Thursday, June 11, 2015

How to Purge Your Home When You're a "Stuff" Person

I am a “stuff” person. 

I get emotionally attached to stuff.  When I look at an item in my home, I see memories.  I see the face of the giver.  I see a need to save it for when I’ll use it again. 

This is not a good thing for a person who has had to fit her life into suitcases.

I’ve read books and blog posts about people who simplify, who get rid of their excess stuff.  They talk with almost annoying perkiness about how freeing it is.  “Just get rid of your stuff, and you’ll feel so much better!”    

This has not been my experience. 

No, getting rid of my stuff, dropping it in the donation bin, selling it for next to nothing at a garage sale, leaving it next to the dumpster, it has never felt freeing.

It has felt like loss… and grief… and fear… and then some shame layered on top.

I grieve the loss of memories.  I fear for the future, that I won’t be able to find or afford to replace what I need in my new home.  And then I feel ashamed that I’m so attached to stuff, that worldly possessions affect me this way, that I’m not trusting in His provision.

This has been the story of my multiple global moves…   

Until now.

This time, it’s different. 

Fair warning before you read it, the author, Maria Kondo, is a little… out there.  She’s borderline obsessed with “tidying” and she talks to her purse.  So there’s that.  BUT, she’s not whacko. 

Her words have made a huge impact on how I am purging my possessions.  This process is being forced and expedited by my impending global move.  But I would be inspired by this book whether I was moving or not.  It's not just a "how-to organize," it gets at the root issues, which was what made it different than other things I've read.   

Here are some of the gems Kondo offers:

“Don’t organize by room, organize by category: clothes, books, papers, etc… Take everything out.  Everything.  Handle each item and ask yourself, ‘Does it spark joy?’  If the answer is ‘no,’ get rid of it.” 

“If you come across something that does not spark joy but that you can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop a moment and ask yourself, ‘Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future?’”

I’m paraphrasing here, but she says to acknowledge your emotional connection to the item, appreciate it for what it was, thank it even for what it did for you, and then release it.  It has served it’s purpose.  Just because it once had a purpose for you, doesn’t mean it still does.  Send it off with joy to make room in your life for your current purposes.

Her words validated my emotional attachment to stuff.  Now, instead of feeling guilty for the attachment, I can acknowledge it.  That acknowledgment somehow helps me to release it. 

This time, the getting rid of stuff process has actually been freeing.

Attachment to the past…. 

When I was pregnant with my first, I waddled all over Beijing, hunting for a rocking chair.  I could never find what I wanted.  Nothing looked remotely comfortable or affordable. 

So I found a rocking chair from Target that came in a 50 lb box, and I had my in-laws check it as a piece of luggage for their trip to China.  When I brought my daughter home for the first time, my dear father-in-law had it built and waiting for us.  Oh, the hours I’ve spent in that thing with each of my three babies nestled to me.

Soon my beloved rocking chair will go to a new home.  The loss of the chair is not the loss of the memories though.  Nothing will take away the importance of that season.  I can release the chair to be something special for someone else now. 

Fear for the future…

We’re heading into a lot of unknowns.  We’ve made faith leaps before, and those leaps held a lot of angst for me.  I still have my moments, but this time, there’s a deeper level of trust. He’s carried us before, and provided for us in ways beyond what we could have imagined. 

Fearing you won’t have enough, is no way to live.  

As Kondo says,

“Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.”  

Living with less stuff and less fear, it’s kind of amazing.  Even just in these weeks that we’ve been purging clothes, toys, books, papers, junk, our home feels lighter, more peaceful.

I love opening my wardrobe to this...

“What would it be like to have a home that has only items you love?”  -- Marie Kondo 

I’m still in the process of getting there.  But I’m convinced now that living with less is better.  And for us global nomads, it doesn't have to feel like loss and fear and shame.  

Our life is getting whittled down to 10 suitcases.  I know from experience though that it does not take long for a home to accumulate too much again.  But this peace and lightness that comes from having less, it's too good to let go of.  


  1. Love this, Danielle! From one "stuff person" living the constraints of the suitcase life to another.
    Praying for you as you transition.

  2. I am a "stuff" person. And not because I like having a lot of stuff, because I don't, and I really WANT to simplify and have less. I've long been convinced that "living with less is better".


    I get emotionally attached, like you said. I feel guilt and pain and loss at relinquishing things that someone dear gave me - or at letting go of something that holds so much memories for me.

    I love the picture of your wardrobe and I've come a long way toward getting mine like that. I just function better with less clothes -less everything (since I'm not much of an organizer). But the clothes are the easy part, because I don't usually get sentimentally attached to my clothes.

    It's the other things.

    Yes, the chair I rocked my babies in (like you said). Their first toys, first books, etc. The pictures and cards and other things they've given me...

    and the things other people have given me - vases and plates and frames and...

    all these things that mean so much to me because of the people and memories they represent.

    One thing I'm doing that helps is taking pictures of the things that are meaningful that I'm getting rid of. Preferably a picture of that thing with the person who gave it to me, when I can. Of course, that, too, can be more clutter, now cluttering up my computer's memory. But I'm putting it in a folder with a date on it a year from now - to go through it on that day remember, and (maybe?) erase and let it go.

  3. And thank you for the book recommendation. I've got it up on Amazon right now - maybe this will help me, too.

  4. I just read the life changing -magic of tidying up about a month ago. I loved it! You're right, a bit strange how she talks to her things, but I think in my own life how I could say thanks to God when I come home that I have a home to come to... she just misdirects the credit due.
    For me this book was so helpful. I'm actually not a stuff person. I hate excess and unnecessary stuff. But I felt so guilty for wanting to get rid of things that have sentimental value, like cards or certain baby items from my kids even though I know it serves no purpose in my life. I felt like maybe I wasn't a caring person, or just heartless. But the item did serve its purpose, the cards brought joy at the time and showed me that the person cared and I care for that person though, the item isn't necessary to prove that.
    Now of course there are certain things that may be a bit more difficult to let go of.. like the rocking chair we have (those rocking chairs eh?) but I can let go of it and be thankful for the joy that it did bring.