How do you manage your 'stuff?'

I didn’t want to derail this thread about how big your house needs to be.

But I was wondering how people manage their ‘stuff.’ I find that having things is a responsbility and sometimes can be overwhelming.

We live in a relatively small home (1300 sq ft plus a 200 sq ft finished basement). It’s me, my husband and our 6 & 7 year olds. ‘Stuff’ is a constant problem for us. I clean out closets and drawers of clothes at least every three months (to make sure the kiddos have enough clothes for the season). Every other closet, cupboard and shelf gets cleaned out every six months to a year. Basically, that means that every weekend, I am tackling another area of the house.

I try to keep things tidy and in order but people are constantly giving ‘stuff’ to the kids and we are running out of places to put it away until they are willing to part with what they don’t need.

Anyone else feel like having ‘stuff’ is overwhelming? How do you deal with it?

One thing that really helped me - which is probably kind of impossible for kids - is a moratorium on gifts. I don’t give or get Christmas or birthday gifts. I spend loads of time with family and friends on my birthday and Christmas and after a year or so of people complaining about the lack of gifts, everyone got over it.

Now, I only have the stuff I want and no stuff that I have to store because it was a gift.

Obviously, there’s no moratorium on gifts for the kids, but maybe you and your husband can pare down your stuff by not getting gifts.

I remember when I was a kid, my mom made us give up toys as we acquired new ones (we had a 1000sqft home, no basement, same family size). Everyone we knew was sort of poor tho so we didn’t get too much new stuff. Maybe it’s time to teach the kids the value of giving?

One thing we do now with my niece and all of her stuff and my brother’s tiny house is that if we buy new stuff, it stays at our (me, the auntie and my mom, the grandma) houses. So the kid has something to play with at our house. We get the fun of shopping but no one’s house is overwhelmed by stuff. There is absolutely no more room in my bro’s house for more kid stuff, so our only choice is to keep the things we buy. Works great!

Of course, you have to get the stuff-givers on board with this :slight_smile: But, if they like your kids enough to give them presents then they must like the kids enough to invite them over from time to time!

I’ve winnowed my stuff down to just above the necessities. All the dust catchers? Gone. Something leaves the closet/dresser when something new goes in. When TheKid was little and people wanted to give her toys, I would ‘disappear’ older, unused toys from her room. If they were hand-me-down toys, some never even made it into the house - I would take them right to the used store/ charity shop. She still had way too many toys, in my opinion, and worked hard with her to give some up so she could have room to play versus being trapped by stuff.

I’m not saying my house is spotless- my front closet is stacked with random stuff that needs to go. I hate even thinking of opening up the door. Garage sale season is coming up and it will be cleaned out before then.

My gf has a huge house. I was living in a huge house. We each had lots of stuff. When I sold my house and moved in with her, we kept the cream of the crop. My bread-maker was nicer then hers, so hers was donated to a charity auction. We did this for TVs, DVD players, etc.

God, yes, I feel like I’m buried in a mountain of crap! I only started accumulating all this stuff when my husband and I got married and had kids. So it’s only recently that I’ve discovered the catharsis that is throwing things out and giving things away.

But what has really, really helped us is our son getting older. He’ll be turning 5 in May. In the past, if he’d been behaving nicely for a while, I’d capitulate easily to buying odds and ends for him. But this year I stopped. Unless it’s his birthday or Christmas, I won’t buy him something unless he’s worked to earn it. Earning it generally involves getting rid of old things and helping in major cleaning jobs. For example, he decided a couple of weeks ago that he wanted a new pirate sword and eye patch. The sword was $2 (party favor at Target), as was the eye patch. I decided that if he really wants it, he’ll have to work for it. So I explained to him that he’ll need at least $4 (I’ll cover the tax) for his purchase. He can earn it, but not just by doing stuff he’s required to do anyway.

Having him help out with the big stuff has helped us organize a couple of rooms in a way we never had before. Yesterday he earned a dollar (which is more than I’d generally pay, but it was a job that took a long time) by deciding which of his toys could go into storage, putting those away, deciding where the remaining ones will go and putting them away. He’s a huge pack rat, so it was hard for him. He really earned that dollar and the living room floor is now spotless. Today we’re tackling the kitchen floor and the dining table. The former is covered in crumbs and other stuff, so he’ll sweep it all up and mop it with my help. The dining table is covered in toys. He will be responsible for organizing them and putting them away. I think that’ll deserve a dollar, too. Tomorrow is cleaning out his vast library of books, which still includes baby books.

A good essay about stuff here.

I have had some conflict with my wife regarding accumulation of stuff. For example, she favors the use of the dining room table as a long-term storage area, and one of our unoccupied bedrooms has become a storage space for stuff that she wants to keep (the closet is packed full, and now things are stored in the bedroom itself as well). She doesn’t put much effort into organizing her stuff, which really exacerbates the clutter problem. I try to indulge her a bit, afterall nobody’s choices of what stuff to keep are entirely rational. Example, I have all of my class files from undergrad and grad school - a large and heavy box of notes, homework problems, and tests from 10-20 years ago - and although I can’t imagine ever having a use for it, and don’t browse it like I do old photos, I don’t want to throw it away, either. But I have convinced her to whittle her collection of stuff down just a bit, and she’s given me free reign to organize it all, provided I don’t discard anything without consulting her first.

I suppose our job is easier, since we don’t have kids. If you have kids, I think part of your job as parenting is to teach them how to manage their stuff, how to think carefully about which stuff is important to them to keep and which they can part with, and what level of personal organization and you would have them aspire to. As difficult as that can be, I would think that instilling them with the ability to manage their own stuff would make it easier for you to keep the rest of the house clutter free.

IMHO, a significant part of the battle against stuff is organization. our collection of stuff is organized into labeled boxes, and I’ve built and purchased a lot of shelf space to try to go vertical instead of spreading things out on the floor. Organization does a lot to help keep the house uncluttered.

We have a neighbor a few doors down who have so much shit in their garage that there’s no room in it for their cars; they park two of them in their driveway, and one in the street. Moreover, the two cars in the driveway are “stuff” as well: they’ve been parked for so long that their tires are almost completely flat. They only use the car that’s parked in the street. It seems they are losing their battle against stuff and pushing into hoarder territory. I often wonder what the inside of their house is like.

George Carlin on Stuff.

I get rid of stuff at every opportunity. Every time I move–about every 6 months–I pare down my belongings to what will fit into two car trips (I drive a large sedan, but it’s still just a sedan and not a pickup truck or van). Currently the stuff I own is an inflatable bed, bedding, quite a small computer desk, my computer, and computer chair. And clothes of course, plus a few books that I can’t part with. I don’t hang onto knick knacks or furniture (except the computer stuff and bed stuff) and I don’t like jewelry or unsolicited books, they go straight to goodwill if anyone is silly enough to give me such things. All of the cds and dvds I ever owned have been ripped onto my computer and the hardware disposed of.

This wouldn’t work if I had kids.

My books I manage with a spreadsheet. You’ll have to pry them out of my cold dead fingers …

Lots of junk in our house belongs to our kids, and as soon as they get houses it goes to them.
We also give away lots of stuff. Our old games went the the gifted children support group in our district, to keep up the tradition of a games night we seeded with our games. (My wife used to be a toy reviewer, and so got lots of games.) Puzzles I’m done with I put out in front of our house - since we live across the street from a school, they vanish fast. We’ve just discovered Freecycle, where we found someone to take an old couch.
However stuff is also good. I have so many random bits of hardware saved up that when the rod in my closet holding my clothes fell down, I was able to repair it without a single trip to the hardware store.

There is a book for everything.

That is a good essay, though I don’t agree with exempting books. A book is just a thing, exactly like all other things. They aren’t sacred to me. A book sitting there unread is exactly like a plate sitting there with no food on it. And just like other stuff, they require upkeep and storage and the like. Plus they are extremely expensive to buy and most people don’t have time to reread a thousand book collection all the time.

I think everyone exempts something. Usually, it is because of a hobby (like books and reading). My exception are wine glasses. I love wine and have glasses for each type of wine (and, yes, they taste different out of different glasses). I probably have 60 or so. I make sure I have ample storage place for them, though.

I’ve read that! It was pretty good.

Is it now part of your stuff?

Yes. It is with the rest of the stuff I store at the public library.

Sounds like the OP is on the right track with how often she gets rid of stuff, but not how much. Really make an effort with spring cleaning this year to get rid of lots of crap quantity wise. Stuff mentally weighs you down and is unnecessary; you’ll have more space and less dust if you do.

Get rid of clothes you haven’t worn in 3 years. If you lose all that weight you swear you will, you’ll want stuff that’s more in style anyways.

Don’t save a suit for your son to wear in 10 years that your husband outgrew; he’ll want something that’s the style then.

Don’t keep old ski gear. Just don’t.

Clothes (other than the kids’ clothes since we have to constantly get rid of whatever doesn’t fit) aren’t the problem. My husband and I share a 6 foot wide closet rod and we have room to grow. Nothing in there is older than a year (with the exception of formal wear and my funeral suit).

In fact (other than toys), we just don’t have a lot of stuff. All the people I know think we are insane for:

  1. Living in a house so small.
  2. Not having much stuff.

So, you say, what is the problem then? I am constantly worrying that even though we do not accumulate stuff:

  1. My house will still become too small for us and we will have to move.
  2. That I am somehow depriving my children for helping them keep their stuff in check.

I think it is mostly the vibes I am getting from everyone around me that are really worrying me. It’s especially hard when I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a large home, lots of stuff or both.

Sometimes when I am the only one with a particular mindset, I begin to think that maybe I am the one who is wrong here.

I would NOT worry about that at all. Prior to about 3, my son liked playing with sticks. That’s all - just sticks. I’d buy him toys, he’d shake them for maybe 3 minutes and promptly toss them on the floor, go find a stick and have a sword fight with a tree. When I think of all the cash I wasted on the crap I bought him (which is right now in the basement gathering dust until my daughter might want to play with it), it makes me a little sad. And I’m glad that I’m cutting that impulse off now, even though I should’ve done it earlier.

We actually have a pretty damn big house. It’s 3,300 square feet when you count in the finished basement, but we only use about 1,100 of it for living in. I frequently think that a smaller house would be prefereable since it’s a pain to clean and our stuff grows to fill the size of our house, making it that much more difficult to clean. And the stuff we have isn’t important stuff - most of it is crap. So, no, don’t worry that you’re depriving your kids or yourself. The only think you’re “missing” is crap.

Hey, don’t worry about the vibes from others. Your kids will be more prepared to part with stuff when they go to college, where you don’t have the space to have all your “stuff”. Sounds like you’re really doing a fine job overall - I mentioned clothes because while my family is very no nonsense when it comes to clutter we tend to accumulate clothes for some strange reason. We have the closet space for it but there’s not need for it. Clothes are also much more functional than most other “stuff” is, so its often swept to the wayside, so I figured I’d mention it.

Doesn’t sound like you have a problem to me at all :slight_smile:

I’m semi-obsessed with organizing and cleaning so I love this thread.

I’ll agree with others about if a new thing comes in for the kids, a thing goes out. It will teach them about choices, cleaning, organizing, charity and responsibility.

Don’t forget to go UP for storage. A lot of people don’t use their vertical space which is necessary in smallish places. Look into floating shelves to go on the wall if you’re not into bookcases or furniture shelving.

If you don’t mind shelving units you can make the kind you put together much prettier by painting them a shade that’s complementary to your decor. If you don’t want to paint the whole thing, only paint the back (obviously the side facing outward) that you nail onto the shelf. Or if you don’t want to paint, get a piece of fabric that you really like cut a few inches larger in each direction than the back piece on the shelves. Then just place the fabric on the back and wrap around the extra to the side that faces the wall. Staple gun it in place and you’ve made a big difference visually.