picture to her beloved church? My husband loved the idea and I just wished I had thought of it sooner. I know of nothing that would please his late grandmother more than to know this beautiful picture of “Christ, The Shepard” that hung in her house for many years is now hanging in the church where she worshipped for over 50 years.

    Sometimes it just takes some “creative” thinking. I hope Mary will get pass her sadness/guilt and do something of good with her Mothers things she has no room or need for. I know when I leave this earth, I don’t want my things in a loved ones garage, attic or storage unit not seeing the light of day because of guilt but rather seeing it being enjoyed and loved no matter where it is.

  44. Linnea

    I love stuff too, but don’t love clutter. One of the ways I deal with this is by buying and selling, yay still getting stuff but flipping it for profit! Another strategy I use when I’m really having separation anxiety is to take the stuff I’m thinking about getting rid of and storing it somewhere for about six months. This lessens the separation anxiety, and the am I gonna need it in a week questions. After six months I usually don’t even look at the pile, just take it to the donation bin, totally, anxiety free!

    Thanks for this post, passing it on to my mother asap!

  45. Loretta

    Thanks for posting this. It really spoke to me.

  46. Kayleen

    I really needed this at this exact moment in my life. You see, I have this old 50’s bubble stove that I inherited from my grandfather. I had grand intentions of refurbishing it and putting it in my kitchen. Ten years later and a million miles worth of moving it around my garage, I think I feel strong enough to part with it. Thanks for helping boost my confidence in my decision!

  47. Melissa

    Thank you for this post! We are majorly downsizing to move into a 2 bedroom house with our two kids to live a life we love, rather than be bogged down with finding a house big enough for our stuff. It’s a process that feels like it’s easier said than done, but once I get rid of items, I actually forget about them!

  48. Lisa

    Great post! I think I’ll flag it to come back to when I’m more ready to get rid of some of my stuff!

  49. Kimberly ~ Serendipity Refined

    Thanks, I needed this. I’m a “keeper of stuff that no one else wants because, ‘someone in the family should have it'”. I think that I’ll take a page from your book and offer it to family and then sell what no one wants. With our recent downsize, I’m finding that letting go of “stuff”and the time spent caring for it gives me more time to spend with the people that I love.

  50. Taria

    This article was meant for me to read. Thank you. I needed to hear this.

  51. Rebecca M

    Lucky momma to have such a sweet, loving little boy.

  52. Heather Anne

    I do so love this post! We are working on Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey and taking the baby steps! My hubby has already amassed a pile of ‘stuff’ to sell and I am doing the same … we have goals and selling this unnecessary ‘stuff’ could help us reach them faster! It’s a little painful, but getting easier as I keep MY goal in mind – a decluttered home, and OUR goal in mind – financial peace! Are the Mustard Seed Pages still up an running? I loved re-homing some of my treasures to fellow MMS readers!

  53. Gail

    Best article I’ve read in a long time. It is amazing how much “stuff” we accumulate.

  54. Jenny B.

    “Can you imagine if we kept every single bike our two boys ever own? And all of their clothes, school papers, toys, stuffed animals, etc?” –YES! I can, because that is my house! Sigh… I needed to read this post, for sure. Our stuff is overwhelming. We are getting ready to build a new house in a few years (we’ve lived in our current house for 15 years), and the task of sorting through all our stuff is looming over me. I don’t even know where to begin. I just want to close my eyes, and wake up to a beautifully, organized home. Ha. 🙂

  55. Lorraine

    Dear Marian,

    Recently we moved halfway around the world, and for the first time in my life I did a major purge. I have held onto EVERYTHING in my life and had so much stuff that I couldn’t even find things when I needed them. Had I not had a good friend to help me, I would never have managed it all. What was left has been packed into a storage locker, and I started my new life with six suitcases of clothes, jewellery, and journals. It was a real lesson in how little we actually need to be happy.

  56. DiB

    I find that when I have a major cleanup of stuff from my home I don t even miss it down the road.
    I think all of have too much. My style over the years has become very streamlined and quality over quantity. I stay away from trends and stick with the classics especially in my home decorating.

    My paint room on the other hand……..omg.

  57. Melissa Mundy

    I think people of all denominations of faith have been touched by the Pope and his message of giving to the poor. I know I have. I found a thrift store whose proceeds go to an animal shelter and price their wares so low a child could buy clothing with their allowance. When I came across something beautiful, I always kept it, figuring it would go with something. Now, I have realized the poor need exquisite pieces to brighten homes that have so little. The Pope said if a shirt has not been on your back. It could have been on the back of someone who desperately needs it. The poor. The frail. The elderly. I whipped thru my closet with newfound vigor. When I looked at something, I pictured a tired pregnant woman finding it. Or a child with a beautiful painting of a ballerina on her wall in a golden frame. I think finding a place to donate that matters to you makes it that much easier to enjoy giving.

    • Antonella

      Love this!

  58. Jean

    I recently gave up most of my collections. I feel liberated rather than sad! A former “stuff” addict

  59. Marilyn Craighead

    Thank you for a great reminder about our collections of stuff. My husband and I recently moved, as in a month ago. We have downsized considerably. But all for a good cause……..being closer to our children, a new job for hubby and a new grandson for us! As I sorted thru our 34 years of marriage, hubby’s beautiful paintings, and leftovers items from my floral shop, I too had some emotional moments. But a whispered prayer and I was able to let go and enjoy the experience. Now my hard work has paid off….. being able to settle in to our new space quickly and find new pieces to fit our much smaller home is a joy and not an emotional burden. So I can certainly appreciate your little man’s heart, I know that his new bike will bring him much joy. A photo of him on his old bike tucked into a picture frame on his bedside table will remind him of all the good times! Thank you Marion for a wonderful blog full of fun and encouragement!

  60. Valerie Reynolds

    I am only now, five years after my Mom died, beginning to let things of hers go. Even items that aren’t my style or don’t have a personal memory of her are difficult to let go of just because I knew SHE loved it. My Mom rarely bought things for herself, so when she did purchase something it was highly prized. Will the next person who owns it love it as much as my Mom did? As time passes I have come to realize, of course that doesn’t matter. My Mom enjoyed the item while it was hers, and I know she would be the first to say “Let it go, sweetie. It’s time for someone else to have the pleasure of owning it.”

    • Joanne

      Thank you 🙂

  61. Katy

    I love this! I definitely “edit” the rooms in my house when things start feeling too busy. On a side note, I have an alabaster lamp almost exactly like the one in your photo. How did you get yours so white? Mine seems yellow-ish 🙁 I bought it hoping I could easily get it cleaned and whiter.

  62. Judith

    Gosh, you hit a nerve, actually, a lot of them. My son lives across the country from me. Frequently, I hear -“mom, don’t leave all of that mess for me to clear out.”
    I am a collector – translated – I love to find stuff that people have put out at the curb. They all need a little TLC. But, it is fun.

    • DiB

      Listen to your son. I worked in estate planing and settlement for many years,
      The kids never take the stuff, they always look for the cash value.

  63. Linda

    Beautiful thoughts, thank you!
    Sometimes,when something from my childhood breaks or anything that has sentimental value to me,I try to save a small part of that object,such as a bell from a bicycle ? and then I’m ready for my heart to let it go. I hope that your son has fun making new memories with his brand new bike!

  64. Karen

    I read an articles once about letting go of things with sentimental value. One of the suggestions that was helpful to me, was to snap a photograph of the item, before giving it away. Perhaps that would help your tender hearted son have a way to treasure and remember his bike.

  65. Brit

    Thank you so much for the reminder! Your timing was perfect.

    I am a long time reader that rarely comments but, you struck a cord that has been resonating with me. My husband and I are buying our first home after two years of marriage and I have been wrestling with the way I want our home to feel. I want a home that is full of joy and memories. If pulling out my great grandma’s flour sifter brings me joy, it is welcome to stay. If an article is something I am constantly moving out of my way, I text my mom and have a “remember when?” conversation and let it go. It has been a bit of a process but, it has really allowed our personalities to begin to shine through. Books, boxes of photos, family china, and instruments seem to be the items that are unwavering.

  66. Alissa D

    So true! It took the strong possibility of my husband’s job moving us to make us commit to the first tough purge. After we realized we didn’t really need, use or want the items, we (mostly me) started to purge more and more. Two years later & I am still seeing/seeking stuff to donate/sell/toss. We’ve added to the family twice since that started. I’ve brought in as few clothes as possible & purged baby items whenever I can. The extended family keeps adding to the toys even though we’ve expressed not needing or wanting, sio the kids get to try playing with it, but tend to gravitate to the items we originally had for them…so the “flashy” stuff makes an exit ASAP.

    I’m still trying to purge, even with a newborn, 18 month old & 7 yr old in the mix. It’s slower, but still happening. A few 18-20 gallon totes with kids really help. If it fits, it goes in these. Makes it easier to take to the van once it’s time for a donation run ?

  67. B Folk

    Thanks for another “Dear Reader”. I have missed those.

    I held onto my mom’s shoes (a full size larger than my own shoes) for several years after her death, because they were hers and I missed her so. I finally gave them away when my old foot fracture insisted that I no longer wear high heels. I have several pieces of her jewelry, some scarves, and a skirt, all of which I wear throughout the year. I have cards and letters from loved ones, but no large items, and not much stuff from any of them. I keep photos, they don’t take up much space. As for things that people gift us with…if I haven’t used it in two years, it goes to someone who needs it. Our church’s annual garage sale fundraiser helps me clear clutter:)

    We have silverfish in the Pacific NW, too, eeuw! They are in all the nooks and crannies! I spray insect-killer every three months, but they return before the third month. I think they live in the apartment walls. One reason why we did the Dave Ramsey course, too. We want to get out of and stay out of debt, and buy our forever (silverfish-less) home.

    Thanks for another great post.

  68. Rebecca Kiser

    That was great – thanks for sharing. I don’t consider myself to be a “stuff” person, but another experience that motivated me to be even more selective was cleaning out my mother’s home at her death. I imagined my own children having to do that when that time comes. I don’t want them to wonder, when they go through my effects, if something was meaningful to me or not. If it’s not, out it goes!

  69. Teresa Mucha

    Perfect timing on this post. I have been trying to get motivated to”purge” and this article speaks volumes. Thanks for sharing.

  70. Patricia

    Great post! One I’ve needed to read… To spur me onward in what I’ve been thinking about — now com s the doing part!

  71. Jill Hilbrich

    We are in the process of moving and I am experiencing this right now (It’s also why I’m a little behind on reading posts)! The first thing we decided to do when we realized we are moving out of state was purge and have a garage sale. So much work! And so much stuff I had to make hard choices about – gifts from family, things we got for our wedding, memories, which made it harder to part with them as we’re parting with family and all of our adult lives up until this point. And yet, when I walked in the house after the garage sale with the woman who came to stage our home for showings, I still felt like we have so much stuff. We quieted (edited) the rooms for photos and showings and the house somehow felt refreshed and looked like a show home! It was calm and uncluttered – even from a decor perspective. Real life homes need baskets of toys and artwork on refrigerators, but this process is teaching me the power of editing! I loved this post, thanks for sharing!

  72. Marilyn C.

    Great article – I needed this. I’m not there yet with the letting go. I have some of my mom’s stuff from when she passed away just a little over two years ago. My parents didn’t have much in the way of nice material possessions, but my mom was proud of her china and her china cabinet. She was so proud of it that she never wanted to use it, she was afraid it would get broken. They didn’t have an automatic dishwasher when I was growing up, so everything was washed by hand. I guess I could understand why she was hesitant to use it. After she died, my family went through and got what they wanted. Mom had specific things written out as to who she wanted to have certain things. She wanted one of my nieces to have her china and china cabinet. I didn’t care that she wanted my niece to have it, but my niece doesn’t want it. So I have it. Here’s the problem – even though I may not be too attached to it, I almost certainly feel like if I were wanting to get rid of it, a family member would try to talk me out of it or give me a hard time about getting rid of it. I also feel like I would be letting my mom down as well. I’m still in a grieving stage at times and I miss her terribly. I just wish she was here and she could have her stuff!!!

  73. Pam Tamkin

    I really appreciate this post, so timely for me and I certainly needed to read it.
    Many thanks indeed.
    Pam in TX.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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