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Author Topic: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".  (Read 23986 times)

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Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« on: December 01, 2012, 02:59:45 PM »
This is an add-on post to a thread in the Family and Children folder.  The OP has asked opinions on what she should do with a gift her MIL gave her several years ago and the OP has never used and doesn't want to keep.  There are many good opinions in the thread.

That thread made me think about material possesions and why we keep what we do.  How do you decide what to throw out, what to keep, what to donate, and what to store for later?

I am interested in these opinions for personal reasons only.  I am not doing a psych experiment or using the data for a paper.  ;D


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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2012, 03:00:56 PM »
I don't find it hard to get rid of stuff emotionally... I am just lazy and don't want to sort through all of my acquired junk. The concept "a little at a time" hasn't quite sunk in for me. :P
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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2012, 03:16:24 PM »
For both of us, it's a combination of "might need it later" and emotions. I'm a lot better than my husband. I have to sneak stuff out, acually. (My stuff, not his, of course!) I donated most of my sewing stuff when I had to quit (arthritis), including unopened needlework kits. I had a clost purge last year and donated over 1/2 of my clothes. I don't miss them. But, there still is my wedding dress, of course.

Kids finally have all of their stuff.

It's all very freeing.

I was so proud of my husband for only moving half of his stash of wood scraps when we moved! The garage is still a mess, but my kitchen and bathroom are barely cluttered at all.


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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2012, 03:17:23 PM »
Past or present poverty can also be a reason. When we were poor we hung on to a lot of stuff "in case we needed it again some day". I know that's almost a joke reason, but it's really true. That random bit of stuff that would cost $5 to replace becomes more valuable if $5 represents a significant proportion of your available spending money. Depending on the level of poverty and how long it lasts some people never recover, e.g. many people who lived through the depression and wars hung onto stuff until their dying day.

In my case I recovered to a certain extent in terms of small stuff, but I still tend to pay off a car and own it and keep it until it is junk rather than trading up to a better model and couldn't bring myself to buy a flat screen tv until the old CRT one broke. I also have a microwave from about 1984 - I could afford a nice new one, I would like a nice new one, but the old one still works and that would be *wasteful* (swoon)  ::)
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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2012, 03:24:31 PM »
My parents were both Depression-era children, but were very different in how they handled "stuff." For instance, if a sock wore out, my father would put it in the trash, and my mother would pull it out and mend it.  When my grandmother died, Mom bought a storage building to contain her stuff.  After Mom died, among the things my sisters found were my grandmother's braid from when she cut her hair, and my brother's baby clothes from 1943.

With that background, I have the tendency to toss stuff if don't need it, even if it is still useful.


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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2012, 03:46:57 PM »
Both DH and I have parents who can't throw anything away (not quite hoarder level, but close), and I think that makes us both want to get rid of stuff we don't use or needed.  I think many people find comfort in their possessions, but I feel really suffocated if my environment gets too cluttered.  I don't like to be wasteful so I either sale, donate, or give away anything that is useful.  For example, I went through my Christmas stuff recently to get rid of anything that we don't use.  I gave several things away to friends who wanted it and the rest will go to Goodwill ASAP. 


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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2012, 03:53:03 PM »
We like to think we're practical.  We probably aren't.

I have a book that was published in 1621.  It was given to me by friends who thought it was worth nothing.  That may be true but the history of the thing makes me want to keep it. When visitors look at the book and think they can't read it, a 5 minute tutorial shows them that they can. The response is usually, 'WOW!!!' 

Mr. Thipu has an old Apple 2 with a three digit serial number.  He also has software that works on the machine.  He doesn't have what you may call an 'emotional attachment' to the thing but it's still something he cherishes from his young adulthood. On the rare occasion when children visit, he fires up the machine and puts on a game.  The kids are amazed that Zork was the state of the art gaming in the early 1980s. 



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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2012, 03:54:10 PM »
Mostly the number of times I've wanted/needed something within 24 hours to two weeks of finally getting rid of it.  I imagine there is a strong observation bias there, but I have problems overcoming it.


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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2012, 04:44:31 PM »
My mom IS a hoarder, and I honestly don't know why she hangs on to stuff.  Some things sort of make sense in that they were given to her by family members long gone, but I don't get why it's kept in a closet, unused, for 40 years and now you have no room for things you do use and need.  And then there are things that don't need to be kept, but are. (Newspapers, junk mail, bags, etc.)

I loved school and am very social, and I kept all my school notebooks and texts, plus notes and letters exchanged between me and my friends.  As an adult I was fortunate to have an apartment with huge closets so I kept these things but they were out of sight.  But as I got older and saw my mom's hoard get worse, I started to purge my things.  And you know what, I don't miss them at all.  I ditched my hundreds of cassette tapes, old texts and notebooks, clothes, whatever.  I threw away gifts and clutter I'd received over the years but never really liked.  I did keep some scrapbooks from the 80's of bands and movie stars I liked, but I keep thinking I should toss them soon, too.  I never look at them except for once a year to show a friend for laughs.

I do understand some people who fear throwing out gifts in case the gift giver asks them where it is.  I've never encountered this that I can recall, which is good because I've tossed a lot of gifts.  It helps that I've moved a few times so that is also an excuse if it comes up.  I regift unopened items or now I put them in the lobby of my apartment building on the "misc table" where other neighbors put out books or items they no longer want, so others can take them.

It used to be hard for me to throw away things like notes, birthday cards, gifts but I think I learned that from my mom because she saved everything.  Let's face it, as a kid we saved everything.  Shells from the beach, bottle caps, etc.  I think that moving around a lot, for home and work, led me to realize it's okay to part with things.  The internet also gives me peace of mind because I know everything is available online if I need to replace it again or listen to a song, etc.  I do not want to become like my mom.  I think that's the biggest incentive of all. 


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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2012, 04:47:07 PM »
Yes, anyone who's been through the wars or the Depression has trouble throwing things away. A year ago June I started cleaning out MILs house. She had an attached storehouse (kura) like many old Japanese houses's built of very sturdy materials to hold a household's delicate items and valuables. The coating on the wall breathes and regulates humidity. It was full to the ceiling, and she also had three of eight garages full, garages that were supposed to be rented out for income, but she was filling them. As she had Alzheimer's and had started hiding jewelry in socks and money in books and things like that, it took me 10 months. What she had a lot of were sheets for futon, towels, clothes, yarn, and all the electrical appliances (rice cookers etc) that she had ever bought. You can tell what was expensive in their day, or what they couldn't afford, by what they choose to hang onto I guess.

I just finished my mother's house as well. I made three trips to the old home town since August and have finally (with my brother) cleaned it all out. She loved to dress well and entertain, but when we were small the budget didn't allow for a lot of new clothes for her, nor for a lot of fancy dishes. She started seriously clothes shopping and dish shopping about 15-20 years ago and outside of what we gave her cousin and others (all clothes with tags) we still donated 100 40-gallon bags of clothing, and 63 cardboard boxes of dishes, serving dishes, kitchen tools, cookie cutters, etc after we took what we can use.

MIL's trash cost us almost $3,000 to throw away. My mother's house needed 6 dumpsters ( couple 10-yard, a 15 and two 30s), once the backyard sheds were emptied and knocked down, the attic emptied, and all the remaining items that could not be donated were tossed. Both had neat clean homes, MIL just kept stuffing things in the garages, and my mother's stuff started out in just her bedroom closet, but her clothes gradually filled the closets in the spare bedrooms as well. The kitchen! Things just kept coming, and coming and coming out of the cabinets...I would not have believed a kitchen could hold so much.

I know that MIL and my mother both went through tough times as children, and that's what prompted all the shopping/hoarding. It's been a tough year and a half almost, dealing with all of it. I am purging my own house starting this month. We don't shop a lot, but we have some things we don't need hanging around. I don't want my kids to have to deal with it.  :)


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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2012, 04:48:04 PM »
There are *very* few things I have an emotional attachment to so I can get rid of stuff pretty easily. The reason probably is that I am a minimalist. I do not like clutter, do not like being surrounded by a lot of things, and prefer to have lots of breathing room in my house. I keep my interior design magazines, but once they fill the cabinets I have for them I give away the older ones. Everything has to be able to fit in its space; once it overflows that out it goes. That said, I love to look at online stores for home decor and antique stores in person. But I rarely buy. It's the truth that while much of it is pretty and attractive and occasionally intriguing enough to interest me I still think of it as clutter.

ETA: My mom is not a hoarder but at 90 she wants to hang onto her things if not add to them. Her house feels crowded to me because I don't like so much in rooms. But it works for her, and she needs them for emotional memories. That's fine. Everything is spotlessly clean; when she dies we'll just clean it all out after taking what we want. (And for me, that won't be much.)

I just came from a condo where the woman gave away a bunch of Metropolitan Home and Elle Decor magazines. I was astounded when I walked in the small place because my very first thought was that she and her husband were hoarders. Though she said their things simply outpaced their space, I do believe that hoarding is there to at least some degree. I couldn't wait to get out.

« Last Edit: December 01, 2012, 05:00:31 PM by Amara »


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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2012, 05:10:12 PM »
I have tendencies toward "might need it someday" but I try hard to overcome them. I have kept some of my mom's stuff (she died when I was nine) but lately I have been de-acquisitioning some of it. I try to think of someone else enjoying it (mostly non-valuable jewelry that I do not wear).

 I have an older friend who had to clean out her (very old) mom's house after mom died. It was a big, old country house. Friend said mom had one room with nothing but jars in it. I think about that when I want to hang onto a jar or other container.

Also, imagining your kids or other inheritors going through your stuff after you are gone, and rolling their eyes a lot, will give you a gentle nudge toward de-cluttering.


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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2012, 07:09:42 PM »
It takes time and effort to go through possessions.  I need to LOOK at things, to say, "Yes, I still like this and use it enough to keep it" or "No, this has served its purpose, and I no longer use it".  (or, sometimes, "I thought that was going to work better than it did".)

Even if I'm not emotionally attached to it, at some point, I spent good money on it--am I sure that I really won't need to spend that money again to replace it if/when I decide I do need it?

And then there's the issue of what to do with the things you're ready to get rid of.  Some things can go in the trash, and others are easy to donate to Goodwill/Salvation Army/Hope, etc., but there are others that I'd like to find a good home for (case in point, the two sets of golf clubs DH is willing to get rid of). 

And there are always so many other things that I'd RATHER be doing!

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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2012, 07:59:45 PM »
Sometimes it's letting go of the past and bits of imagined future. If I got rid of my Greek books, that somehow would feel solider than just telling someone "I've forgotten almost all the Greek I learned in school."

I have managed to get rid of a lot of old notebooks (after they'd sat in sealed boxes for about twenty years). In the interests of my own stress levels, I'm giving myself permission to keep all the "maybe" items: I got rid of a lot of letters from people I didn't remember at all, and kept the ones I thought I might want to reread someday.

There's also a feeling of "this might come in handy sometime," even if it probably won't. In the last few months I've gotten rid of a bunch of clothes that no longer fit, but I kept warm pants regardless of size, because I've had a hard time finding those in the last few years. If I am that size again in a few years, I expect it'll be easier to find summer- (and even fall-)weight pants than winter ones, as it is in the size I am now.
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Re: Why do people find it so hard to get rid of "stuff".
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2012, 10:22:02 PM »
If someone gives me something I find it hard to part with it for fear of hurting their feelings.  Otherwise, I don't have a problem giving things away.
My sisters and I have an agreement that if we give one another something and no longer need/want the item we should just get rid of it, no guilt, no second thoughts...just do it.  Fat chance, though.  I still wouldn't feel OK doing it.   ::)
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