Are You Emotionally Attached to Your Stuff?

by Mark on May 19, 2010 · 4 comments

About two months ago, I read a post on the miss minimalist blog that pondered:

“I’ve often wondered, if the place I live was suddenly struck by political unrest or natural disaster, could I walk out the door and leave everything behind?”

I thought that this was a great question. I asked myself, what if all of my stuff was destroyed? Or stolen? Or if I had to abandon it?

The answer that popped into my brain surprised me. I realized that in many ways I would be relieved! You might be thinking, “Are you out of your mind?” Not really. I don’t use the vast majority of my stuff. It just takes up space, makes things harder to find, and makes things harder to clean. I like space and find minimalist homes to be relaxing. My condo is pretty large for one person, and I think the reason is partly to store my stuff and still have a spacious living area.

I’ve already mentioned that I would like to get rid of most of my stuff, so why haven’t I? Part of it is lack of time and energy, but a large part of it is that I am emotionally attached to my stuff in a variety of ways. I don’t keep my stuff for rational reasons. That is why I would be relieved if my stuff was destroyed or stolen. I would be free of my stuff while being relieved of the guilty feelings of getting rid of my stuff. Plus, then I would get a fresh start. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clean slate to start with?

Ways You Might Be Emotionally Attached to Your Stuff

1) Fear that you might need it some day. This is a common one. How many things have you owned for many years under the theory that you might need it someday? Ask yourself, how likely is it really that I will use this again? What will it really hurt if I don’t have it? Could I borrow the item temporarily? Or rent it? Or go without?

2) Hatred of throwing things out. This is another classic, especially for the older generation that was brought up to save and reuse everything. I’m definitely guilty of this as well. I have empty boxes and bags and stuff “just in case” I need it. I have things that don’t work that I’m going to fix or have fixed “one of these days.”

3) Guilt about getting rid of gifts. Admit it. You have stuff that was given to you as a gift that you don’t want and don’t use, but you feel guilty about getting rid of it. When you think about it, it really is a waste to hang on to gifts you don’t use when someone else might be happy to have it.

4) Feelings of overwhelm. You might have so much stuff that you don’t know where to start. I know that this has been a problem for me, and it continues to present a challenge. I need to stop worrying about how much stuff that I need to get rid of and just attack it consistently and methodically.

5) Feeling that you are supposed to have stuff. My family has given me decorations, paintings, plants, furniture, and all sorts of stuff because normal people have stuff, and I had little stuff. The funny thing is that although I appreciate the sentiment, I never asked or wanted any of it. I’m supposed to have stuff, so I have it.

6) Feelings of uncertainty about how to go about getting rid of your stuff. Should you sell it? If so, how? E-bay? Yard sale? Should you donate it? Goodwill? Salvation Army? Do they even want it? Where are they located?

7) Sentimental attachment. This one is almost universal. You probably have pictures and mementos and items that remind you of things. Some are probably buried in closets and won’t be looked at unless you happen to move or you stumble upon it accidentally while looking for something. If it’s the memory that you don’t want to lose, can you just take a digital picture of it and then get rid of it? Yeah, I know I’m a cold-hearted bastard, but it’s just a thought. :-)

What are some other ways that you might be emotionally attached to your stuff?

1 Walter May 20, 2010 at 8:01 pm

I’m glad to have read this Mark. I thought I was alone with my feelings about my stuff. All of what you have stated here are also the reason I find it hard to clear my space of unwanted(yet beloved) things. I think it is the sentimental value that’s really keeping us from letting go of our stuffs. :-)

2 Hulbert Lee May 20, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Hi Mark, it’s nice to land on your blog. I found this post helpful because I hoard all my stuff in my closet and I have a tough time (anxiety) throwing my stuff out. I think two of the things you touched on were fear that I might need it some day and having a sentimental attachment. I’ll have to be less emotional and mentally attached to the items. In fact, I need to clean out my closet soon!

3 Mark May 20, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Walter and Hulbert,

Thanks for visiting my blog.

I was trying to figure out why I haven’t gotten rid of my stuff, even though I clearly have been wanting to get rid of it for a long time. In my opinion, when we rationally know that we should do something, but we don’t do it anyway, there is usually an emotional issue behind it.

You might like this post that I read today:
http://artofgreatthings.com/2010/05/what-to-do-when-youre-lost-6-ways-to-conquer-uncertainty/

Check out #1 on Jeffrey’s list especially.

4 Mark May 20, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Oops, Walter, I see that you already read the post that I linked to. You get around! :-)

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