Where Did All This Stuff Come From?

where did all this stuff come from
© 2014 Christy King
“Where did all this stuff come from? I don’t have time for a life. I need to get away! Ever feel this way?”
Lorilee Lippincott

Feeling overwhelmed by my stuff is a big part of what caused me to begin simplifying my life. I’d wonder, “Where did all this stuff come from?” I don’t even like to shop.

Well, I used to like to buy yarn and books, whether I needed them or not. But while I had a lot of books and a good sized yarn stash, those things made up only a small fraction of the stuff I had and didn’t really need. So where did all this stuff come from?

It’s free. Or cheap. Or on clearance.


Like many people, I have a tendency to want things I don’t need just because they’re a good deal. There are two ways to deal with this problem.

One is to change the way you think. Before you accept the free item or buy the cheap one, remind yourself that if you’re not actually going to use the thing, you’re actually losing money, even on free items.

How? You need more room to store all that stuff you’ve collected.

The second way is to keep collecting the stuff, but give it to someone who will use it, like a friend or a homeless shelter.

Of course, you’ll need to acquire only stuff you know will be accepted by a particular person or organization. You’ll also need a plan for getting the stuff from your house to the people who need it.

I might need it someday.

You’re right. You might. But is it worth keeping just in case? Consider a few factors when deciding what to keep:

  • What’s the likelihood you’ll need it?
  • How expensive would it be to replace?
  • How difficult would it be to replace?
  • How much space does it take up?
  • Will you need it in an emergency?
It’s sentimental.


Some people aren’t particularly sentimental about old letters and such, but I am. Such things sometimes hold special memories.

While it’s true we still have the memories in you heads even without the stuff, in some cases, the stuff helps us remember. Makes the memories more real.

I don’t believe you need to get rid of all your sentimental stuff. However, you probably don’t need to keep nearly as much as you have.

When deciding what to keep, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you ever look at or listen to your sentimental items?
  • When you’re gone, will your heirs enjoy the materials or will they go straight to the dumpster?
  • Does the item bring back good memories or bad?
  • Would you be just as happy keeping a handful of representative items? Say, a few special letters from your sister rather than every letter she’s ever sent you?
  • If you had a photo or scanned copy to look at, would that bring you the same memories?
What about you?


Why are you keeping things you’re not using? What are the hardest items for you to declutter?



17 thoughts on “Where Did All This Stuff Come From?

  1. I have a very hard time deleting digital photos, even though I have way too many and never look at them. I want to sort them out and only keep a few really memorable ones, but can’t bring myself to hit the delete button. Any tips?

    • What works best for me is waiting awhile. We take a ridiculous amount of photos, and I can never delete them right away. Sometimes I even have a hard time deleting them when they’re awful, like out of focus or too dark.

      I noticed, though, when I look at photos from a year or more ago, it’s a lot easier for me to say to myself, “I don’t need 7 pictures of the same thing. I’ll choose the best one.”

      If that doesn’t work for you, maybe you could try get just getting of a few in from each outing or occasion at a time, then go back later and do the same thing again. I use that trick for many things I’m decluttering.

      One other tip is to try pretending your digital photos are prints and that you have to scan in the ones you want to keep and get rid of the rest. Which photos do you like enough you’d be willing to put the time into scanning them?

      • Those are great tips, thank you very much! I particularly like the one about scanning. I was thinking of doing the following: asking myself “Would I want to print this photo and show it to my family/children now or in the future?”. I think that would help to eliminate quite a lot!

  2. The sentimental items always are the most difficult especially if you really care about the people who give them to you. I am still working on letting go of a number of small items I’ve received from beloved family members that I am simply not using or enjoying on a daily basis. I don’t think there is one simple tip or trick to assist in this process. I try to think about it a lot and give myself the time and space to part with those items slowly, one at a time. So far I have made a lot of progress. Taking pictures of the items, pictures or documents also helps with the parting process. Ultimately it is about coming to terms with the fact that these things are just things and the memories and emotions we attach to them are made up in our own minds and we are able to transfer them to other places. Thank you for helping me continue on my process with this insightful post!

    • Thanks, Dana. I agree that space (time) is an important part of the process.

      To me, so long as the items don’t take up a lot of space (e.g. a stack of letters), it’s worth it to keep them even if I don’t enjoy them daily, or even weekly or monthly. However, if years have gone by and I’ve not looked at them, that’s a pretty good indicator that they’re not as important to me as I think.

  3. Hey Christy and thanks for a great post 🙂

    I used to be one of those if it’s free then take it! I really had to curb that mind-set though and eventually got over it. Although, it’s still tempting!

    Also, the sentimental issue comes up a lot with me and I need to deal with that as well. I think the scanning idea will be the way to go for me!

    Thanks again Christy and take care. All the best.


  4. I must have started my simplifying journey in pretty much the same way as you did; “Where did all this stuff come from? I don’t even like to shop” I could have written that!

    Right now I’m working on how to deal with my children’s artwork, and I think that the children’s things are what I struggle the most with. I feel that their things are not really mine to throw or give away. On the other hand I know I can’t count on them to take care of the drawings, outgrown clothes and broken toys, it’s my responsibility. So I’m working on it.

    • Perhaps this will help: Even being a natural keeper of sentimental items, when I recently got all the stuff my mom had saved from my old schoolwork, artwork, etc., I thought it was pretty darned boring to go through. I ended up saving maybe a quarter of it. I mean, it’s cute to see a few items I did each year, but a whole stack?! This experience made it easier for me to get rid of my kids’ stuff.

  5. Sentimental items are my final frontier. I am ruthless about just about any material possession, but my children’s childhood toys, schoolwork, cards…umm, not so good. Currently I’m working on culling my formidable stack of scrapbooks. I’ve scanned our family photos so I don’t know why I still have an attachment to the printed copies, but I do. I’m trying to get my sentimental items down to one trunk. Easy to move around with us and easy for any heirs to dispose of.

    • I’m currently going through sentimental items. I started this project awhile back, but since I do things gradually, it’s taking awhile.

      To me what helps the most is distance. At the time, it seemed perfectly logical to keep about an inch worth of school papers for one child per year. Now, several years later, it’s easy to see that 1/4 of that is a perfectly good representative sample.

      I’m also taking photos of all the larger bits of child artwork instead of storing them.

      I reviewed photos a few months ago and got them down to about half. I do look at printed photos in an album more often than the digital ones, so I don’t feel bad about having some scrapbooks. Some day maybe I’ll get what I have cut in half again, and that will be a good amount to keep, I think.

  6. I’m having a hard time giving up clothing that fit me well when I was that size. Because my weight keeps yo-yoing, and because I am hard to fit at any size, I have stopped donating clothing that doesn’t currently fit. This feels both wrong and right to me and I’m hating that confusion.

    • I know some people say always get rid of clothing that doesn’t fit, but because I’m cheap (and have a devil of a time finding pants that fit due to the fact that regardless of my weight, my waist is so much smaller than my hips…the last time I bought slacks I had to go to 12 stores to find a single pair that fit), I think if you really are likely to wear them in the next year, keep them.

      If not, or if getting rid of them motivates you to stay at a healthy weight, then donate them.

  7. When I first started decluttering, EVERYTHING was hard to consider getting rid of. Now, I just have problems with sentimental items that I received from family or friends. It wouldn’t be so bad, if several of those items were not pieces of furniture! I have a desk that my grandfather built, which I just couldn’t bring myself to part with. It’s strange though…it almost feels like I’m wearing the desk on my shoulders…like I will never be free of this bulky wooden desk.

    • That is unfortunate – so much easier if the sentimental items are small. Is there something you could do to make the desk fit your lifestyle better? Paint it a new color? Do you have other things that remind you of your grandfather?

      • Well…if everything goes according to plan, I will be moving onto a boat. No room for the desk there, no matter what color it is. I actually refinished and stained it several years back – looks are not the problem. The size is the problem when it comes down to where I will be living soon. I do not really have anything else of my grandfathers. However, I believe my parents may end up storing the desk for me at their house…we will see.

        • And if they don’t, well I guess it’s easy – you won’t let his desk keep you from living on your boat, will you? 🙂

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