Does Stuff Make You Less Lonely?

I have a confession.

Decluttering makes me feel lonely.

Even when I want to downsize extra stuff, it’s hard. I find myself putting dusty keepsakes back into the same boxes where they have lived for years and walking around in an emotional funk for the rest of the week.

But recently I’ve been forced to reexamine those feelings.  Our family is going to be moving out of state after spending over a decade living in a sprawling house on rural acreage. Moving everything I’ve accumulated is a logistical impossibility.

Stuff has to go. Lots of stuff.

In finally working through my feelings around letting go of things, I’ve come to 3 realizations that have helped me to feel less lonely in downsizing.

If you also struggle with sentimental attachments to outdated belongings, I think they will help you too.

Realization #1: Stuff Functions Differently in My World Than in My Grandparents’ World

I was raised to value keepsakes. My grandmother kept and filed every letter written to her by loved ones during her entire life. My mother saved all of my art and schoolwork from preschool through high school.

Doing the same thing makes me feel like I’m connected to my family heritage, not only through the specific items I save, but through the process of saving them itself.

Except it doesn’t work for me.

Sure, I enjoy going through those old mementos once in a while—at least when they are stored in someone else’s attic. But the truth is, trying to hold onto that much stuff in my own space overwhelms me.

The realization that has helped me is that I can honor my family’s intent while changing the way I implement it.

My grandparents wanted to create a connection to family. So do I. But in the span of a few decades, the best way to do that has changed dramatically.

Think about this. Your great grandparents may have only had a few pictures taken of them during their entire lives. Film and camera equipment were once expensive and hard to come by, so photos were carefully saved.

Today you could take hundreds of pictures in a single hour with the phone in your back pocket. The challenge isn’t obtaining a keepsake photo, it’s figuring out what to do with thousands of them.

Your great grandmother, like mine, may have carefully kept a box of letters from loved ones. Those written communications were valuable because they were rare.

Today most of us delete more written communication from our devices in a single morning than our ancestors could have collected in a year.

Having a few special keepsakes can make life feel more connected and fulfilling. But when keepsakes multiply faster than time to enjoy the relationships and experiences they represent, having stuff becomes overwhelming and exhausting.

Families used to not have many pictures. Now they don’t have much time together.

What could you use more of?

Realization #2: You Can’t Forget What You Have Become

Read the rest of my guest post at nosidebar here.

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