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Mama_Cakes's avatar

At what point did you realize that it's not about the stuff that you have (accumulating stuff)

Asked by Mama_Cakes (9848points) December 11th, 2012

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31 Answers

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

My divorce. We were going over the marital split and we got to household items. I realized there was not a freaking thing I cared if I ever saw again.

Aethelwine's avatar

I don’t know, I’ve never really cared about having a bunch of stuff. Maybe a little before I had children, but now I’m just happy if we can get the stuff we need.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Junior year of high school, which was when I first started reading about Buddhism, Taoism, and Epicureanism. Were I living on my own, everything that is mine could easily fit into a studio apartment. My wife and I both like space more than stuff, though, which is one reason we live in a two-bedroom apartment. It allows us to spread out the stuff we have rather than cramming everything together.

wundayatta's avatar

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Are you telling me it’s not about the stuff? Holy shit! You could knock me over with a feather! Where does this come from? Who says? How come? This is outrageous!

Look. I think that love is the meaning of life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need stuff. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggest very strongly that if we don’t have enough of the right kind of stuff, we can’t even begin to think about self-actualization.

So I think you are wrong. It is about the stuff. We need a basic level of stuff to survive and to make us comfortable before we can start thinking about the non-stuff. Sure, the non-stuff is probably very important in terms of feeling good about our lives, but if we don’t have stuff, we’ll never get to the non-stuff.

gailcalled's avatar

All stuff has to be repaired, insured, dusted and often replaced. So much easier to live with empty space. I started divesting about 15 years ago.

Free, at last.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@wundayatta Plutarch quotes Socrates as saying “Bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.” One of the many points that we could use this statement to illustrate is that there is a difference between something being desirable for some further end (i.e., instrumentally good) and something being desirable for its own sake (i.e., intrinsically good).

All that Maslow tells us is that stuff is necessary in order to get at what is good for its own sake. It does not tell us that stuff is good in itself. In fact, it implies quite the opposite. When people think that life is all about accumulation, however, they are mistaking stuff for an intrinsic good. And that is quite clearly what the question is about: when people realized that such perceptions are mistaken.

tinyfaery's avatar

Long, long ago; it’s not so hard when you grow up poor. I actually love de-cluttering and I dislike having a lot of stuff around. I already feel like I have too much stuff. If it disappeared forever I would shed tears of joy.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

It happened 1–½ years ago, when my Mom was diagnosed with a very fast, aggressive form of Alzheimer’s disease. I had to get her out of her house, immediately, and move her to a secured facility with a nursing staff.

I began the painful effort of clearing-out the house where she’d lived for 40 years. Every drawer, cupboard, and closet in that house had been jammed with accumulated papers and possessions. I had to sort through everything and make the keep/discard/sell/donate decisions. After all this time, I’ve made enormous progress but still haven’t finished the job (I live far away, and Mom’s now here with me, so the work gets done during brief, sporadic trips to the house.)

It’s very sad to sort through the flotsam and jetsum of another person’s life. Lessons learned:

—Don’t acquire or become attached to too many material possessions. When you buy or are given something new, make room for it by getting rid of something that you already own. Earn a few bucks on eBay. Donate things to charity. Put something on your curb, with a “Free Stuff” sign, and watch the magic happen.

—At least once a month, go on the prowl for 10–20 unneeded items. Are your shelves filled with novels that you read many years ago and will never read again? Do you have CD’s that you don’t enjoy and never play? Have you been given cookbooks that you don’t use? Are your bedroom drawers crammed with forgotten scarves, pocketbooks, and other accessories?

—Keep your files and paperwork in order. After term insurance expires—e.g. auto or homeowner’s coverage—the printed policy becomes useless; don’t keep it. When you get rid of or replace an appliance, toss the user’s manual. Archive your non-permanent records for 5 years and then shred/discard them. It’s ok to keep sentimental letters and cards, but find a box to store them away; don’t leave them scattered around your home.

—Look honestly at your clothes closets and drawers. How many pieces of clothing do you really wear and enjoy, and which items could you eliminate and never miss?

—Do you have boxes packed with your high school and college textbooks, notes, essays, and tests? When’s the last time you opened the boxes?

If you really love your spouse, children, or any survivor who’ll have the burden of mopping-up your life, please make things as simple and easy as possible. It’s no joy to discover yet another corner of the attic crammed with clutter.

gailcalled's avatar

^^^ Well-put. In my family, the short rule is “Pity your heirs.”

nanec's avatar

These answers made me think.. I have accumulated lots of ‘stuff’, mainly of sentimental value / memorabilia,, over the years. It makes me feel secure , I think… Much belonged to my parents . My mother also collected a lot of stuff , for the same reasons i would guess.. but I found it comforting to go through my parents things after they died.. and have kept possibly too much of it, including shelves full of my fathers books.. hence continuing the family tradition of hoarding..
To hang their paintings on the walls, read the books they read, and use their practical items , helps me feel linked to them and gives a sese of continuity..
I read a book once, ‘the secret nature of things’.. interesting.

zensky's avatar

I had a zenlike moment, an epiphany of sorts a few years ago – and suddenly I didn’t need much. I didn’t throw everything away instantly, however, I did start to get rid of a lot of tchotchkes (here’s the definition for you etymologists) and moreover, I no longer buy anything I can’t readily use. Less is more.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Early. As a child we moved every couple of years. I learned early the less I had to pack the less work moving was.

nanec's avatar

psm, lots of good advice’s good to have some things of sentimental value but otherwise i agree mimimalism is good in theory.. i wish in one way i could live possession free except the essentials..

Blackberry's avatar

Similar to gailcalled, more stuff means more work for the owner.

I’m in the military and have moved a lot. More stuff equals more stuff to sort through. I don’t see myself needing anything more in life other than a bed, dresser, shelter, and car (pots and pans of course, too, but you know what I mean).

Judi's avatar

I remember in the early ‘70’s reading “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. ”
She was at a wealthy friends house and the mother was saying something like, “Simplicity is the key.” I spent hours of my childhood processing what that meant and once I accumulated so much crap that I couldn’t keep track of it, it finally made sense.

trailsillustrated's avatar

When I was homeless. I lost my home, full of antiques, shit my parents brought from the ‘old country’ , valuable books etc, etc. How I suffered for that. Now, I am a total spartan. When I visit my sister and brother in law, who are not young, I shudder to think whom is going to have to douche their house out. It is FULL of junk.

McCool's avatar

I’m afraid I still haven’t learned that lesson yet. I mean, I know in concept that stuff isn’t everything, but I still have a very victorian attitude in regards to my things. I enjoy having and collecting items. God forbid if anyone were to open my closet. They would be met with an avalanche of random and useless things…

augustlan's avatar

Still working on that one. I have lots of stuff that I need to get rid of.

rooeytoo's avatar

Well it depends on what you consider “stuff.” I have a lot of tools, I use them and love them, they take up a lot of room in the shed but I don’t want to divest. I have some stuff that was my mom and dads, I love that stuff because it reminds me of them. I have some art, I assume that is stuff as well. It makes me happy when I see or touch it, I don’t want to get rid of that. Do my dogs and birds count as stuff? I really love them and will always have a couple. I do have an extensive collection of worn out running shoes that I really should dispose of but they are so comfy! I have been collecting neat stuff I have found in the bush including water buffalo horns, boar tusks, dingo teeth, sheep skull, amazingly colored rocks, sea glass.

Nope, I have decided I love my stuff so I guess I haven’t come to this realization yet.

Do you feel it is bad to like or love your stuff?

cookieman's avatar

water buffalo horns, boar tusks, dingo teeth, sheep skull, amazingly colored rocks, sea glass

I don’t know about my stuff @rooeytoo, but I love your stuff.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

@rooeytoo I was online, yesterday, bidding on e-bay. After I lost the auction (went over my budget), I felt a sense of relief, which I found odd. I said to myself “Did I really need that? No”. I came to the conclusion that lately, I’ve been buying stuff to fill some sort of a void (depression).

Have a read here.

zensky's avatar

@Mama_Cakes Would you mind mentioning what it was you were bidding on?

KNOWITALL's avatar

A long time ago when I had all the ‘stuff’ and wasn’t happy.

rooeytoo's avatar

I get you Mama, trying to fill the “black hole” with stuff.

My best stuff though, other than my tools, is (are?) treasures I have found in my travels and they don’t define me, I just like having them.

@cookieman – thanks I do have some really cool stuff!

wundayatta's avatar

My black hole gets filled only with relationships. I need connections with people. When I don’t feel connected (which can happen even when people love me), life can be incredibly painful. But with the right meds, I can tell when people love me and feel good about me.

I love stuff, too. Stuff is a different category of life. It doesn’t keep me from killing myself. Only people can do that. But it does make life a lot easier and more convenient and entertaining. I don’t need it, but as long as I can care for it properly, and use it, there’s no problem keeping it around.

rooeytoo's avatar

I forgot to add my scooter, I love my scooter! And now the weather has warmed up again, I love it even more!

gailcalled's avatar

If it is yours, it is an esthetically pleasing collectible or objet,; if it’s your partner’s, it’s junk.

Judi's avatar

@gailcalled , after my first husband died I held onto a few things that were valuable to him. His tools were like gold, although they had been collected over many years and many were hand me downs. He wasn’t real handy, but he wished he was.
When my current husband and I moved in together (he is a contractor) I had a real hard time breaking with those tools. My current husband didn’t understand the emotion and when he was helping me pack he kept saying, “we can get rid of this junk.” Or, @Judi, these are just junk tools.” He has never intentionally been mean, but those comments still hurt when I think about it.
Sometimes stuff helps me hold onto a memory and relinquishing it puts me in a state of panic that the memory will be lost forever.
Probably a holdover from losing my dad at a young enough age that I sometimes have a hard time even remembering what he looked like.

wundayatta's avatar

@Judi Many objects are memory objects and are valuable more for the memories they store than for any other attribute they have. There is no reason to feel ashamed of using objects in this way. If you get rid of the object, you will lose the memory, too, although perhaps not if you take a picture of it. But still, touching something releases far more memories than just looking at a representation of it.

In my home office, there are many stones and objects and they are all arranged according to how I have placed them. The objects and the arrangements matter. Without them, I would not have the memories. There would be nothing to remind me.

My memory is bad enough. If I were to get rid of this “junk” my life history would be severely diminished. This is not to say I couldn’t live without it, but I would be carrying around many memories in my brain with no way to release them. This is memory space that could be used for more recent memories if there was a way to empty it. Unfortunately, there isn’t. So I might as well keep the keys to the memories.

gailcalled's avatar

I have, for example, drawers filled with large, beautiful, hand-embroidered and damask and linen tablecloths and huge napkins inherited from my grandmother, who died in 1960. I alos have bags filled with sterling silver tea services, platters, pitchers, serving utensils and gew-gaws.

When I was younger and willing to 1) iron and starch and 2) polish and 3) entertain in a pretentious way, I used and loved all this stuff. I also had room for a large dining room table that came with two extra leaves.

The next generation has no interest and yawns when I suggest they come and cart it away by the pound.

My grandmother was the daughter of an immigrant Jew who owned a dry goods shop; when she married my grandfather, (who was also an immigrant but started to make money in his late twenties), and bought these things, she felt it gave her status.

@Judi, I too have some beautiful old tools belonging to my father…a mahogany level, and serious gardening tools that take a finely-honed edge, for example. My daughter many or may not remember.

If and when my niece with the three little boys can afford a house, she may take a few things, but they are not at the top of her list.

rooeytoo's avatar

@gailcalled – I think it is sad. And I don’t mean the being pretentious element. I think it is sad that the history of articles is not appreciated and is lost, until someone decides to look something up on And the appreciation of hand made and well made is being lost in the age of mass production. I understand why it is so, it just saddens me.

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