Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | March 8, 2011

The Weight of Stuff

I continue to work through this Big Fat Transition. The transition from married to single; from adrift to alive.

As usual, I find myself angsty for not blogging in such a long time. There’s so much going on, so much to tell. And, as I’ve noted here before, by writing it down and posting it for you to read, so much for me to think about in new ways. There is also so very little time.

When I’m not working for my paycheck, half my time is spent taking care of the kids. In the time that remains, I’m trying to build new relationships, reconnect with old friends, and keep the day-to-day minutia from getting out of control. Like paying bills. So many, many bills. There’s catching up on paperwork for selling the marital home (that’s still not going well), getting the divorce moving along (Penny is behind on the paperwork for that, which is stressing her out… and me, too, a little), and so on and on. Laundry and oil changes and grocery shopping, oh my.

In other words, it’s just like when I was married and living with Penny. The only difference is, she has the kids all to herself half the nights of the week, and I have them to myself the other half. There’s a little bit less guilt if I spend one of those kid-free evenings out doing something… oh, wait. That’s right. I still rarely go do something. Because I have too much to do at home.

The biggest figurative weight on my shoulders is getting my stuff out of the house formerly known as “ours.” This is also the biggest literal weight. There’s a lot of books. And furniture. And paperwork. And CDs. And albums. And stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. I don’t have time to sort it all; I’m organizing as best I can, boxing it up, and bringing it over to my new home.

There’s not enough room in the new house for everything to be unpacked. In fact, there’s really not enough room here to keep everything in boxes. Some of this stuff is going to have to go. There will be more moves in my future, and I don’t want to keep lugging around all this stuff, even though it’s hard for me to part with some of it.

But what if I try to keep it? I can’t keep it here… so, where? I could pay to keep it in storage… but that means I’m paying for it all over again. Take my books (please!): if I keep at my new house the books I refer to often and that I want to read (or re-read) soon, and put all the rest away in storage… how many multiple times over will I have paid for them by the time I can take them back out again and put them on easily accessible shelves? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just sell them all to a used book store and buy copies back when I have the space? Or better yet, check them out of a library?

And… why bother even buying these books? Wouldn’t it just make more sense to sell them off or give them away as soon as I’m done with them than to keep on a shelf “just in case” I want to look at them again? And given my shortage of time, is it even worth my time to try to sell them? Selling my CD collection (how passe) or my old vinyl albums on or eBay might re-convert some of those space-hogging dust-collectors back into cash, but how valuable is my time? What’s the opportunity cost of trying to sell something for pennies on the dollar?

When faced with the prospect of more moves, one wonders: why collect / keep anything? It’s just more pounds to carry next time you move. And it takes up space. And moving it costs money. And storing it costs money. And there’s the opportunity costs of what you could have done with that time/energy/space instead.

The nice silverware? Penny and I flipped a coin to determine who got that versus the nice cookware, figuring they were “worth” about the same. But the cookware gets used daily. The silver… you know, we got that as a wedding gift, and still haven’t used it. We got married over eleven years ago. It’s nice. It’s expensive. And it’s… just more space-taking, dust-collecting stuff. (I lost the coin toss, which means I won the silver.)

It weighs a lot when you move it. And there’s a cost associated with storing it. I could live in a smaller house if I didn’t have so much stuff that never gets used, and still be just as comfortable.

I will also note that I’m thinking perhaps it’s time I start having company over again… and this time, why not bring out the “good” silverware? Why not use what I have… or get rid of it?

No, my friends, I’m not asking the universe to swoop down and clean me out. All you burglars who read my blog can stay home, thankyouverymuch. But rather, I am thinking about embarking upon a sensible, careful weight-loss program. This stuff, like the pounds I’ve put on during my marriage, is too much weight to carry around. And it’s slowing me down.

And maybe, while I’m working on those things, I can shed some of the emotional baggage I may have picked up along the way, too. There’s a part of me that suspects it may all be related. Why keep stuff around from darker days? Why not lighten the load in my home, on my person, and in my mind?

After all… it’s just stuff.



  1. I’m the furtherst thing from a hoarder but recently I have taken to cleaning out closets and such and getting rid of everything. There is so much of Dustin’s stuff still around and I has been boxed. There is something about just getting rid of it all and starting fresh…a nesting process if you will:)

  2. I completely understand, inris. I seem to have outgrown my lttle cottage, although I can’t see how, as i really haven’t added anything. Stuff came back to me when my ex-boyfriend dumped me before Christmas, but it didn’t seem like it was THAT much. I feel a need to purge, and have also wondered if the extra pounds I’m carrying are just something I’m holding onto for a reason that no longer exists. As I’m hopeful for a move in the next two months, I have been yearning to get rid of things. Let’s hope we both can, and can move ahead with lightened spirits.

  3. Remember the quote I’ve told you before (and still love): “We hold on to things to remind us of the people we no longer are.” Make the purge; catharsis is good.

    • I love this quote from Kyle! (Who’s it by, anyway?)

      It’s hard to let go of stuff, and so many of us relate our value as people by the things we own. It’s silly, but it’s true.

      Anyway- purge it all. I love getting rid of old shit (I hate clutter) and it feels great to start new. Besides, it clears out room for new, even more fabulous stuff!

      • It was a clutter-clearing expert on a radio show a few years ago… don’t remember her name.

  4. I totally shed so much crap when I moved into my own place. And again when I moved again, downsizing a bit more. It starts to feel easier, and it starts to feel fresher when you do. I say donate as much as you don’t need and start anew. It feels great. And you are doing great. Loved seeing your new post today, it was far too long 😉

  5. i’ve almost completely shed the last physical trappings of the marriage. when i get a lawyering job and finish school, i will replace the bedroom suite of his that i still have, give this one back to him, and be done, done, done. i stripped down so far when i left him. hell, i had to; i left a full-size apartment and moved into a group house. it was such a nice catharsis, though. i was able to move home in a rented SUV. i have eactly as much stuff as i have room. and the best part? it’s all. mine.

    so shed what you can. it’ll make you feel like a million damn dollars.

  6. Yep, I shed a LOT of “stuff” when I bought my current home. It’s half the size of our shared home. Even now, I’m less likely to buy things because I have nowhere to put them.

    I’m with you on books though. Books and music, to me, are the most difficult to get rid of. What I did was pack lots of things away in storage. Then, when I didn’t miss them after a year (or a few months), I got rid of them.

    Sounds like progress! Slowly but surely!

  7. Two things:

    1) There is a direct psychological correlation between having too much stuff (aka clutter) and carrying around extra body weight. Usually, breaking free from one will automatically free you from the other. You can’t imagine how good it feels to just “let go of it all” until you do.

    2) Donate those books, CDs and albums. Take the tax write off. By the time you want to buy the book again, it will be a “download” for pennies on the dollar anyway. But, silver? Now there’s something you can actually SELL.

    Oh, and it’s really good to see you back posting.

    Okay, I guess that’s three things…

  8. I moved from a 2400 sft house to a 1086 sft 2-bd apartment. I thought I would not be able to fit all my stuff here, but the funny thing is that I am able to. The key was that I had to do it in stages. I brought over the first batch, unloaded, assimilated it into the place. Then I went back for the rest. I got it all except for some painting equipment in the garage and the Weber gas BBQ girl (I know that sounds like dude stuff, but I’m a very resourceful person, and all the tools and painting equipment was mine!)

    I plan to get that stuff soon too.

    The thing is that it is just very overwhelming in the midst of everything. I’ve now been out for almost 2 months, and things are starting to really fall into place.

    Best thing I’ve ever done. Ever.

  9. I e-mailed you a link to a site all about de-cluttering.

    I dumped 80% of my books about a year ago. Set up a profile on Goodreads so I could enter all the titles of the books, then sold them off. It felt good and now our shelves are full of things that belong to The Mook and I, instead of me alone.

  10. I’m putting this in without reading the others’ comments as we need to clear the bandwidth to watch the local school board meeting to see whether my wife loses her job tonight. Your answers in unprocessed form:

    * why collect / keep anything?

    There is a good reason for this: it helps you to define who you are, to yourself and others. It can also act as an anchor (in a positive sense), giving you a basis for exploring new areas of interest.

    * Why keep stuff around from darker days? Why not lighten the load in my home, on my person, and in my mind?

    You should! Unless there is a very good and non-emotional reason to keep something, then it is subject to being reduced from the inventory.

    * Wouldn’t it make more sense to just sell [all your books] to a used book store and buy copies back when I have the space? Or better yet, check them out of a library?

    Several problems with this. First, people are not buying books much now that the tablets are out. Unless your books are collectibles, most used book stores are not going to want them. If your books are too technical, few other places will accept them as donations, preferring mass-market things instead. And libraries are closing all over the nation due to the economic crisis. You aren’t likely to have them around much longer.

    My advice is to keep only the books that are meaningful to you, and allow the rest to find new homes.

    * The nice silverware?

    If it is worth any money, you need that worse than you need something that will need regular caretaking to retain its value. Stainless steel is cheaper and very functional – and doesn’t need polishing to keep its luster.

    I hope to have better responses later if time permits.

  11. LOL… Boyfriend and I just upsized our available space and now have a garage full of stuff that we’ve had no reason yet to unpack. To purge or embrace? I could probably do without the CDs, because the music is all i-podable… but I have a rather romantic attachment to books, and hoarding them makes me feel like I look smart.

    Silver is worth money, right? Dollar bills are lighter take up less space. Plus, you can use them to buy more books 😉

  12. When I moved out of my shared home with my ex we split up a lot of things. He got to keep a lot more than I did; he felt that it was his “right”, since I was the one leaving.


    Getting rid of “stuff” was one of the most liberating feelings for me. Granted, I’m still in the process of re-building my life (and replacing “things” that I lost in the split) but the things I acquire now are “mine”, without any kind of emotional attachment to them.

    De-clutter. Let go. You’ll feel so much “lighter” for it…I promise. 🙂

  13. how about you use that silver as your regular silverware? why keep it for “good.” Use the good stuff regularly. You deserve it.

    As far as the other stuff? Donate the books and the CDs (after you rip them all into your itunes). Lighten the load. You’ll be able to think better once some of the detris is gone.

  14. (Ahem.)

    Still working at it myself, so not passing judgment or anything…

  15. Unless you have an emotional attachment to the actual physical books, CDs and records themselves … I would upload any CDs you want to keep in to iTunes and get rid of them. Then buy an electronic reader and re-start your book collection on there. I find I get more satisfaction out of donating things than selling things – plus it’s a lot easier to drop stuff off at a charity office rather than have to spend time taking pictures, thinking of pricing, dealing with buyers etc. Just some of my thoughts.

  16. Lots of good advice here – I’ve moved three times in the last ten years and each time I shed more and more stuff. Now I follow a rule from a friend, for everything you bring into the house, you must take something out that is at least the same physical size.

    I got the wedding china, silverware and glasses because I wanted it. I love entertaining (although I don’t do much) and when I do I love setting a the table etc. So I wouldn’t part with the silverware – I’d be afraid I’d never replace it – use it and enjoy.

    Start making a point to have a proper sit down meal with your kids once each time they’re over – set the table, good silverware, glasses, napkins, manners. We do this on Sundays and I like to think I’m preparing my kids for when they have to entertain/be entertained for work. I also use the time for any family matters we need to discuss.

    There’s a website – paperbackswap – where you can list your books and exchange them for other books. You just have to pay postage to get the book to another member.

  17. that silver is going to be a total pita to clean. whether your keep it or sell it, you’re going to need some everyday silverware. trust.

    i kept the marital home, and i moved my sister in. i cleared out a ton of clutter after the wasbund moved out. some things i donated, some things i just pitched, and some things got re-purposed. the process was slow and organic, and i haven’t regretted keeping or chucking anything yet.

    re: books. i’m always torn here, because I LOVE BOOKS. i have one large bookshelf under my picture window in my living room, and i’ve resolved not to accumulate past that capacity. that ended up being easy too, because as i went through those boxes of books, it was like finding parts of myself that i lost, and wiping the dust jackets off and finding a suitable home for them was like welcoming back my true self.

    set a time limit for a storage space. three months. and do the work that it takes to sort everything and put your new home together for you and your kids. don’t rush into pitching or buying or clinging, just let it come together like a puzzle that you don’t obsess over, but don’t neglect, either.

    for me, it was *so* incredibly healing. more than anything else. to sort through the remnants of a former life and hand pick that which belongs in my future…

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