Do You Have Too Much Stuff?

If I have my way, I’ll never walk into a warehouse club again. Why? Because I know for a fact that unless your last name is “Duggar,” you don’t need 48 rolls of toilet paper or a jug of laundry detergent that requires a “lift with your knees” reminder. 

And yes, the yogurt at the supermarket is 10 for $10. But I only need two. Why let good food crowd my fridge just so I can save a couple of bucks? And if that food hits its expiration date before I get to eat it (which happens quite often in my house) I’ve actually lost money now, haven’t I?

Does anyone really need 12 handbags? Or three-dozen pairs of shoes? I can tell you from personal experience that no, most definitely, no one does. I know this because in one day, half of the possessions my husband and I had worked most of our adult lives to purchase wound up destroyed in the four feet of water that filled my home after Hurricane Sandy hit New York. 

As I stood in my damp, musty house, picking through sopping wet piles of purchases and throwing them into huge black plastic bags, my heart hurt from the effort. So much stuff that we once had but didn’t anymore: My favorite Franco Sarto boots. The portfolio filled with all my first published clips. 

But as I sorted through the damage, I quickly realized that “stuff” fell into two categories: replaceable and irreplaceable. The boots? Replaceable. The newspaper clippings? Gone forever. 

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The flood in my house gave me a new perspective on stuff: It’s better to have less of it and hold onto what you truly need. Having too much is a burden.

My dozen handbags went out to the curb. And I swore to myself: I’m not going to replace them with another 12 handbags. Instead, I’m going to buy myself one, maybe two, awesome purses.  I waited patiently until Kate Spade advertised a sale. I found a great bag for a price that was far more than what I’d paid at Kohl’s, but, wow, it’s a beauty. I use it all the time.

This past winter, I lived with four pairs of shoes: Puma sneakers, knee-high leather boots, suede black pumps and snow boots. The knee boots went with nearly everything–jeans, corduroy, a skirt. I wore them nearly every day. For fancy events, the pumps went equally well with a dress or dress pants. I lived with four pairs of shoes and, most surprising of all, appreciated not having to make any big footwear-related decisions before I headed out the door.

Over time I went from a person who wept over the 7-foot-high pile of belongings that filled my driveway and the front curb to someone who wanted to purge more, and more, and more. I donated bags of clothes. I packed up boxes of books and sent them to a free flea market in my neighborhood. They were books I’d read and was never going to read again. Why allow them to take up space in my life when they could be enjoyed and appreciated by someone else?

Now I toss things out–or into the recycling bin–with reckless abandon. Before the storm, I’d try to figure out a way to reuse every food container or grocery store bag at home. Now, if I don’t need it, it goes. Throwing things out (and recycling where possible) and de-hoarding my shelves and closets feels good. 

Losing my stuff made me realize I have enough. In fact, I hit the “enough” point years ago. I challenge you to empty a closet in your house and not tell yourself, “Jeez, I have too much stuff!”

Keep what is dear to you. I have. My photo albums, my remaining children’s keepsakes, my family heirlooms are all being treated with extra care these days. They are irreplaceable. 

But the truth is that much of our stuff becomes a strain. Too much and you’ll feel overwhelmed. I wouldn’t wish four feet of water on anyone, but the flood in my home did help me realize what was truly important. And what was just taking up space. 

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