The thing about stuff


I’m at my Mum’s place today helping her go through her place to start packing up for their move to the Highlands in late January. They get the keys to their place tomorrow and can slowly move stuff down there so we start the fun task of going through cupboards, giving stuff away, chucking stuff away and deciding what stuff to keep.

After my big clean up earlier this year, it seems I am a little ruthless when it comes to this process. I may have been a little harsh as I went through the back of her cupboards saying “if you haven’t looked at this stuff for 10 years then we should just donate it”. Apparently not.

It’s funny our attachments to things isn’t it? Collections of stuff that remind us of times in our lives, places we have been, things given to us. I remember when I did that kitchen clean up that most of the stuff at the back was in the exact same position as it was in when we moved in 5 years ago. I either forgot that it was there, or that I had it, or just don’t use it. It was liberating to clear away things sentimental or otherwise that I just don’t use, without a care for a maybe one day I’ll need it…

So I’m being harsh. Mum is getting ย a little cranky at me, but we did get 3 boxes of stuff to Vinnies and a plan of attack for other sections that need doing. I reckon a move is a clean start, a fresh way to use the things you actually need, and let go of the things that you don’t. That said last week when I helped my little sister move into their newer and much crappier and cheaper rental that they have had to move into to try and save money in this mad Sydney housing market, it was all their stuff that made their place look so lovely, so like home. Without that stuff, it was just a crappy rental. Now it’s their home.

The same went with my Dad and step mum who have just been through the process of selling her Mum’s place as she has moved into a nursing home. YEARS of memories thrown away, given away with just a few items left to keep as momentos. A whole life whittled down to a few things…

I know I still have too much stuff in our place. I could go through cupboards and donate a whole heap of stuff, and I will continue to try and do a good clean up every 6-12 months, and for every thing that comes in, something should go out, but it all makes a house a home right?

What’s your relationship with stuff?
Had a good clean up lately?
Moved house and wished you’d culled more at the time?
If you had to keep just a a handful of things from your home, what would they be?


  1. Two words Marie Kondo. Keeping stuff that sparks joy, is a game changer.

    • I just read this too, Beth – very good!!

    • I’m on the waiting list from the library…soon. But in the meantime I’ve managed to get rid of a giant trash bag full of stuff, and two big boxes to my sister for a garage sale, an extra stick vacuum to friend, and I gave a candelabra, an ancient silver plated tea set and a shopping bag of old doilies to a friend who is starting a tea party business. Yay. Still more to go, but it’s dwindling.

    • Oh I have heard of that – might get it for Mum!

  2. I’m very much a sentimental hoarder – especially when it comes to the kids! Hubby is far less hoardy than me unless it is something computer related, and then we don’t seem to be able to have too much of it! My Mum is quite ‘meh’ about stuff and insists I get my hoarding trait from my Dad, but I am one of those people who gets shitty with mess really quick and that motivates me to go through all our crap at least every 3 months and do a clean out…but anything related to the kid lets get stashed away once more because I just can’t let go ?

  3. As a Defence child and then Defence wife I can tell you that I ruthless clean-up is in order! Before every move we would have a massive clean up and then as you are unpacking if you can’t find a spot for it or can’t understand why you packed it – give it away!

    If you haven’t unpacked a box since the last move just give it away too, I don’t even repack that shit. I find it unusual when people stay in one spot a long time and even weirder when they have entire cupboards of things they don’t use. If my husband rings and asks for something I can direct him to it right down to which section of the drawer or the shelf it is on.

    We are ex-Defence now and I still get itchy feet. 6 moves in 7 years and although we settled on this house January this year I can’t help but look online at what else is out there…maybe I need help?

    • Ex-Defence and expat here. 16 moves in 20 years on three different continents and like you I am a ruthless chucker! I completely agree with the “if you haven’t unpacked the box since the last move, just give it away” method. We have been in our current house for three years now (a long time for us) and like you I find myself getting itchy feet at the 2 year mark!

    • Oh I hear you Kylie – as a RAAF brat and with countless moves under my belt – I am a ruthless clean up/non clutter gal. As a family we lived in RAAF housing all our life and moved every 2 years so I don’t have the stuff of a more ‘settled’ life.

      It’s quite liberating although it has caused angst with the hubstar when I accidentally recycled his ‘blanky’ from childhood which had lots of patches sewn on (woops!).

    • Great tips!

  4. My mum was a massive hoarder and while I LOVE having my ‘stuff’ I’m ruthless in a lean up.
    When in doubt, chuck it OUT – that’s my motto.

  5. When we moved from the coast to Canberra, we left a heap of “stuff” in our enormous shed. Eighteen months ago. It’s still there and we want to sell the coast house, so we went down there this week to clean it up. So. Much. Crap! It’s going to take a lot longer than a day to sort that shit out! We don’t need most of it (been happily living without it) and if I had my way it would all just get chucked in a huge skip bin!

  6. There have been some terrible fires here in SA in the last couple of days, a lot of people lost their homes which makes you think about the stuff that really matters. My ‘stuff’ motto for a long time has been – “if my house burnt down, would I use some of the insurance money to replace this item?” If not then it’s pretty safe for it to go. And if it’s a sentimental item, would a photo of it suffice? x

  7. I experience moments where I get hell bent on cleaning up and chucking out. I’m ruthless! Except for a few key items. Probably the most random of which is the t-shirt I was wearing the night I met my husband some 11 years ago. It (now) looks like it would barely fit over my boobs! He keeps begging me to wear it…

  8. Oh man, when we bought our house last year we decided we’d spend a week painting the whole house internally (we couldn’t move without painting as the internal colors were a mishmash of horrible!). No worries I thought! I thought I’d spend every night packing. Ha! Little did I know how exhausting painting and cleaning would be and how we’d be up early every morning and coming home at 8pm every day. Needless to say moving day saw me throwing stuff into bags and boxes. Fast forward to months later and I had to sort through stuff to create a nursery. It felt good and I will NEVER leave packing a house til the last minute again. (Next time we need to paint I’m also going to pay someone!)

  9. Declutter every 6 months here and then abide by a 6 and 6 rule –

    1. Have I used it in the last 6 months?
    2. Am I likely to use it in the next 6 months?

    Answer no to one – goes into a maybe throw out pile, with some further thought as to whether to keep it. Answer no to both and it immediately gets chucked.

    Before re did our latest reno’s I did a massive chuck out. We used to have a spare room that doubled as a junk room, now both spare bedrooms have an actual purpose, so no junk room, which = no more unnecessary junk! It’s such a great feeling.

  10. I try to do a good clean out every 6 to 12 months as well. Each time I get a little braver and donate more. I’ve still got heaps of stuff I need to get the courage up to donate/toss

  11. Friday night and I’m reading your blog whilst sitting in a camp chair, in my living room, surrounded by boxes upon boxes of ‘stuff’. Movers arrive Monday morning to take our belongings and put them into storage for the next two months. Sitting on top of a pile of items yet to be packed is an old wooden coat hook which reads – The most important things in life aren’t things!

  12. Good timing for your post. My parents have just listed the family home which they’ve lived in for 35 years. I love a good clean out and will help Mum with the packing and moving as they are down sizing to a two bedder. I need to be respectful and mindful about how I help her with what stays and what goes.

  13. Being an expat and moving every few years we just don’t get the opportunity to accumulate too much stuff – our life fits into a 20ft container. Sounds a bit sad really, but I love it. Enjoy all the memories with the treasures you find at your mums ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I come from a family who express love with stuff. So sadly there is too much stuff and not enough hugs! My parents have just moved house and are starting to shed some of their stuff thankfully!! I’d love to get rid of things. As bub is growing bigger I’m blissfully passing on a lot. Woohoo!! Less totally is more.

  15. I love stuff beth! … my studio is full of it!
    it might come in handy to make something with it or display it in foofing the house! … props!
    love it! … but I love minimalism too! … i’m a pisces I’ve got two sides to me!
    so I like to express them!
    be kind to your mother, she will have many memories with her stuff!
    in the end it is her decision! … i’m her friend on the same timeline!
    much love m:)X
    btw I love that basket of stuff right there!

  16. I think that I really need to do a big cull. I think we get attached to silly items and we pop them in cupboards never to look at them/use them for years and years…if they are important in our day to day life, why are we hanging on? Well, in saying that, I’ll still be holding onto my Great Grandmother’s fur that I wore on my wedding day, and my Nan’s Glomesh purses that she passed onto me when she moved into the retirement resort.

  17. Marie Kondo fan here. Even just googling her way to fold is a game changer. The book is an easy read, she is so polite and humble, and it just makes SENSE! Must-read. Don’t go for the short version study guides, get the real thing. Best $30 I spent in a long time.

  18. I’m in the process of packing up to move so lots has gone – rubbish, op-shop, sold, friends. Probably still have too much. I burnt a whole heap of paperwork – old birthday cards, old invites and receipts – that sort of thing.

  19. Oh my goodness, those houses! Did they end up in the Keep, Donate or Throw pile?
    I am obsessed with little houses lately.

    • They were definitely in the keep pile…my Mum had a huge collection of little houses from all around the world. Harper unpacked them and made a little village!

  20. I love having big clean outs and, having moved a fair bit in the last few years, now feel like I’m not carrying too much extra stuff. However, there’s always things that can be moved on. I’m a bit devo that TuShare just shut down – that was a fabulous service where you could give away your stuff for free to someone who really wanted it. In lieu of that I currently have a boot full of bags that are marked for Vinnies.

  21. I go through phases. At the moment with a small-ish house and two kids, I want to get rid of all our stuff. I am tired of wanting more space…when I know we really only need more space because of the stuff. When I get in the mood, I am pretty ruthless. Just this weekend I did a big pre-Christmas clothes, books, and toys clean out and donation drop.

    My parents are selling their house and next time I go home will be the last time I go to what I know as their house…it will be hard to help them sort through everything and plan for their downsize.

  22. Stuff. A major confrontation had with ours this year, as we moved our family of 5 overseas to live. What comes? What goes? We’re now setting up in our new home and I’m not about to start gathering a whole lot of new stuff.
    I think when you do have something come into your home be comfortable with passing it on, whether it’s a child’s toy or a novel. These items are so easy to squirrel away, but really, like the past generations of resourseful women we should pass items onto others, with good grace, and hold onto special momentoes that tell a story or serve us well.
    Good luck to your Mum with her move Beth. It’s never easy, but she must be looking forward to new adventures ๐Ÿ™‚
    Liz xxx

  23. Fashionista says

    Stuff is tough. And DAILY I struggle with the amount we have in our house. Earlier this year we recarpeted the house which was like moving but not actually going anywhere. Everything had to come out and was put in the al fresco or on tiled surfaces (the bathrooms were like a tetris box). My thought was “oh my lord, all this is NOT going back into the house”. The system I used was:
    Have I used it in the last year? yes = keep
    No = am I likely to use it? yes = keep. If no, who gave it to me? Are they dead? (don’t laugh, wait til you have old aunts who give hideous gifts and expect them on display when they visit!)
    Do I like it? yes = keep no = ditch (and why did I have it anyway???)
    The result was car loads of donations to the Salvos and bins overflowing with discarded art projects (the children are 20 & 17, they had almost zero sentimentality) and general crap.
    It was freeing. And the new carpet is luscious.

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