The Clutter Goes

I hate clutter. I have spent this week, once again, de-cluttering my wardrobe and my pantry and the desk and shelves and cupboards and both barns. As I have said to you a number of times I came to America with two suitcases of books, and journals and cameras and paintings wrapped in my clothes.  So anytime my possessions raise themselves above that benchmark I feel a small worry of panic begin to edge itself into my gut.

Of course I don’t touch Johns things – they are not my department. But my clutter has to stay within strict parameters.

Have I written about this before.? I think about it so often as I work that I feel I must have written it or at least said it aloud. In the older of the old days people had very little.  A couple of precious pots to cook in, a few changes of work clothes and a good set of clothes with a white shirt for funerals and weddings, probably your own funeral and wedding, hopefully not in that order.  A few precious books, maybe a rolled up painting, some writing materials, a picture of your love and a good horse and all his associated harness and tack.


Then there was a period of rampant gathering. Our parents and their parents with the memory of such previous frugality and the surge of mass produced cheaper goods, hauled everything they could into their houses and shone it up and set it on the mantel or into large glass fronted cupboards.  Then there was cheap plastic and crockery and massively mass produced books. After a thousand years of only a few treasures to a family now we have treasure amassed around us that some rooms in some homes are packed to the ceilings with such long forgotton possessions.

sheila and the twins

People hoard material things against fear. Stacked up against loneliness.

Like pigs who find a good feed and so begin gorging, because the evolution in their bodies reminds them that the hard times might be just around the corner, lay in some fat now.

molly and tahiti

I know people who have inherited all these things.   I hear  again  and again from older people – what do we do with this ?- our children don’t want these things? – they are bewildered. My generation and the one that follows me has slimmed right down, we have not reverted to a trunk and a rocking chair and a saddle bag but we de-clutter, we try not to be held hostage to Things, refusing to believe that the spirits of our ancestors live in the collections of a hundred match boxes, or sea-shells, or cabbage shredders or  gilt frames without pictures, or scrap books or old bed-heads, or china, or silver. Or even land and houses. We want to be freer-  this is an old need, the need to go walkabout, to move,  to be able to count what we have and what we own. To know where it is all sitting. To lighten up.  All this ‘stuff’ hangs on us like a weight. It is it’s own  fear.  We become unhappy stewards. Holding onto it for the next generation who wants no part of it.

And that is good, isn’t it? That is not a rhetorical question so it deserves a question mark.

Of course it is the stories we should be collecting, the history, the names, and begats. And writing them down for the children.  There is just too much ‘stuff’ to keep up with.  Too many things now, too much. It dilutes the pure magic of an old photograph where you can point to every soul and name them for the children who sit upon your knee.  Then turn that photo over and double check you are right because your grandmother wrote it down for you in fading blunt pencil on the back of the frame.

We have so much now. So many decorations. What really is important to you. What is really important for the next generation of children.

Have possessions taken the place of the old stories?  Am I right though? Or disconnected.  Or is it only me who feels this? Do people put less emphasis on the old things now?  Or are they just buying quickly and discarding faster.  Throwing things into a rubbish pile that if we were forced to keep in our own backyards would reach higher than our houses.  Because nothing lasts now, most of it disposable. Maybe we should be holding on to the old stuff because soon there will be no stuff at all.  That is another thought. No stuff.  Not even printed photographs. Or cups with matching saucers.

I came to America with two suitcases and should my circumstances change I believe I could leave with two.  I would take some books, (one of which would be my current read) my mothers paintings, my heart painting,  two silver and crystal perfume bottles that belonged to my grandmother. My father’s Leica, my current camera, four cups, (two new, two old all handmade) the rare photo of all my children and I together in one place, the photo of John and I when we were 17  – the old ceramic mixing bowl that belonged to  John’s grandmother, my rings, my bangles and my copper pots, and a contact sheet print that I photographed as a child with my fathers camera and printed myself, that details my entire family at a picnic on a summer day in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand – I must have been ten or thereabouts and I have carried that print from country to country all my life since.

That is all I need. My footprints would not be too deep with that as my load. The rest must remain in the stories.

It has always been this way with me. This need to shed. Often I go travelling with two suitcases and when I come home I have packed one of the suitcases into the other – I have shed that much as I travel. Stuff lightens and floats away.

In Nineteen days I will pack my suitcases with parcels and gifts and go a’travelling again. This time to Australia and New Zealand. I will take you with me – my favourite travelling companions.

So keep your fingers crossed that the weather stays settled like this for a while longer.

I hope you have a lovely day.


The book I have just finished: Thirteen Moons – Charles Frazier.

Movie I watched last night: Babettes Feast (and not for the first time).


77 Comments on “The Clutter Goes

  1. Babette’s Feast is a movie I could watch any time. Enjoyed reading about your incredibly light load. Inspiring.

  2. Going through all I went through this past year with the cancer has made me get rid of even more and want to simplify my life down to the bare bones. My daughter has recently been given a lot of my keepsakes from my grandparents and great grandparents, some furniture, jewelry, clothes, books, etc. And I will be giving her more as I clean out rooms. Being raised by rat-packing grandparents who lived during the Great Depression, their motto was to save everything just in case you needed it at some point in time. Guess I had the same mindset until recently. Thankfully, my daughter cherishes the important sentimental items and after our yard sale this coming spring, Goodwill will be receiving some donations. I agree, Celi, we need to de-clutter and simplify and remember the only important things……….our loved ones (both the two legged and 4 legged ones!) and friends and helping others.

    • Did you go thru cancer last year? I did in 2014. It sure changes one’s perspective, doesn’t it? Big hugs my farmy friend. 🙂

      • Oh yes, cancer definitely does change one’s perspective and it opened my eyes to a lot of changes that needed made. Mine started in Oct 2014 and my last chemo treatment was in June 2015. Thank God, I’m in remission now and I hope and pray you are also. Big hugs right back at you. Have a great weekend.

  3. While I am unrelenting about recycling todays things, I have cupboards and boxes in my garage stuffed with books and things 😦 Both my parents lived through the 1930’s depression and World War II and my mother was a hoarder and seems to have passed the habit onto me. Being able to pick up and leave with only 2 suitcases sounds kind of unsettled to me – something to aspire to, none the less. Laura

  4. I’m with you! I lived overseas for a year and The Rule of the company organizing it all was “You must be able to run a mile carrying all your stuff.” Well that certainly limits it… and it was liberating! When I moved back to the US, I felt heavy laden by all the junk I’d been living without. Today, my only “Absolutely Must Keeps” are Granddad’s books, Grandma’s china, Mom’s framed Renoir, and my photos. Otherwise, I’m more attached to my plants 🙂

  5. I am a hoarder (said like an addict) and I’m in the process of letting go of my “things’. I am weighed down by my possessions and I too remember a time when I left my home with a topper on top of my car with all my stuff in it and I could go any where in the world that I wished to go. So free that felt, to be able to just go and yet now I am tied to my things wanting to move to a simpler place because I cannot care for it anymore but intimidated by having to go through the things I have accumulated in those 30 years. So now I dream of what it will be like to be free again as I go sort through my boxes of stuff.

  6. This is something I struggle with. I wish I knew what do to with so many of the “THINGS” I have. I feel bad about having them, but don’t know where to put them. It seems irresponsible to just toss them. And I sometimes I think “Who would want this junk?” As I get older I try to bring less meaningless STUFF into the house. It is a constant battle.

  7. I’m of two minds, here. On the one hand, the mantra of the housekeeping maven, Peg Bracken, always has appealed: when in doubt, throw it out (or, donate, give, sell — whatever). On the other hand, there are certain objects that I hang on to passionately: the aluminum saucepan mother used for fudge-making, and the candy thermometer that goes with it. The cribbage board my dad and I used every Sunday night. The quilts pieced from my sunsuits, my mother’s dresses, and my dad’s shirts. Objects bear memory: they incarnate them, give them flesh. I spent a youthful decade living only in my head. No more.

  8. I too love de-cluttering. I do it regularly – I think it calms my soul although I must admit I battle in the kitchen – I love all my little bits and bobs, although I do try and use them all frequently – that makes me feel better about having them all.
    If I had to permanently leave everything, I’m not sure other than my Pete and cats what I would take. I know there would be lipbalm and wetwipes in there somewhere though.
    Have a wonderful weekend C.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  9. My mother-in-law is a hoarder. Her house burned down last year, because either she or her husband left the stove on and left the house. When they came back, almost everything was lost. She was very upset that she had lost all of the needless things she was holding onto. They have a new house, and once again, it is starting to get filled up with “needless” things. I know hoarding is a disease, and unless the person who is hoarding decides to change, the disease will go uncured.

  10. We have so much stuff. You are quite right. I work hard on decluttering but it is difficult. Yesterday I was looking at photos I had scanned years ago of my family and memories from long ago and I loved being able to look at those in such an easy manner. Save them to an small external hard drive and they are there in a simple click. Instead of saving all of the albums and bins of pictures I need to do this with ALL of my photos so that I can purge some of the actual stuff. Sounds good in theory. Thank you for a glimpse into your decluttering!

  11. I hate clutter with a vengeance and could not agree with you more. Memories should be in our hearts.
    Are you going on vacation to Australia? Who is going to look after your animals and farm?
    I am off to South Africa in 3 weeks so we will both be experiencing summer!

  12. Like you two suitcases are my limit. I moved into this cottage 7 years ago with 2 suitcases, 1 cat, 1 dog and a blow up bed! I have gathered much more since then, but every winter I go through and de-clutter. I would still like to think I could move on with just those 2 cases, but I am afraid the animals have multiplied! And the blow up bed got a bad puncture so I had to throw it out LOL
    As for stories, one thing I would have to drag along with me would have to be my computer of the day. It contains all my life stories in one shape or another. I even wrote a lot for my granddaughter in a file all for her, telling her things about me, her Mum and our family. I love books, and have quite a few, but so glad that ereaders have been invented as that would fit in my cases a lot easier. I have always been one that expects to move in a heart beat, having done so at least four times in my life (three divorcees and one major move to America). I always know where my important papers and stuff are, and could be ready to move in under an hour should the need arise, even with the car packed with 2 dogs, 4 cats and 5 chickens!!

    • That’s what I was going to say: I wonder if Celie could leave behind the Kitchen’s Garden with all the stories and photographs and friendships. No, Celie – the computer would have to go with you!

      Funnily enough, today’s theme as Miz Quickly’s blog is “STUFF”, and as I said to her, we sold, gave away and took to the tip vast quantities of “stuff” when we downsized in 2013. Still the house is too full and the garage is encumbered with un-unpacked boxes, I refuse to revisit that life-threatening (literally – I spent the next 6 months flat on my back) situation, and therefore link this poem from a while back:

  13. When I came to Australia 12 years ago, I brought with me one large suitcase. On the ship following me, was one fifth of a container-load with my household in it. This consisted of one antique table, one easy chair, books, pictures, linen etc. Mostly books, if I’m honest. I can’t do without those, but I had left behind at least half of them. This was the edited library. I regarded what I brought as the things that constituted ‘my’ place, my environment. When I got married 3 years ago, I slimmed it all down again – we were uniting the households of two mature adults who already had the necessities. I could do it again if necessary. I would walk away with a backpack full of books (and more on my Kindle), my laptop with all my photos on it under my arm, sewing machine in one hand and my husband’s hand in the other. It’s just stuff. Oh, I’d probably make him carry the huge quilt I stitched entirely by hand, it’s freighted with so many memories. I’m not averse to possessions or addicted to de-cluttering, but neither am I overly attached. For me, I have the balance right.

  14. I am a sentimental hoarder..not masses of stuff but things that my children have bought for me,paintings they did as small children at playschool,christmas cards,birthday cards from my kids. Like you say nobody else would want them but until the day i die they are my precious things. After i have gone they can all be burnt. One of my worst hoarding is bars of soap from hotels around the world..i have loads of them ,some over 50. Years old. Why? I dont really know. Its just a silly something that i do on every visit to a hotel..nick the soap. You are right though we should all declutter our lives and not cling to the past..but its so i carry on. Loved your post as it made me think about my own life On 29 Jan 2016 13:43, “thekitchensgarden” wrote:

    > Cecilia Mary Gunther posted: “I hate clutter. I have spent this week, once > again, de-cluttering my wardrobe and my pantry and the desk and shelves and > cupboards and both barns. As I have said to you a number of times I came to > America with two suitcases of books, and journals and came” >

  15. Stuff, my mother has lots of stuff – and each item has a memory to it for her. Some for me, but mostly her. I know of the enamel little kettle that her mother would warm syrup in and put on the table for breakfast to be used with toast. I know of the crockery bowl that was brought to my fathers mother with an elixir in it after she almost died of child birth. They story goes it was a mixture of sorghum, kerosene and cod liver oil. Used for both TOPICAL and ingesting. There are a couple of other pieces that are our memories shared. These are the ‘things’ I want to keep. The others – well, they don’t mean much to me.

    As for me and my stuff – with no children nor syblings I have no one for hand-me-downs of history mine or my parents. Seems sad, it all seems sad right now.

    • Pat, you were in my thoughts as I went about my chores today. A candle flickering brightly on my kitchen windowsill was to keep you and your mother in mind. As I prepare to settle down for the night, I pray this night/day will be an easy one.

      • Thank you. The doctors decided to go forward with the feeding tube late yesterday. So, there now is a glimmer of hope where there was none for quite a long time. She will never be where she can eat and swallow more than an ice chip, but the doctor thinks with a feed tube we will have months vs days now. Mom was coherent and agreed on her own to the procedure, so now we wait some more. She also knows eventually cancer will win out though.

        • More time for you to come to terms with the final farewell. Each day is precious and with a little more nourishment, hopefully the time ahead will be less stressful for you both. You are a good daughter, being there for your mum is very important. Stay strong. Hugs, GM.

  16. You hit the nail right on the head! This is how I try to live my life. Less is really more:)

  17. I really appreciate your heartfelt thoughts. The things you speak of are part of the discussion Melanie and I have at times. She tends to not acquire stuff and easily moves things out when they aren’t used or get old. Jokingly, I tease her about getting rid of me as I am several years older. She says ‘no’.

    I like to do genealogy for my family records. It is exciting to find a past relative who kept some special items, letters, books, etc. They give a sense of connection and continuity between me and them. I wonder if some descendant of mine will discover my stash of treasures and feel the same.

    Thanks for your post today. It was a thought provoking read.

    • Jim is right. I don’t have emotional attachment to most “stuff,” and for what I do, I could rationalize getting rid of it, too. I often daydream about living in a much smaller space, with much less. Now is not the time, but we will, I am sure. For now, for later, as long as I am with Jim, I have enough.

  18. Things are just things, and in my world they are sorted over, kept if routinely used, and the rest go away – to children if they want, but usually donated or sold at yard sales. With one small box of momentos, which the children have looked over for many years and likely don’t care about anymore, I could easily be very portable if needed, as all the rest just doesn’t matter. I do need to do something about the photos, and I love that idea of finding the names on the back side in the old family pictures, and then I think those can be offered to the children as well. I had to participate in the go through and clean out of 4 collections from family members. I have never wanted my kids to have to do this. I’d rather they had what they want now and the rest can go to someone who needs the odd extra frying pan or set of towels.

  19. Wow, that’s brilliant. I’m impressed and inspired. I think I could also leave with just two suitcases: one crammed with photos and the other crammed with books and maybe a chance of undies….but then there would be a crate of paintings and art supplies; some of which came from my late aunt. So my footprint would possibly be a bit heavier. But it’s nice to realise I could leave with the clothes on my back and leave all the pretties, the crystal, the decoration, the dishes behind. Oh, I might need to take my late aunt’s ashes. Couldn’t leave aunty behind. 😀 Now I want to throw everything out!

  20. Until someone else mentioned it I did not realize how much moving around I have done. I like the idea of mobility .but every once in a while I visit someone with a home or things that have defined their existence for generations and I wish for permanence until I realize there is no permanence in this life at all. But there is a freedom in mobility

    • I know what you mean. I’ve moved a bunch of times in the last 10 years, and it significantly reduces the amount of “stuff” that I haul around. Do I love this enough to move it across town or across the country (again!)? The answer for many things is “no.” I’ve almost never regretted (or even missed) the things I’ve given away.

  21. What a wonderful post! So interesting to read others’ perspectives on this subject! I’m more like you Celi, and My John is more of a hoarder, although he is coming around after being with me again, for 16 years this time. I always have a bag ready for stuff to be passed on to the thrift stores, and put anything I think we can do without in it. Which is actually a lot, because as you asked, “How much do we really need?” After attempting to declutter every year for my Mom, I’ve become very good at it. And now my sister is begging me to come to CA and help her to declutter as well, as I did such a good job the last time I was there. 🙂 The idea of ‘letting go’ of material things, as well as unhealthy emotional and maybe even spiritual cravings, yearning, or connections can be very liberating and lead to a more peaceful, appreciative life.

  22. This is so relevant to me right now. Both my parents died in the past year and they never threw anything away. They both grew up in the depression when you didn’t throw away anything that might be useful. I am sorting and throwing and packing stuff up for donations and auction and there is just so much I don’t know what to do with. I want to keep a few things my mother painted but my brothers don’t want anything and who is really going to want the ceramic nativity set from the 70s? But I can’t just throw things like that away and they tell me to put it on the auction, someone will buy it. But it’s overwhelming. And there are boxes and boxes of photographs from their families and our family and no one ever labeled anything so, for the most part, they are just old photos of unknown people. I have much less trouble tossing my own stuff, paring down things that I will actually use or enjoy.

    • I have done some of my family’s genealogy and I am wondering if perhaps you would be able to find relatives on (or other such websites) who would want the old pictures as they are part of their family too. Just an idea. I hate the idea of those old pictures lost in history.

    • That would be so hard. Pictures but no idea who they are of! Maybe there is a place for them, somewhere. I have a lot of old photos too, but my grandfather meticulously labelled them all. Which almost makes it worse, as I now live 3,000 miles from anyone else who would care. I wish I could help you sort it, truly – and maybe you can find some other stranger like me who might want to help? Ask at the supermarket, the library, the dentist even. Ah, just an idea – I’d be too shy to do that myself 🙂

      • I don’t want to see the pictures just disappear either. I can identify a couple of them but we have pretty much no extended family – at least not that we’ve ever known. I’m considering though I had no luck with them years ago when I tried. I was also considering the Mormons- don’t they have huge genealogical records?

        • I hate to sound heartless, but I think that perhaps you must resign yourself to just letting them go, actually throwing them away, or maybe giving them to a school or art studio where they could be used for art projects, or collages. When my Mom passed it took all 4 of her children 2 weeks to just go through her stuff and take what we wanted. She hadn’t let anything go for 45 years! Then we hired a company to have an estate sale and get rid of with the remaining things. She was a photographer, and always had two copies made of just about every picture she took. And she had albums and albums of photographs. We went through them together, laughed and remembered, and then took only the photos meaningful to each of us. After all, the most wonderful, powerful memories live within us anyway. I wish you luck dealing with all of the photos and other things. I know it is difficult.

          • Well, at least I am having no problem tossing the flowers and clouds! And I will keep some of the baby photos of the three of us, but not all. It’s really the old ones that I feel are such a shame to just throw away but since I can only identify a couple people, chances are you’re right.

        • I have photos from my dad’s cousin, a small suitcase of them, along with postcards from the early 1900’s. Many are labelled with names, many are not. Everyone in those photos is gone (or almost everyone). I have to go through them and choose the ones that I know the people, the rest I think I will send to the museum in the area that most of the photos were taken. I’ll send a letter explaining what I know and they can go from there. Most museums have archives, perhaps these photos will fill in some blanks in their local timeline. Good luck.
          Chris S in Canada

  23. You are absolutely right- things begin to own us- I have been passing treasures on along with stories to those family and friends that want them and have time to listen.
    Have a lovely day and I look forward to traveling along with you!

  24. I am the youngest of 8 children whose parents grew up in the Depression era. A year or two before my mother passed away, she told me if I had given it to her (or them) and I wanted it to take it then. Even so, there was a lot of stuff to go through after her death. I have no children, so no one to pass down family furniture or “treasures” to other than nieces and nephews. The butternut table that holds my laptop was built by my paternal grandfather in 1938. Can I pack things into 2 suitcases and travel light? Not just yet. Could I do so in the future? Perhaps. As others have said, food for thought, perhaps it is time to take some pictures and write the history of some items for those nieces and nephews.

  25. There’s four of us living in a 1000 square foot/built in 1949 cottage here. No room for clutter of any kind. When something new comes in, something old has to go out. I must say I tend to be a little smug about this – I think the trend towards increasingly large houses in California is ridiculous (and I’m glad for the new trend of tiny houses though that’s a little extreme too) – really, how about we just live modestly? I think that’s the real key, and it goes hand in hand with living within one’s means. Another thing Californians aren’t too good at (in general). Anyway, I adore our little house and I like living sparsely.

  26. What an interesting post. I have most probably got too much, certainly in the clothes department. I think it’s all the old photos that would weigh me down. At least two suitcases worth of albums and loose pictures, but I couldn’t throw those away.

  27. I have read both Marie Kondo books and just did the annual winter decluttering/tidying fiesta. Eight full bags and some furniture hauled to goodwill last week. It feels so good! Your writing is the best I have ever read explaining why our parents and grandparents gathered stuff. In my family mama’s sidd were city people and kept china, silver. Papa’s family were farmers and kept handmade lace, linens and practical things with a few sentimental things. Over the years we have sorted and kept only the things we love and given asay the rest. The holiday table is always set. with one grandmother’s sterling flatware and use the other grandmother’s hand crocheted lacy tablecloth.

  28. Hi, my name is Donna, and I am a hoarder. Well I am on the road to recovery, but it’s tough. I find I’m able to get rid of stuff by thinking- someone will like to read, wear, use, look at this. So I’m trying very diligently to keep a little empty space in my cupboards. I still have major projects planned for when I return home. Good luck in your de cluttering, you are inspiring!

    • Hi Donna – I was glad to see someone else who admits it. I save things thinking I will have a use for it later – an art project, fixing something broken – but keeping track mentally of where I have put things is a challenge. And I HATE not being able to find that one bit of whatever I need!
      It doesn’t help that I’m the returned products person at my job – so again today I brought home a bag of random stuff. And the bag! It’s a nice bag… Oh dear.

  29. I wish I could express myself like you. Cooking comes easy to me but words not so much. Like you, I am a wanderer by heart and need little . There are some things however that l love and need.

  30. This is a very thoughtful and thought provoking post. I love your list of what will go with you. It’s like when we evacuated for a fire. You figure out quickly what is really important. I have my mother’s needlework and my parents china cabinet that was at one time filled with my MIL’s delicate bone china. It will be again once I paint the china cabinet more to my liking. Right now, it holds craft materials. Things to keep my hands and mind busy. I’m a collector of books and my home is a local lending library. I do have too much fabric but am making short work of moving that on too. Hoarding is something I didn’t understand in my nomadic life. It’s an illness I think, born of loss and trauma. I have a lot of stuff but will happily share with anyone who can make use of it. My son watched episodes of Hoarders while he packed out the home he had to sell when he lost his job to make it easier to let go of so much. A great deal was just given away. Many of us are feeling as you are right now. Clutter just doesn’t serve anyone. I don’t allow gifts that add to it anymore. Except for books of course.

  31. It’s a sign, this post!! So many times people, Universe, nature provides “signs” to me. I have been de-cluttering, parting, giving away, and throwing away for a few days now. I’ve always been proficient at prioritizing and organizing, but not so good with parting ways of gifts I feel guilt to hang onto or things that were important to parents or grandparents who wanted someone else to have them – these cherished belongings. You have once again nailed it… these feelings and emotions that come with all of this clutter. I’m courageous today. I’m letting go. I feel freer than I have in a long time! 😀

    • 🙂 🙂 🙂 Good for you!!! You’re right, it does take courage! But knowing someone else can use the things is a good feeling and also that you have ‘let go’ of somethings is a wonderful, freeing feeling too!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  32. You put into words what I think. When my husband or I say that we didn’t get anything done all day because we spent time “cleaning the desk” it is the metaphorical desk. It may be the garage, the barn, all the clutter that piles up around my looms. I get to where I can’t function amid the clutter. But the other part of that, and more of what you’re talking about, is the STUFF that lingers or that just appeared…when your father-in-law moves to Hawaii and Everything That He Didn’t Take came here (including big pine cones from the yard). Good thing we have a burn pile. But what about the little stuffed animal that was your mother’s and she was born in 1916? I don’t really want it, but I sure can’t throw it out. (Maybe that’s just me and stuffed animals. I remember being very upset when Timmy was burying all of Lassie’s toys at the end of the second episode in which she was missing. That night I worried about the toys still being out in the big hole even though she had come bounding over the hill at the very end of the episode. ) I think it may be worse when you have a farm. Not only are there more places to put Stuff, but a lot of times you actually find uses for the Stuff later on…even if it’s 10 years later. But still that’s probably only about 5% of said Stuff.

  33. Oh, clutter. When being young I had a strong wish not to possess more than what fits in a suitcase. I wanted to be free of all needless stuff to be able to change place in an instant. I did not want to be bound to one place. I wanted to be free. That’s funny – same thought as yours. OK – a dream of my younger days (I came to the big city with one suitcase, being 16). This dream ended when I got my first flat. The first thing ever I bought from my first own earned money was a hairdryer. To that point I did not have one, it was just not needed. And then, with every monthly income it went on and on and on…. Needed this, needed that. Wanted this, wanted that. – Now – living for years and years in that same city I am cluttered to the rim with stuff and cannot let go – all my books, my music, my crafts, my kitchen aids (my, my, my!), all that stuff that has accumulated until today…. Fits in a suitcase? Never… You’re so right with the “weight” that it has now.
    But I remember well the good times that you are telling about, where there was a real special cloth and a real special pair of shoes for special days only and where we had meat, real meat only on Sundays. Poor but good old times, yes.
    Last January I started with a nice web project, an “Appartment Therapy Tutorial” project called “The Cure”. I failed badly. Some things I kept in mind though like “Everything has it’s home”. And I made my “Outbox” for things one wants to get rid of. It still is not filled let alone emptied. Oh, they had lots of good hints…
    Love the bird’s shot with the guinea fowls and Mr. Flowers’ gorgeous tail… And the pig’s shot with Sheila, the Twins and Ton in the field is so cute…

  34. A friend of mine is trying a new decluttering system where she only keeps things that “spark joy.” I think that is a lovely guideline; one that’s likely to end with only a couple of cases of things left at the end and a lot less clutter stress.

  35. Thirteen Moons was powerful. His previous book, Cold Mountain, was even more so. I still can’t get over the castrated horse.

    I am a hoarder. I hoard pixels. I take 5000 images a year. They take up space on a tiny hard drive. It means I can let go of baby clothes and toys and other things.

  36. A very thoughtful post today C. You are so right….we are all drowning in “stuff” we don’t need, nor does the planet! I now say to myself when contemplating buying something…do I really need this or just want it? If the answer is want it, it stays on the shelf! One thing though C. I think you would need 3 suitcases instead of 2…one for Sheila as I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t leave her behind! 🙂

  37. Oh, I’m bad. I sentimental hoard, because my memory is bad. As is my older sister’s. The small things I’ve kept from my childhood bring back memories I would have lost otherwise. My old diaries! The cap a baby wore coming home from hospital. Those are things that, if the house burned down, I wouldn’t try to save. But I’d be sad.
    My grandfather saved everything. He had young children during the depression, and like I do now he kept things to be repaired or things that might repair something else. I add to that by saving junk that looks interesting and might be good for an art project.
    I also have a good amount of grandfather’s old photos, letters, and books, the things my mother saved. Since she has been gone for almost 19 years now, I’ve had them. And now I live 3,000 miles and more from any family that might want these items! It’s a weight of responsibility, but no way could I ever throw it out.
    I’d never fit all the things I need to take care of my furry family into two suitcases, in any case – much less the furry ones themselves – so I think my stuff has expanded with that realisation.

    Oh! Have you ever seen George Carlin’s stand up bit on “stuff”? It is brilliant.

  38. I have never been a hoarder, however once our daughter left home I realised I had accumulated things that would one day be a burden to her to have to deal with. So last year I had a clean out. I was inspired by the best book I would love to share it with all of the above whose comments are as tenuous as were mine, where does one start? But I don’t want to stick my nose in where it is not needed/wanted. We all come to these things in our own time. I can’t express how much easier life has been since shedding so much stuff, and truly, my house was not cluttered previously. I wrote a blog post about it too, in case anyone refers back to this to see my comment: Thanks Celi, good reminder and lovely photos.

  39. Oh my, have you touched on a subject that is recent to me! My In-Loves (not “in-laws”, as I love them dearly) are 85 and 87. They recently moved into an independent living arrangement. They insisted, that over the course of 6 weeks, they would sort and pack their belongings by themselves. Being that they are adults, we chose to honor the request that they be left alone to do just that. We would arrive with the moving truck the day before they were to move. We only live 3 miles apart. I would call and ask how things were going and was assured there was no need for me to come over and help. Two days before the move, our son took them some boxes. He came right to our house and made it clear there was no way on earth they’d be ready the next day. To get to the end of it, we had to rally ourselves and push in on their “packing”. They had barely done anything. It looked as though they had merely moved things from room to room in confusion as to what to do with it. What little had been packed was not packed in boxes that were meant for moving (banana boxes). They were both children from large families and children of the depression. I believe the job just became overwhelming. Memories mixed with treasures. Fifteen bags of rags. Seven spatulas. We ended up just packing everything as best we could and took it to their new place. “We will decide what to keep and what not to keep when we get there.” What had they been doing for the last 6 weeks? They were so exhausted when we would see them.
    My question is—-how does one help parents that are perfectly sound of mind that are adamant that they will take care of it themselves? Even while packing their things, I felt terrible reminding Mom that it was the 7th spatula we had packed and that all their meals are prepared for them. I SO did not want to make them feel as though they were adle-minded and incapable of doing the job themselves. They were already feeling old because they were moving in to an apartment “with a bunch of old people”.

    • I have a similar thing with the Old Codger – he is the most terrible hoarder. I just clear small spaces and hope for the best. It makes me realise again and again that either I re-home this stuff of mine now before I am too tired or later someone else will just chuck the lot out in despair. He knows this too but still builds his piles. Inertia is the enemy of the old. You are kind of caught between a rock and a hard place. But I think you did the right thing in the long run. You let them deal as best they could, gave them the power that belongs with them, then pack what you can and wait for them to say “can you fetch this or that” So you can fill in the gaps. Then after a while it will settle. How hard it must be. For everyone.. c

  40. When I was 41, I bought Legos and made Lego houses…none from plans, just from my head. Forty years later I moved from Sacramento to Longview, Washington and sold a bunch of stuff. Including my Legos. My children were in their teens and not interested in my Legos, so I placed an ad on Craigslist for my Legos (the ones the children had at their disposal) and a nice fellow came to buy them. He told me that he wanted them for when his 15 yo son came to visit him. I asked him if he were interested in MY private stash of Legos. He was and I sold them as well. After he left my house I felt so much lighter…freed from the obligation to play with Legos anymore. Now, if I could only remember that feeling and hope to replicate it…Much love, Gayle

  41. It is so interesting reading everyone’s comments on here. It seems that most people have the desire to de-clutter, but the ability to do it comes hard for most, including me! I am a book hoarder, and I am running out of space. Everything else I keep to a minimum, but I do love my books. There is something about the physical feel of holding a book to read that a Kindle can’t replace.

    I had a great-grandmother who brought up her family through the Depression years. When she was in her nineties, all her family helped her to move into a small flat on my grandparent’s house. The amount of STUFF she had hoarded over the years, had to be seen to be believed. Collections of string, plastic bags, jars – and she wouldn’t hear of throwing it out, ‘because you never know when you might want it’! We ended up getting rid of a lot of it without her knowing, and she never even missed it. There were also lots of things she couldn’t bear to throw out because they had sentimental value. Small china ornaments and things her husband had bought her. Of course we couldn’t get rid of those, but once she passed away it all got thrown away. It made me realise again how one person’s treasure is only a piece of junk to someone else, without the memories attached.

    • “one person’s treasure is only a piece of junk to someone else, without the memories attached.” Well said. I can take pictures and write down the memories that go with the item, but my memories are mine alone. I will try to remember that as I sort and purge. Thanks

  42. What a wonderful, no single correct POV useful discussion. In the process of combining our city and country households it became apparent how much stuff we have. And of course in my eagerness to pack up the city stuff I had a chuck-out and within a week there were several items I realised I should have kept. But our stuff makes our house a home although we could live without if we had to, a couple of suitcases worth of stuff that’s moved with us forever and may do so again, not much new stuff and a relatively small amount of superfluous stuff which we’ve sorted, given away and sold. It feels nice to have our stuff -just the right amount- all in one place, and yes someone will have to deal with it when we’re both gone but that’s the way life goes and it may be, like us, they take some comfort from it.

  43. I so agree . l have enough is a favourite expression of mine because it is true. Enjoy your travels:-)

  44. I love Babette’s Feast. With all of my ancestors having come to America from Denmark, I imagine my great-grandmothers would’ve experienced Babette’s elaborate feast much the same way as the sisters.

  45. Such a wise and thought-provoking post. After my mother died two years ago it fell to me and my brother to clear out her house, and oh, the possessions! Some definitely worth passing from generation to generation, but then there were: the bags of … empty bags; the empty boxes from every electronic item ever purchased, whether still present or not; the odds and ends of fabric, yarn and other craft supplies, literally up to the rafters in the craft room. The scary part for me is that I’m not so different from my mother in this way, but I have resolved to not leave such a large physically and emotionally daunting task for my children when the time comes. The thing is, it is difficult for me to part with things. And some of that is from a fear that may have taken its roots in my parents’ fear stemming from early experiences of lack and deprivation. I don’t really know, but I do know I need to get things in hand. The sheer volume of possessions is too big a weight in my life. So easy to say, harder to act on.

    • Gotta have a chat about this Marlene, just don’t have time right this minute!!!

  46. You are so right my friend. We do live with the motto of one with the most *things* wins in the end. I have been slowly but surely decluttering around the Hotel Thompson. It started last year with our reconstruction. It was healing to let go of things that I had not seen or used in so long. Why keep them? Someone told me if something is that cherished for you and you don’t use it, why keep it? Take a picture of it for the memories and let it go. It has worked for me. Good luck with your cleaning and we can’t wait to read about your travels. XOXO – Bacon’s MOM

  47. I definitely have to get this place decluttered, especially if I’m to work towards that long term goal I’ve decided upon.
    BTW .. on that Vet show this morning, a freemartin cow was in trouble. A bull had attempted to breed her. Between you and that show, I’m learning enough to become a good dairy farmer one day. I’ll call this Plan B. 😀

  48. As the comments attest, it’s as easy to talk about acquiring things and the emotions connected perhaps as the things themselves.
    Interesting timing in my life for these thoughts of yours. I’m currently listening to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which (so far) is heavily based on discarding things.
    And my parents are slowly going through their things and I’ll receive a picture (via text) of some long forgotten object of theirs or of my childhood with the questions of whether or not I remember it, and whether or not I want it.
    I’ve said no to some things that I think may have hurt them, and yes to other things I’ll use as trigger to write down the memories, and then donate myself to save them the pain.
    And then there’s my mother in law who is keen on filling our home with as much furniture and clutter as hers has.

    I am curious, what gifts do you give? I often feel torn giving “things” when I so often get “things” that I soon thereafter donate away. But not everyone appreciates a donation of a bee colony to a village family overseas…

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