The Tyranny of Stuff

I spent a while cleaning the en suite and bedroom today, and got a little despairing at the Tyranny of Stuff. My bureaus–and I use the word ‘my’ advisedly, because there are 8 drawers, 3 of which hold things I use and five of which hold a variety of things, some of which are mine, some of which are toiletries, and some of which I have no idea what’s in them really–have been piled-up with Stuff on top for, oh, about as long as we’ve lived in this house.

This is going to go on a while, and is almost certainly of no interest to anyone but me, so I’ll put it behind the cut.

A significant portion of the stuff on the bureaus turned out to be actual garbage. Papers, receipts, empty envelopes, a paper bag which handily fit all that other stuff in it so I could drop the whole thing into the recycling bin easily. There were two journals, one of which has significant, if useless, portions of HOUSE OF CARDS hand-written into it, during the desperate stage of trying to get the book *right* and blocking up entirely when I sat at a keyboard. There were–and still are–two sweaters and a pair of pants, which have been joined by three more pairs of pants because I have nowhere else to *put* pants. There were some American dollars, which are now in a box where they will sometime surprise Ted. There were also various random Objects which I neither needed nor wanted, but was keeping out of some sort of gift-based guilt: someone gave me that, so I should keep it…even though it’s broken.

I got rid of those things, and of the actual trash, and that gave me room to put the pants and sweaters back on top of the bureaus tidily. Only that, of course, leads me to the pretty obvious conclusion that I have way too many clothes, if I’m unable to fit them all into the drawers and closets.

And I do. I have at least eight shirts in my bureaus which I don’t wear because I bought them when I weighed 20 pounds less than I currently do. I have twelve or fifteen more that I /do/ wear. I have an entire closet full of really cute clothes that fit me 20 pounds ago, when I’d lost over fifty pounds and swore I’d never get this fat again. And I don’t want to get rid of them because they *are* really cute and if I’ve lost weight once (or twice) then I should be able to do it again, dammit, so I should be able to wear them again and it’d be a shame to get rid of them…even if I have no room for the pants I can wear.

Then there are the shirts which are too old or too geeky or too something for me to wear anymore, which I keep out of sentimental value. I could make a geek quilt from them, I’ve said, but I haven’t worn them or made a quilt in five years, maybe more, so at what point should I cut my losses and admit I’m never going to? I’m still carting around a dress made of fabulous changeable taffeta from a wedding I was in fifteen years ago, because the fabric is so awesome I’ve always wanted to make a different dress from it. When do I accept the vicious truth that I’m never going to make it, particularly since where the hell would I wear a dress made of fabulous changeable taffeta?

And don’t get me started on books, DVDs and music. I’ve become pretty ruthless about getting rid of books I don’t think I’m going to re-read (I bring them to the library, which begets the question, why don’t you check books out from the library in the first place? Because I read so little anymore that it’s hideously unlikely I’d read any given book I check out in the time frame allotted to me. I’ve also become much more ruthless about simply *not buying* books because there’s no point in them sitting moldering on the shelves for years before I get to reading them. And I’m a writer, whose livelihood depends on other people buying them and letting them molder. It’s a horrible position to be in.), but the damned things still pile up at an incredible rate. Same with CDs, which I actually listen to depressingly little. We’ve ripped all of our music now, so the very logical thing to do is to simply get rid of the hard copies, and only buy digital music from now on, but Ted has fears of catastrophic hard drive failures, so the hard copies stay. Similarly with DVDs–we’re digitizing ours, so mostly it seems like the way to go is getting rid of the hard copies. (By that logic, clearly I need a Kindle.) It’s not that I don’t want the back-ups, but there’s just so much *stuff*. It seems unhealthy, somehow.

And yet if I think, ok, what can I get rid of? Well…I look at my candle-holders and I think “those could go, except I like them/someone gave that set to me/etc”, and, well, that’s true. It’s also true that I virtually never use them, what with living in a world with, you know, electricity. Or: I have 12 billion Rogue figurines. I don’t *need* 12 billion Rogue figurines…but so many were gifts! Or I spent so much time/trouble/money getting them! What a shame to just get rid of them! What a pain to eBay them! Or I have a zillion authors copies of books, when really, truly, about five is enough. They’re *periodically* useful, to sell off at conventions or to send as contest prizes, but they pile up faster than I can possibly get rid of them (especially as contest prizes, because that means I’m paying postage). What to do, what to do?

And so it goes. I don’t know. Ruthlessness must prevail, obviously, to really get out from under the tyranny of stuff. I’ll never be a minimalist sort, but it seems like I could make a dent in, say, the makeup I never wear (but I might!), the hair things inappropriate for short hair (but I might have long hair again someday!), the clothes that don’t fit (but I might be thin again someday!).

If any well-meaning or possibly sarcastic person has the impulse to suggest reading/watching/investigating anything of the “rescue this house” declutter ilk, please just don’t. This is not that extreme and I don’t need that kind of advice, and it will make me crabby beyond belief. :)


  1. Oh boy can I sympathize with you. My husband was in the military so we moved every couple of years and I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff we accumulated in a short period of time. Yard sales were good lol. Actually I used to watch those shows because those houses were always so much worse than mine, it made me feel better.

  2. I so totally understand. We’re having a community wide yard sale in about a month and I’m hoping to unload some of my good crap then. And it really is useless clutter CRAP, but, like you said… someone gave it to us or we went through a good deal of trouble to get it or…

    But crap is crap and it must go! Good luck freeing your stuff from cluttering your life.

    1. Just don’t buy anybody *else’s* good crap. :)

  3. My house is FAR worse, and I have dog clutter too. I can never invite anybody round… somebody will have a field day after I’m gone.

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