The tyranny of stuff
When my husband and I retired, getting rid of excess stuff was one of our primary goals. Although our home wouldn’t qualify for hoarder status, it carried the baggage of stuff collecting that had taken place over the years. Because we both had acquired stuff before we met, a good amount of that stuff was transferred from our individual homes into our shared home. And, of course, stuff continued to enter our home after we got married. Then, after my parents died, some of their stuff also found its way into our growing collection.
Now, several years into retirement, we still have too much stuff. Although we’ve done a pretty good job of curtailing the in-flow of more stuff, the out-flow hasn’t gone as easily as we had hoped it would. We don’t have too much of a problem identifying stuff to be tossed or stuff to be donated; it’s the stuff we no longer want but has value – real or sentimental – that is more difficult to manage.
We had high hopes that eBay would be the perfect way to get rid of lots of stuff and bring in some money in the process. Although we’ve used it to sell several dozen items and we intend to sell more, we have found that the process takes a lot of time. When we started out, we put just about anything up for auction, regardless of its hoped for selling price. We once sold some used cycling cleat covers (yes, someone wanted them) for $8.00, plus shipping. But, after we figured the time it took to research an asking price (yes, there were similar cleat covers being sold), write copy, take pictures, post the ad, then package and mail them when they sold, we were lucky if we made $3 an hour. Other items, of course, have sold for much more, which made the process worth it. As a result, we have become more discriminating about what is worth selling and what we should donate or post for free on Craig’s List.
Our push to get rid of stuff has ramped up lately. We are enjoying living a less-cluttered life and a better functioning home. We like having a few cabinets that are actually empty. The closet in our guest room has space for guests’ clothes. I no longer seldom am embarrassed when friends or neighbors stop by unexpectedly. As long as they stay out of our offices and the catch-all room upstairs, the illusion of having a well-curated home is maintained.
But, just living with less clutter day-to-day isn’t the only reason we want to get rid of more stuff. We are also looking at a few long-term advantages. Having a home that we could temporarily swap for, say, one in the south of France would extend our travel budget. Renting our house while we take off for extended adventures could provide income and security. Either possibility would be easier to accomplish if our home had less stuff and more space.
When I was younger, I loved acquiring stuff. Now, I view most stuff as unnecessary, restricting and complicating. Slowly, I’m winnowing down my wardrobe to have fewer, but more versatile clothes. Our shelves are being freed of clutter, leaving only a few, carefully selected items. The tabletop piles of paper are being swept away and replaced with… nothing.
Very gradually, we are freeing our home of the tyranny of stuff and welcoming the liberation of having space.