From the Trenches: An Update on My War on Stuff

Though our divorce is final, Kris and I continue to see each other about once a week. We have lunch or dinner together, and sometimes we do chores around the house.

One big chore is approaching: We're going to hold a joint garage sale to purge our lives of some of the Stuff that has accumulated over the years. A few other friends are going to join us (in the hope that we can attract more customers).

After lunch together last Sunday, Kris and I returned to the house for a “garden tour”. As always, her flower garden is flourishing; she put in her vegetable garden yesterday, and that'll be flourishing soon too. While we were looking at the berries and bushes and tulips, our friend Amy Jo stopped by to unload Stuff for the garage sale.

Simply Clutter
“What's that?” I asked Amy Jo, pointing at a ceramic pot she was unloading.

“It's a pickle crock,” she said.

“It's nice,” Kris said.

“Do you want it?” asked Amy Jo. “No, really. We don't need to sell it. I'd rather see it go to somebody who would enjoy it. It used to belong to my grandmother. I mean, we like the idea of the pickle crock, but we don't ever use it, so it's simply clutter around the house.”

This “just clutter around the house” is what I call Stuff, the collection of odds and ends that build up over the years, the things that become not just a physical burden but a mental one too. Not all of us experience this, but most of us do. Some people loathe Stuff so much that they embrace lives of voluntary simplicity and live in tiny houses. Others are comforted by Stuff and have an unhealthy attachment to it; these people are hoarders. Most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes. And, every once in a while, we get the urge to have less stuff. That's what garage sales are all about.

Paul and Amy Jo, for instance, are about to move to a smaller house. As they prepare to move, they're discovering they have a lot of Stuff. “Paul's sorting through things that have been in storage since we moved back to Portland eight years ago,” she told us last Sunday. “It's amazing how much crap we've accumulated. Paul has four sanders, for instance. Who needs four sanders?”

Kris, too, is purging Stuff. “What are you selling?” I asked her.

“It's just Stuff I don't use,” she told me. “I had to rearrange the house to fill in the gaps when you left. I'm selling the things I don't use anymore.”

I too have a pile of Stuff to sell. The workshop at the house is filled with my things, and it's my hope it will be empty of my things (and ready for Kris to use productively) at the end of the month.

Do you remember my one-year wardrobe project? For a year, I monitored which clothes I wore and which I didn't. At the end of the year, I purged everything I hadn't worn. Well, in a way, that's what I've unintentionally done since I moved into a smaller space. I left lots of things behind. Over the past few months, I've found myself driving to the house to pick something up now and then — but not often. It's like my one-year wardrobe project, but for everything I own.

Missing Things
Still, as much as I hate Stuff, there are now times I find myself missing things. Twice recently I've made dinner for guests. And both times I discovered I was missing something I wanted or needed. A blender, for instance, or a strainer. Or I made mashed potatoes a couple of weeks ago, and discovered I didn't have a ricer or masher. I had to get creative because the potatoes were boiling and weren't going to wait for me to run to the store. I used my wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, I'm facing a dilemma of sorts. I'm proud that I've managed to fit most of my world into my apartment. That shows some restraint. (Some restraint — but not a lot.)

However — and you knew there was a however, right? — not everything fits in my apartment. In the months since I moved out of the house, I've been storing some stuff at my now-unused office space. All of my personal finance books live there, as do my boxes of comic books. The sad thing is: I haven't missed either of these things.

Now, though, the lease on my office space is about to expire, and I'm not going to renew it. That brings up a question: What do I do with all the Stuff I've crammed into that tiny room? Do I sell it? Give it away? Something else?

Unfortunately, I think my solution is going to be to store the Stuff. For $25 per month, I can rent a storage space in my apartment building. It's big enough to hold the boxes of comics for sure, and maybe the boxes of personal finance books, too. I don't know.

The trouble with this is that it's simply a stop-gap measure. I'm not actually solving the problem, which is that this Stuff is a burden on my brain. I need to get rid of it somehow. And that, my friends, is sure to lead to a future article about what it's like to sell collectibles.

More about...Psychology

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Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago

I’m not a hoarder, since I regularly purge my stuff, but I’ve found that the amount of stuff is still slowly growing. My biggest problem is getting rid of the stuff that used to mean a lot to me, but no longer does. For instance, I’m still hanging on to hobby supplies and tools for hobbies that I haven’t done in 20 years. Why? Because one day I’ll retire, and maybe that hobby will be appealing again. Although I have a feeling that by then I’ll want to do something entirely different.

Annelise
Annelise
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

Marsha, how much would it cost to replace the hobby supplies if you threw them out then wanted to take up the hobby again later? If it isn’t many hundreds or thousands of dollars, consider the money you *might* spend replacing them in the future as a “storage fee”, a small price to pay for more space and peace of mind in the meantime. Give them to someone who wants them now and you’re doing some good at the same time. If you do purge a lot, you’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way, but these are… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

The thing is, they would cost thousands to replace, although I couldn’t get nearly that much if I sold them. And storing them is currently not a problem because we have a large storage room in our basement that we don’t need for anything else. If they sat in the middle of my living room, I’d get rid of them. I think I would still enjoy the hobbies, but since becoming a mother 19 years ago, I haven’t had the time between working and caring for my family. We’ll see next year when my younger son goes to college.

Jan
Jan
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

We moved stuff for my husband’s hobby he never had time for. Retired two years, he now uses it all daily. My hobby- should have been tossed years ago and are now being unloaded.
Tough decisions.

Barb
Barb
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

As a quilter and artist, this is probably one area that I would NOT purge easily. This is especially true as I have moved more towards fixed income living. The money it would cost me to replace my quilting or card making supplies, say, is frightening.

Generally If I have the room, I dont throw out things that I believe I may use.

And frankly, as a retiree, one of the best things I did was having everything I needed (for home, hobby and recreation) before I retired

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Barb

There are certain things worth storing, and supplies for a much-loved hobby (even if you are presently on hiatus from it) are in that category IMO. As long as there is actually space to store the stuff. The gear for most crafty hobbies doesn’t exactly go obsolete.

OTOH there are things probably NOT worth storing, like mountain climbing equipment when it’s been 15 years since the last excursion. See: my DH. Even if he wants to do another climb sometime in the future, I know perfectly well he’s going to want new gear for it!

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

Great! Now I don’t feel so bad about only using my sewing machine about once a year on average 🙂 I’ve been sewing since I was 12 (21 years now) and this has always been my pattern. I know if I got rid of it simply because I’m not churning out garments every month, it would be a loss for me, especially since I’m not in the position to make that kind of financial investment now.

David
David
8 years ago

Hi J.D. it is very cool that you are able to have an amicable divorce and still have dinner once-a-week. That is actually quite amazing and I am delighted to hear about it. I agree with you in that it is a burden to keep to many things and sometimes it is a mistake to get rid of too many things. As you found when you were ready to cook, something you needed was no longer there for others, I have had a similar experience. Sometimes it happens just a few days after I ‘get rid’ of something. However, I… Read more »

Irene Grumman
Irene Grumman
8 years ago
Reply to  David

I’m trying to convince myself that replacing a few things is a small price to pay for gaining some space, and room for today’s interests.

However, I will keep what few family and career mementos I have, maybe write the story each holds.

Annelise
Annelise
8 years ago
Reply to  David

Sorry, David, but divorce is never “cool”.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Annelise

I don’t think David was implying that “divorce is cool”. He meant that its “cool” (great, swell, wonderful) that they are able to get along, communicate and spend time with each other.

Megan
Megan
8 years ago

Re: finance boks – maybe you could sell them online here and donate the proceeds. If youneed to refer to one down the road, perhaps you can get an ebook or get a copy online.

http://traderjoesreviewer.blogspot.com

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

Know what you do with those personal finance books? Sell them or, even better, give them away as giveaways on GRS! I’m not sure you need them anymore, I think you’ve gleaned their knowledge and become a debt-free, financially independent guy. So spread the wealth of info and do giveaways for them all!

Irene Grumman
Irene Grumman
8 years ago

Like textbooks, many of these books go out of date quickly. A general one on making decisions may always be useful, but much advice depends of that year’s tax and investment and deduction situation, maybe no longer relevant.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago

I like this idea. I may just hold some sort of giveaway. The problem is that I’m NOTORIOUSLY slow at sending things out (just ask any past contest winners). That said, this is a great way to get rid of personal finance books.

Emily
Emily
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Can’t you find some “shipping elves” at GRS to take care of that for you?

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Emily

I’m sure some broke students would be happy to help you 🙂

victoria
victoria
8 years ago

Another variation: sell the books to a used bookstore and use the proceeds to buy the ones you’d really miss having in eBook form.

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  victoria

Used bookstores do not buy dated personal finance books that they would be unable to resell.

Ru
Ru
8 years ago

I have a stuff related problem, and would like some advice. I’m a boomerang kid- I’ve moved 8 times since I was 17, and every other move seems to be back to my childhood bedroom at the mothership. Having lived there solidly since I was 8 years old, and then on and off again as a young adult, I have accumulated a lot of stuff. I want to clear out the room because I feel guilty about it- my parents don’t have a guest room at all in their house, so it would be good if they could have my… Read more »

The Declutterer
The Declutterer
8 years ago
Reply to  Ru

My advice would be to be really realistic about how useful things really are. For example, the fabric scraps do sound useful. So you need a good solid system for organizing them, that limits the space they take up, and makes them accessible so that if you need a scrap, you can find it quickly. Otherwise you’ll end up buying more fabric to complete a project, because it’s quicker than digging some out. And when you’re finished with the project, you’ll add the scraps to the ever growing pile. There might be other stuff that, although ‘useful’ might not be… Read more »

Irene Grumman
Irene Grumman
8 years ago

I love the colorful, some fancy, yarns I obtained when I was knitting. Maybe I should give them to my church’s craft group before they rot and become useless.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Ru

I think the easiest thing to do is have a space goal (empty closet, empty shelf, all floor space empty, space under the bed – pick one to start with) and just take out all the stuff it takes to make that happen. Having a clear goal/limit will clarify your priorities. But two of the things you mentioned should be easy. Electronics you aren’t using should go, the sooner the better – they become obsolete about as fast as bread gets stale. Or, alternatively, use them. Craft stuff is another relatively easy one: I got rid of mine by finding… Read more »

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  Ru

can you organize it and get most of it out of sight? my parents used those big plastic tubs with lids when us kids moved out. they wrote our name on the tubs, and all our shit went in there. it’s still very accessible, well labeled, and kept neat and clean, it’s just not out in the open, they’re all in the basement. my parents also have a nice guest room now. maybe something similar? could you organize your stuff and shove it mostly in a closet, or buy a stand-alone faux-closet just so it looks a little nicer? target… Read more »

Ru
Ru
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

Thanks for the suggestions! I think the other problem I have is that I am not very settled right now- I moved into this place in January and I know I am going to be moving again in the new academic year- so things like the mementos or prints aren’t moving with me because it’s just extra stuff to move. I am very lucky to have a large room at my parent’s house, much bigger than the one I can afford in London. The suggestion to go through stuff with my mum to stop the nostalgia hit clouding my judgement… Read more »

Andrea
Andrea
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

“Out of sight, out of mind.” – Exactly! The last time I moved my mom helped, and she said as “payment” for her help she was going to bring a bunch of boxes of my childhood stuff because she didn’t want it in her house anymore (which I thought was fair). I have gone through a couple of the boxes, and the problem is that going through them brings up memories of items that you completely forgot that you had saved at all, so suddenly it is hard to let them go. However, I do tell myself that if I… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

One suggestion with mementos is to take pictures and put the pictures in an album.

Andreas Kopp
Andreas Kopp
8 years ago

I just was at a flee market in my neighbor hood here in Munich. And it seems the only good thinks the people are really selling is old childrens stuff. I think must of the people just stick to their good stuff as long as possible and would rather put it somewhere in a box then selling it.

Jason
Jason
8 years ago
Reply to  Andreas Kopp

“The good stuff” has made the move online, eBay, amazon.com, craigslist, half.com, and others. This is where I’ve spent the last few months getting rid of a lot of clutter. We’ve now got a cycle that goes like this to maximize our income:

1) Online
2) Garage sale
3) Donations

John @ Married (with Debt)
John @ Married (with Debt)
8 years ago

It’s all about balance. Once we get to the point where we are worrying so much about decluttering, it’s probably best to back away and just live life.

None of us will ever get to that Ikea catalog look, where we are sitting in a stark white room on a beanbag chair with one speaker and a notebook.

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

Amen to that! You are exactly right! And honestly, does anyone want that look–looks very sterile and unlived in.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago

Nobody wants Wall O Tubs, though, either. Not to mention paying for storage spaces, or having a room in your house occupied by stuff instead of people – something that’s really common.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

Sadly, some people love their stuff so much that not only do they have a Wall O Tubs, they use Space Saver bags as the “solution” to store more stuff.

Sarah
Sarah
8 years ago

I do hate moving, but it was a great way to keep stuff from piling up. Now that we’ve been settled in our house for 7 years, the stuff level has slowly crept back up.

I heard a great tip recently about the indecision of getting rid of particular object. If you could replace it within 20 minutes for less than $20 – out it goes! No need to keep something that could be re-obtained quickly and cheaply. And, my experience teaches me that 49 times out of 50, I don’t miss the item I’ve purged.

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

good tip! i will keep that in mind on my next cleaning! (should have been, i dont know, yesterday…)

Kim
Kim
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

I might alter the equation to 10 minutes and $100. There’s a teenager in my home. ’nuff said.

Brandy
Brandy
8 years ago

Just sell them (pf and comic books). Frame your favorite comics and hang hem in your place. Sell the rest. (highest value to dealer, the rest at yard sale). Done. Stop spending mental energy on stuff that isn’t meaningful to you now.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Brandy

I’ve seen a comics display/storage solution that used the rectangular Plexiglas box frames. A whole series of a comic can fit in the frame and then the frame goes on the wall or shelf. Some of the cover art is really cool … if I were a comic collector I think I’d want at least the best out where I could see them. 🙂 And if I just didn’t love ’em enough to do that … I’d sell ’em!

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

Other than the $25 a month, I don’t think your strategy is unsound.

We have a ‘stuff purgatory’ closet in which anything we are considering ejecting goes to live for a few weeks or months. Sometimes, occasionally, something makes it out of purgatory. Otherwise, it great to know its been sitting there for months and we’ve not missed it.

Purging is just like accumulating. It happens in fits and start. That’s ok.

Jill
Jill
8 years ago

I like your idea! I purged our house last fall knowing that we would be moving this year. I also knew that after 15 years of living in the same space it was going to be painful. I’ve done pretty good at keeping clutter to a minimum, probably because my Mom is a hoarder and it drives me nuts whenever I visit her. I can’t declutter her house so I compensate by attacking my own. We have an extra bedroom in our new home, so rather than buy bedroom furniture for a bedroom we don’t need, I am going to… Read more »

Elizabeth Harper
Elizabeth Harper
8 years ago

When I made the decision to marry my Brit husband and move to Cornwall, England where he lived, I had to figure out what to do with all of my stuff. Due to the economy, I still own my house in Atlanta, but it now has absolutely nothing of mine in it. I can’t really describe to you how freeing that feeling is. Once I told friends I was moving, they came calling asking if they could buy my furniture, car, and a million other things. It was difficult at first to let go of some stuff as I had… Read more »

cc
cc
8 years ago

agree with the chorus of “sell the comics!”… keep a few you like, and sell the rest! i’ve been a light collector of things for years, but part of that is knowing when to sell (LOL i feel like i’m american pickers XD) i had some gorgeous signed prints & a poster by a famous comic book artist, 3 total, and my life had changed such that i needed extra rent money to move to the big city (first, last and security, as apartment dwellers know). i didn’t want to and i held on to my favorite, but i sold… Read more »

That Other Jean
That Other Jean
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

My friend’s late husband used to say that they were living in his stamp collection–the one he sold to make the down payment on their house. Now that she’s widowed, she will be able to sell that house at a very great profit, so her husband’s stamp collection is still taking care of her, even if he can’t.

cc
cc
8 years ago

HOW DO YOU SELL A STAMP COLLECTION??
a member of our family passed away and left a huge collection of stamps. some are in books which we’re keeping, but the boxes and boxes of loose stamps, do they even have any value? i wouldn’t even know where to begin, or if it’s worth it to… everyone hates to toss them, but no one’s really buying new stamp books to fill out either…

bill
bill
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

Auction houses for the stamp collection.
they could be worth thousands.

Lisa Wilson
Lisa Wilson
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

You need to contact someone like PAWN STARS who has people they can have that know the value go through them. some stamps are worth hundreds or thousands & some nothing.

That Other Jean
That Other Jean
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

I don’t know much about stamp collecting, but the American Philatelic Society, a non-profit organization of people who know about stamps, collect them, and gather information about them, can probably put you in touch with someone who can help value your collection. Many states also have philatelic societies. I don’t have phone numbers, but Google should provide you with someone to call.

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

thanks for the tips!

lol it was pawn stars that got me thinking about it 🙂

will check out auction places and stamp organizations.

Becka
Becka
8 years ago

About all I can muster is “Ugh. Stuff. Ugh.” For me it’s a very different definition, though. The DVDs I may never rewatch, the hundreds of books I may never read, the dress clothes I haven’t worn in years (but I will! I swear!)… those are fine, don’t bother me one bit (except when I’m moving). But if someone, say, buys me a set of chocolates in a reusable tin, I get pissed.* I don’t want this! I don’t need this! And it’s not really recyclable. This is JUST STUPID STUFF. I have a lot of, objectively, extra things that… Read more »

AC
AC
8 years ago

Holy Cow! It’s been a while since I’ve read GRS. I’m sorry to hear the news JD!

When getting rid of stuff I just donate it. Sometimes it’s just easiest.

Jennifer+B
Jennifer+B
8 years ago

I’d love to see a post someday about how it feels to let go of something (like collecting comics) that no longer seems to interest you. I think this is a part of growing up and aging – our interests change. But hanging on to what “was” and what “might be” in the future based on your past can have a financial cost too. So you are hanging on to comic books. My father is hanging on to a 68 corvette that doesn’t even run. I’m hanging on to a gym membership for a pool that I keep hoping I’ll… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
8 years ago

I have a friend who digitized all of his comics before he sold them. Best of both worlds!

different sarah
different sarah
8 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Was just coming here to say this — I have several friends who have gone all or mostly digital with their comics. We didn’t even go digital; some of them we replaced with a collection and most we just sold off. I don’t think we miss any of them. We kept maybe a single box; mostly stuff we really do like to look at that’s either signed or not collected yet.

Books as well — is there any book you can’t check out from the library or buy again cheaply if you really need it?

Irene Grumman
Irene Grumman
8 years ago

To my great regret, there are many books that are not available in local libraries. When I look at the books I own, I often re-read them. The trouble with digital libraries is that one has to know exactly what one wants – no browsing discoveries – same problem with the loss of printed encyclopedias.

Diane
Diane
8 years ago

I just had a garage sale this weekend, so this is a timely post indeed. I think it’s okay to hang on to the comic books for a bit longer, as a garage sale is not where you’re going to get the best prices. You could put out a few with a sign for interested collectors to contact you after the sale, but online sales will probably give you a better return. Sell your other stuff and use part of that money to pay the rent. Make sure they are protected from damage while they are stored. See how you… Read more »

Audrey
Audrey
8 years ago

I really wish there was a 1:1 trade option for books you own to convert to ebooks. My bookshelf has been picked over pretty well. I really only have books that I will read over and over again. I’ve embraced the kindle for pc, especially since I can check out library books. I’d love to get rid of all of my physical books, but only if I had ebooks to replace them. And I don’t want to go out and spend that money (even if I sell them, I know I’m only going to get ~$0.25 a book if they… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago

Since I’ve moved 8 times in 8 years for various reasons (divorce in the early ’00s, relocating to Portland from the Bay Area, etc) I’ve became the queen of purging stuff. Thankfully I’m more stable now and have been in my apartment for a little over two years. With that said, there are certain things that have always gone with me: small antique book collection, 80+ year old cast iron skillets, Le Creuset cookware, solid wood furniture including vintage, antique and teak pieces, etc. If its rare, have a somewhat high momentary value (meaning, I would never be able to… Read more »

J
J
8 years ago

I had to purge my books and comics over the past five years, so here’s my tips: 1) Books – get rid of all books that can be replaced with an Amazon Kindle + library card. When you want to read the book again, buy it for the Kindle or check it out from the library. 2) Comics – purchase an iPad, then get rid of all comics that can be purchased digitally through one of the many comic store apps for iOS. When you want to read the comic again, purchase the digital copy as needed for the iPad.… Read more »

Oleron
Oleron
8 years ago
Reply to  J

Whoa! This column is called “Get Rich Slowly.” If you want to spring for an iPad and a bunch of e-books, fine. However, the idea is to get rid of your Stuff and save any money you make, not figure out how to spend it on a “smaller” version of what you’re dumping. IMO, that’s just trading one Thing for another Thing. I might call this Mind Clutter. Most of us have too much of that, too!

margot
margot
8 years ago

What a far way you will have come when/if you purge the comic books! Such a symbol of you moving onto new hobbies, better ways of spending money, and less collecting of stuff. Boxing things is a great pre-step to purging. It’s amazing how often I don’t miss or even think about my stuff once it’s been boxed. We really need and use so little. And regarding finance books, here’s how I got rid of a lot of my general books and resource-type books: ask yourself which books you’ll definitely open and read again. Be ruthless. And purge the rest.… Read more »

Colleen
Colleen
8 years ago

If you haven’t missed it, you don’t need or even want it. Get rid of it! I recently moved from NY to TN. I took a look at moving prices and decided I could always get more Stuff down here. I had 3 massive yard sales and gave the rest to family, friends, & charity. I limited what I brought to the things I absolutely needed or loved. I’m actually getting rid of some of the books I brought with me. Getting rid of stuff, unburdening yourself, is cathartic and freeing. You’ll only thank yourself after all is said and… Read more »

Bella
Bella
8 years ago

I have been waging the same war on stuff for a while myself – I think that’s what drew me to GRS more than the financial advice was JD’s war on clutter (mental financial and actual physical). I also read a game changing book at the same time. Peter Walsh (of TLCs Clean Sweep), wrote the book – It’s all Too Much, it focuses much more on the phychological impact of why we keep Stuff. It helped me to work through a few of my issues and finally let go of The Snowman Sweater. It’s a quick read and I… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  Bella

I lost my enthusiasm for Peter Walsh when I saw him try (on Clean Sweep) to convince someone to toss out the cremated ashes of a beloved pet dog. It amounted to emotional torture for the sake of television ratings.

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

I enjoy watching Storage Wars, this is the show where people bid on abandoned storage containers. It is sometimes amazing to see what is in them and to think that someone paid to store what, to me, is junk. We live in a 20s home, in Florida, so small closets and no basement, as a result we hit the max on stuff storage pretty quick. I’ve got to purge my closet pretty often or it gets out of hand. I have real problems with paperwork. With 4 homes, a primary and three investments, the paperwork is always piling up. I… Read more »

Jill
Jill
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

I don’t know how you are handling your paperwork, but I had an “Ah-hah…doh!” moment about paperwork this year. I bought a scanner a couple years ago for scanning photographs. I’m an amateur photographer. I didn’t really know what I needed (nor the right questions to ask) so the scanner is not useful for it’s original purpose, but I soon found it made up for it’s purchase price by allowing me to send documents back and forth when I needed, and allowed me to save copies of articles and pictures from books and magazines borrowed from friends. I’m also the… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Jill

Best idea ever! I have a 3-in-1 printer/scanner/copier which converts scanned items to PDF, JPG, etc. I have a ton of paperwork I need to get rid of and I can invest a couple of days scanning it. The only thing I would need is a separate storage drive…

Kelly
Kelly
8 years ago
Reply to  Jill

PDF versions of manuals for many products can now be found online on the manufacturer’s website. I try to be as paperless as possible, and whenever I get a new product, I just download the PDF manual and toss the paper one.

Oleron
Oleron
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

I have a SERIOUS problem with PAPER. Over the last couple of years, I have managed to dump a lot of it, but it still seems to breed and multiply overnight! Thank goodness for my city’s comprehensive recycling. I get such a satisfying righteous feeling from being able to contribute to this program. I haven’t finished this project, not by a long shot. On my way from the mailbox into the house, I stop at the BIG recyling container and drop in anything I DO NOT WANT TO MAKE IT INTO THE HOUSE (where it would quickly accumulate into a… Read more »

Judith
Judith
8 years ago
Reply to  Oleron

Ha! I know the what-the-heck-is-this pile all too well…

Michael
Michael
8 years ago

My biggest issue with the purge is that (and I’ve had this happen multiple times before) right after I get rid of something I haven’t had a use for in a long time, I need it. So I always think about that when I debate whether or not to trash something or sell it. How soon after I get rid of it will I need it? If it’s something that gets used once or never, no problem. But if it’s an item that has a specific use that can come in real handy, there’s no reason to get rid of… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
8 years ago

It’s not a “war on stuff”. It’s your “amicable divorce from stuff,” in which you try and satisfy all parties. If it was a “war on stuff”, you’d hire a dumpster to be delivered to your house, throw everything into it, and have it hauled away. That’s what I’d do. I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m unusual, but I have very little attachment to stuff. It’s easy for me to throw things away, even if they used to be useful or interesting to me. If they’ve stopped being useful, I can throw them in the trash with no apprehension.… Read more »

Lynn Johnston
Lynn Johnston
8 years ago

J.D., thanks for this wonderful post! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with purging in steps, and if you need to take a few months or a year to put some stuff in storage and re-evaluate your relationship to it, there’s nothing wrong with that. My husband and I did that a few years ago, and it showed us how much stuff we were carrying around that we really didn’t need. Sure there were a few things we ended up going back to the storage units for, but a lot of it was extraneous stuff that we were keeping just… Read more »

Alcie
Alcie
8 years ago

A neighborhood near mine had their annual garage sale this weekend, and my husband and I wandered around for an hour or so. We went last year also, and I was really struck by the fact that most of the houses that were selling things had done so the previous year. Houses that had cheap junk last year had it again this year, as did houses with higher value things. So I wondered, do people just buy more every year to replace what the have sold the previous year, or are they still working on a backlog of things from… Read more »

Jill
Jill
8 years ago
Reply to  Alcie

I’m not a big collector of stuff, but I do have one answer for you. I have some things that I have kept for many years and multiple moves without using (and sometimes without looking at). I know that in reality I am not going to use these things again. Nor do I have any children who I can kid myself into thinking I’m saving them for. My problem is that I paid a lot of money for them when I purchased them and didn’t get my money’s worth out of them before I lost interest in them. Until I… Read more »

Megan
Megan
8 years ago
Reply to  Alcie

Re: The folks who always seem to have stuff to sell at yearly garage sales. It could be they’re working off a backlog of stuff, like in a shed or neglected corner of their home. Or perhaps they have kids – once the youngest has outgrown certain toys and clothes, then you have some stuff to get rid of! It could also be that they are selling their parents’ stuff, or a friend is co-opting their garage for the annual sale (as this is an annual event, they likely get quite a bit of foot traffic than if they all… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Alcie

It’s not the buying, it’s the receiving. First there’s birthdays and Christmas, with the flood of crap from all sides that can’t be stemmed despite our pleas. Then there are the sharers, downsizers and deaths – my grandma’s yarn stash and photos (and furniture), grandpa’s photo albums (and furniture), mom’s good china, auntie’s crystal glasses (which were actually my great-grandmother’s). A book series my mom read to me when I was little, in hardback. Friends who go to Costco and bring us half a flat of canned chickpeas. Friends who mail us books and magazines we might like. THEN there… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago

I do have some gemstones, some antique postcards, and of course correspondence over the years I’ve kept. It can all be packed up in a pretty small area. I even recently went through a purge where I got rid of college and grad school text books that I was sentimentally attached to (yet out of date). But my husband cannot let go. He has a couple of bookshelves downstairs full of books, and at least 5 more upstairs, full of everything from comics, records, books, magazines, random stuff. He has about a room worth of paintings from college that are… Read more »

Ellyn
Ellyn
8 years ago

If you don’t want the books in your apartment it is unlikely that you will EVER want them in your living space again. If that is the case it is not worth the extra charge to store them. Our family of four lives in a 900 sq ft apartment. We have a storage bin in our building but use it only for out-of-season clothing or equipment (beach chair and coolers, sleds). These items rotate into our living space depending on the season and are both necessary and used regularly. Your storage represents more of a delayed decision. I would probably… Read more »

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago

If the price for indecision (and maybe a little procrastination) is $25/month that doesn’t sound too bad. Extrapolate that out like you would a FV calculation on a cable bill for 10 years and that’s ~ $3,000. 😉 Maybe add in 2 hours a month of thinking about it, feeling guilty and dreading it at another $50/hour.
Hmm. I’d just want to get it over with. Maybe call up an INTJ friend like Tyler and let him go to town on your stuff.

Frugal Portland
Frugal Portland
8 years ago

I read something about how Craigslist can be considered everyone’s storage unit, since the money you make from selling your stuff is equal to the money it costs when you want it later.

bethh
bethh
8 years ago

My first ten years out of college, I moved 8 times, which helps A LOT – handling the same crap from box to shelf to box on a regular basis is a big motivator for purging. But now it’s been ten years with one move and I am definitely seeing the random crap rear its head. But I haven’t had to deal with it, either. For example I could get rid of 90% of my cookbooks now that I use so many food blogs for my recipe ideas.. but they’re not hurting anything, so they stay on my shelf gathering… Read more »

Megan
Megan
8 years ago

You know, you don’t HAVE to get rid of it all in one go. Set it up in baby steps – get rid of the comic books you don’t really like this month, and then next month do the same for the PF books. Every month, tackle comics or PF books until you have it whittled down to what you can comfortably keep in your apartment.

I think that’s the hardest part with purging – people think it’s “all or nothing,” and that’ll make anyone think twice before they throw away Stuff they don’t need any more.

Marlon
Marlon
8 years ago

The wardrobe tips certainly worked for. We used to rent a house. Last year we decided it was time to buy our own. While packing to move in to the new house, I classified my clothes (something like: trash, usable-giveaway, might-use, daily & work). The most interesting thing is those “might-use” clothes have never been unpacked in one year – meaning, I have lots of clothing that I don’t even really need!

mary w
mary w
8 years ago

JD – Don’t rent a storage locker unless your stay in the apartment is going to be short lived and you will soon move to a larger place. Most people rent storage spaces and just pay and pay. I’ve know several people who had lockers for long periods (14 years in one case). Once they dealt with The Stuff they threw it all/most of it away. It just puts off dealing with Stuff without solving the problem. After 5 years (much less 14) the PF books won’t be worth much. Comic books might be worth something unless they get ruined… Read more »

Miss LJ
Miss LJ
8 years ago

I heard about someone who boxed up a bunch of stuff they didn’t want to get rid of yet and wrote a date on the box. If they didn’t go into the box to get something out after 6 months (a year, you choose) they would throw the box out without looking at anything inside. I have inadvertantly done that since moving out of my parents on my own. Unfortunately a couple years ago when I went to clean out their shed, I realized that I had re-purchased most of things I had been storing there. This completely defeated the… Read more »

Marissa @ Thirtysixmonths
Marissa @ Thirtysixmonths
8 years ago

I went through a purge last week and got rid of 1/3 of my clothes. Still didnt make a dent.

Sarah
Sarah
8 years ago

A little off topic – but a fork works well to mash potatoes (or anything else)…

Felicia
Felicia
8 years ago

It’s really difficult to let go of old treasures and memories but after it is over my space feels so much more open and energetic. And I still have the memories.

Kiernan
Kiernan
8 years ago

When my parents’ neighbors downsized from their large family home to a smaller apartment, they hired someone to box up their entire basement and take it away to be donated or tossed, without even looking at it. Their feeling was that if they’d left it in the basement that long they probably wouldn’t miss it, but if they tried to clean it out themselves they’d start getting sentimental and end up keeping things they didn’t really want or need.

Tie the Money Knot
Tie the Money Knot
8 years ago

After helping parents move recently, I can say that I now see tremendous value in purging stuff on a regular basis. Otherwise, things can get out hand before you know it. The stuff may win the war in that case 🙂

Also, I wonder how many people end up keeping a storage locker longer than they truly intended. A stopgap measure turns in to a long-term financial expense in no time.

While I’m naturally someone who likes to save things, I’m coming around to the reality that it’s often best to purge away!

jim
jim
8 years ago

Oh my! My spouse suffers from this same “I can’t get rid of it – I might need it/miss it someday”. Please! Give it away. Someone out there probably really needs it. Clear your space/head/karma and learn to live in the present. You’ll always have your memories. Lose the stuff that is clogging up your life. And actually help someone who could really use what is only taking up space and/or making you cling to a past you now only have in your memories.

Marmot
Marmot
8 years ago

I am pretty good with clothes, I use the change of seasons as a chance to purge. Books are another matter entirely, I am uncharacteristically materialistic about them, and as an English graduate I somehow see my library as testament to my studies. I think the fact that I have a terrible memory also makes me more clingy! Have just started to go through them though and get rid of the texts I didn’t like or haven’t read which just sit around making me feel guilty! About to move into a small house and think it’s a good reason to… Read more »

amber
amber
8 years ago

What do people do with their college diplomas? I don’t have a workspace where I would like to display it, I don’t want it on the wall in my house, and I obviously can’t just “take a photo of it” and scan it. Ideas?

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Just put it in a drawer. There are some things that defy classification, and a diploma is one of them.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

Ours are in the file cabinet, with copies of our birth certificates and some other documentation.

Pamela
Pamela
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

I took my diploma to work and hung it over my desk

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  amber

My B.A. diploma is stashed in a photo album somewhere. My M.A. diploma is still rolled up in the cardboard tube it was mailed in 17 years ago. Good gracious has it really been that long.

jackowick
jackowick
8 years ago

There’s a lot to be said for the long term value of organizing things, even if it comes at a cost. Making an investment in a storage space, or storage supplies (such as bags, totes, cedar chips and mothballs) for things you will eventually sell means that you can help preserve the value, and also hopefully be able to find things quickly if a buyer comes up on the fly. I have been working on moving items from my folks’ house to my house to sell at trade shows and being able to organize the items at a small cost… Read more »

Anne
Anne
8 years ago
Reply to  jackowick

As someone who had a horrible moth infestation, I feel justified in saying this…

Please don’t use mothballs. They smell awful. They are horribly toxic. The smell almost never comes out. They were a huge mistake. I ended up pitching some things that got saved!

Oleron
Oleron
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne

I know what you mean about discovering, to your horror, that, e.g., the cashmere sweater you bought last year has tiny holes from some insect feeding on it. Ack!

Instead of stinky, toxic mothballs, I have used bay leaves for many years. Just scatter them on shelves. Even better, find a bay tree (and a willing owner of said tree) and cut small branches. I also use them in my spice cabinet. Not only do they deter moths, bugs don’t like them, either.

SB @One Cent at a Time
SB @One Cent at a Time
8 years ago

I am a believer of living simply, saying that I see my closet has 4 sets of saving razor, gifted and bought. Point is we rarely keep count of stuff we have excess of. We only count our needs.

ljevans
ljevans
8 years ago

JD, I can relate because I am also going through a major Stuff purge. The local volunteer fire department hosts a community garage sale every June as a fundraiser — participants in the sale give the fire dept. 10% in exchange for space and all the advertising. I save Stuff I’m ready to part with but that might have enough value to be worth selling all year, I have been setting up my little table of Stuff at the sale for several years now. But THIS year I’m really doing a scour. Just HAVE to prune, there’s no need to… Read more »

JMS
JMS
8 years ago

Best of luck to you on this project. I recently discovered an amazing book from 2001 called LET GO OF CLUTTER by Harriet Schlecter “The Miracle Worker.” Yes, that’s what it says on the cover–which, I might add, is fairly dorky. A self-described nerd, I was still prepared to mock her. Instead, I worship her. 8 powerful chapters review how to: – eliminate clutter and the stress connected to it – purge papers, prevent piles, clear out closets – shed sentimental stuff without regret (this made me think of you) – manage mental clutter. Reading this book kickstarted a huge… Read more »

Peg
Peg
8 years ago

We moved across town 11 months ago to downsize over a 1000 square feet. Purged a lot of stuff. Then, less than 2 weeks ago, we moved a 1000 miles and downsized another 500 feet. When you’re paying by the pound to make a move of this magnitude, it’s pretty easy to decide what to keep!

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