Family tree: the story behind our clutter 

Over the past 12 months or so we’ve donated, sold, given away and thrown out hundreds and hundreds of items.
Nothing was safe; clothes were culled, books were sacrificed, crockery ousted.

But why did we have all that stuff in the first place? Of course, society and consumerist tendencies have a lot to answer for but thinking more deeply about it, I believe the amount of items we had collected was a reflection of our earlier lives.

Neither Frank nor I grew up in wealthy households and items that were purchased were done so because they were needed and both our parents weren’t the type of people to throw items out.

Both our mothers are the ‘just in case’ types.

As an example, my mum was at our house when I decided to throw out our old toaster which had just about survived the renovation but had seen better days.

“Why don’t you keep it,’ said my mum when I told her I was getting rid of it.

When I asked her where I should keep it, she told me the cupboard under the stairs or “in a box”. When I asked her why, she said: “Just in case your new one stops working.”

Why the old one covered in dust with bits of plaster in it would work better than a new one is anyone’s guess but I think my mum’s logic is a reflection of her upbringing. She’s not a materialist person and doesn’t own lots of trinkets and doesn’t collect anything but, for her, having a spare toaster is about being prepared if the worst happens and secondly, not wasting money.

Frank’s mum is the same. Her house is bursting with ‘you never know when you’ll need it’ items. She would never throw away used wrapping paper if it can be used again.

The act of stockpiling items of dubious use was passed on to us and we collected items in the same way our parents had. Except, I’d argue that we took it further.

Not only did we keep ‘just in case’ items we also collected items that weren’t practical, but that we deemed – at the time – beautiful, whether that was trinkets or clothes.

The ‘beautiful’ items were just as much as security blanket as the ‘just in case’ items, believing that if we surrounded ourselves with lots of items we would be prepared for any situation; we could dress for any occasion, that we would have interesting things to talk about at any occasion, and that if people visited they would be suitably impressed.

Now that security blanket has been taken away, I realise that we’re no different without the security blankets; no better and no worse, no more or no less interesting.

But we’re freer.


PS I didn’t have a picture of the toaster but this is our old vacuum cleaner that we didn’t keep ‘just in case’! 




8 thoughts on “Family tree: the story behind our clutter 

  1. When we found ourselves in the Wales house without a toaster, we borrowed one from Mark’s mum. It has never been used, but her second husband, Keith, brought it with him when he moved in. Keith’s been dead 10 years, the toaster kept ‘just in case’. It’s not wide enough for the average bread slice, they must have upsized over the last 20 years, so it’s been superseded by one from the car boot sale. But the redundant specimen has been kept to go back to Mark’s mum, she’d hate her toaster to break and no longer be able to find her spare…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, just in case. I used to hang onto stuff too, just for that reason! You know…that bread machine and yogurt maker that hung around for four years “just in case” I might feel like doing it again. I don’t like making yogurt and if I make bread, I prefer to do it by hand, so finally, a month ago, I let them go. I read somewhere that if you can pick up an object at the thrift store for cheap, consider it your “storage fee”. It’s made life so much easier!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes! I noticed that I was becoming like this and the stuff really wasn’t getting used as it should have been. And so that’s how I started giving away shoes and clothes so they could be properly appreciated and used (my justification). It feels so much better to have that mindset rather than hoarding it all up.

    Liked by 1 person

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