Clutter. Literary and Otherwise

On kind of a meta note: To some extent, I think de-cluttering involves recognizing that regret is part of life, and being OK with that. Yes, I’ve given away books that I now often wish I still owned. But I’ve also screwed up relationships, made iffy career choices, etc. — you suck it up and move on. If you try to cling to everysinglething (material, spiritual, or emotional) that you might need one day in the totally hypothetical future, you’re going to end up bogged down in a lot of stuff.

This is a comment written by occhiblu which I found on this post on 43 Folders


Doing research for some posts today, I stumbled upon this comment and it made me stop and think for a while. I thought I’d share it here and see if it speaks to anyone else. I’ve always been a bit of a pack rat. As a kid I used to keep receipts and other random pieces of junk from what seemed to be special occasions at the time. I would save them in shoe boxes. When one box filled up I would find another, and now I have about five boxes of stuff, representing five different ‘periods’ of my life. Now, I’ll admit that it’s kinda neat now to open one of these boxes and see the things I’ve saved. Many of the objects have lost all their significance to me, through the passing of time. Some I remember the feeling associated with them, but can’t remember the context. And then there are others, like programs from shows, that are a lot easier to remember.

At this point it’s fun to look at these things and reminisce. But I used to be very easily depressed as a kid, and looking at many of these things would make me very sad in earlier years. And luckily, with time and help I’ve learned to deal with letting go of things better and to move on. Some things are still difficult, but it helps that I don’t save every little scrap of paper anymore.

Anyway, this comment spoke to me, because it doesn’t just talk about holding onto things that have a significance to you. It also mentions the value of getting rid of things that you think might be useful in some hypothetical eventuality. This is something I haven’t quite mastered yet. For example, I still own one of those converters that you stick into your car’s tape deck so that you can play your mp3 player on your car stereo – I DON’T OWN A CAR! What use do I have for this? I could argue in my defense that I visit home fairly frequently, and that when I do I drive my mom’s car. But I have never, ever, ever, ever brought the converter with me. I always listen to the radio when I drive. It’s just simpler.

Anyway, I’m inclined now to make a personal resolution to be more vigilant about not hanging onto things that are more hypothetically useful than actually conceivably useful. But before that I wanted to devote some thought to: ‘what’s so bad about holding onto stuff?’ Thoughts?



  1. I have also been a bit of a pack-rat. I hang on to things for various reasons, depending what it is. I have managed to narrow down my things from when I was younger to about 2 small boxes of stuff. I could probably do better – I’m not even sure why I still hang on to some of it. Mostly I have just forgotten about it. I was looking in one of the boxes last year and found some of the stationary that I used to collect when I was about 11 years old. Some of it was “too special to use”. I used it to write letters to O & Z at camp!

    I used to have all sorts of knicknacks (sp??) and after the fire, I pretty much gave that up. I don’t buy myself anything like that anymore. It became very obvious to me that things can be gone in an instant, so there isn’t much point in getting attached to “things”. In the book “Simple Abundance”, the author encourages you to dispose of anything that you no longer consider beautiful or useful. I found that really helpful.

    The hardest thing for me to give up has been my clothes, for some reason. I would say that I wear about 20% of my wardrobe. Every year I have to do a serious purge. Luckily my daughters want my outfits, so the clothes are still around, should I change my mind and want to wear them!

    Just reading your post again… the one thing I would never want to get rid of are pictures/videos. But watching them also makes me sad, knowing I can never go back to those times (like when the kids were babies). It’s funny how having those memories is both great but also not.

  2. I guess I didn’t really answer your question, but here’s what I think –
    Holding on to stuff takes you away from the present moment. I know it may sound cliche, but if you are always reminiscing, perhaps wishing for things to be the way they were, then you aren’t seeing what’s right in front of you, right now. And that’s all you really have.

    • Ya, I don’t think I can disagree with you there. You can’t do both at the same time. And yet, we all have things lying that we hardly ever use.
      How long can you hold onto something without using it, before it becomes a useless past-centric burden?

  3. I am a master of getting rid of stuff! But mainly just because I have to (Qatar is claiming they’ll only give me 23kg to get back… we’ll see about that). There’s stuff I wish I still had, but not THAT badly. I think the main problem with developing attachments to things is that it can be a distraction from the stuff that matters… good times with friends, meaningful connections etc. xx

    • Traveling and moving a lot will certainly have that effect on people. And I would agree for the most part, that I don’t usually miss anything once its thrown out. Usually I pick things to get rid of on that criteria: ‘will I miss this in the reasonably foreseeable future?’ That, or if I didn’t even remember I had the random piece of junk – then it’s just gone…sometimes.
      My rat packing aside, I agree. These attachments distract from better things. Thanks for stopping by, Mich!

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