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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thoughts On Stuff: Trash or Treasure?

Do you have a lot of stuff?  When you get new stuff, do you add it to the same stuff you already had or do you get rid of some of the old stuff? 

I’m looking at my stuff right now, making plans to eliminate the excess that is hiding in my attic and basement and in the nether reaches of closets. I have bigger goals to downsize high visibility stuff that nags at my personal brand: my husband’s old player piano (and 80 piano rolls) that monopolizes a wall in my living room; the golf-themed artwork over my couch that has lost its luster since I fell out of love with the links. 

Tootsie in Alaska, 1960s.
My urge to purge has heightened because I am helping to clear out my recently deceased sister-in-law’s condo. (Read about Tootsie in this previous post.)  Tootsie acquired a lot of stuff in her 82 years. Figurines, china, silver, and memorabilia are cool, but tax records from the 70s?  It's been like an architectural dig. We’ve filled a dozen trash dumpsters and donated five carloads of books, clothes, and household items to the Medical Mission Sisters thrift shop. And we’re not done yet.

Tootsie worried about what would happen to her good stuff: Aunt Anna’s fine china, the grandmother clock, the red velvet Victorian chair and other things. This stuff is now with siblings, nieces and nephews, probably parked in their basements and attics. I wonder how long they will keep these treasures before they end up in a garage sale or on Craig’s List.  It’s Tootsie’s stuff, after all, not their stuff.  

I had a soft spot for the old gal, so I’ve adopted her plants; I saved a few photos of her, some old film cameras and a funny little candlestick holder from 1894 that came with the patent paperwork.  Other than the photo, the stuff doesn’t represent Tootsie to me.  A year from now, it will just be stuff.

Wishful thinking on my part?
I am not in Tootsie’s league in terms of stuff, but I am not without sin. After this experience, I’m committed to gradually clear out my stuff as a gift to my son. 

I wonder if that rocking horse of his I have saved for my first grandchild since 1982 will still be in the attic in 2020? 

What’s your favorite stuff story?  Have you acquired a treasure from a beloved relative?  Why do we care about this stuff?  Share your tale with 4 Broads’ readers.

After I wrote this post, I remembered this funny take by George Carlin on Stuff.  Enjoy.


  1. love the picture. My "stuff" rule is to give something up whenever I get something new.A few years ago, I read about a women who set a goal to donate/toss something every day for a year - a great declutter idea.
    The thing is, no one knows or appreciates the value of our stuff like we do, so who is more qualified to decide what stays and what goes out?

  2. Chris BradyJanuary 11, 2012

    De-cluttering is a great goal. I don't know about every day -- every week maybe.

    My frustration at the moment is that I moved boxes of stuff from Tootsie's condo to my house oping that we would be able to sell it. Selling stuff takes a lot of time and effort. I have come to realize that time is more valuable to me than money at this point in my life.

  3. Chris,

    I love the idea of going through someone's stuff as an archeological dig. So true. I also love the idea of getting rid of one thing a day for a year. One idea I've used to bring new energy into my home is moving 7 things a day for 7 days. It was a fun way to shake things up.