I’m dyin’ over here.

Those of you who’ve been married might know what I’m talking about. I can barely see the floor of my condo because it’s covered with boxes. Sure these boxes are filled with gifts (and popcorn! AHHH I hate the popcorn! why do we need a box full of popcorn to send a simple cookie rack? I mean it’s about 1/10 the size of the box for crying out loud) but they’re really stressing me out!

I think I’ve said before that piles and clutter can cause stress, but this takes it to a whole new level. I mean, I’m working from home now and it’s something that is almost constantly on my mind. All this stuff sticks in the back of my mind as something I need to take care of. Thing is, I literally can’t. Not right now anyway. We simply don’t have room.

(Staci, if your reading this, stop now…)

I find it ironic that people give us gifts to “get us started in life.” We don’t need any of this junk. Plus, it’s going to force us to move to a bigger, more expensive house. Any of you ever hear the George Carlin bit “A Place For My Stuff”? Well, that’s me right now.

Because of all this stuff, I need to work harder, to make more money to buy a bigger house to put all this stuff. I can feel my blood pressure rise just thinking about it. People, take my advice, before you add stuff to your life, get rid of some other stuff. One can only take so much stuff. With stuff you need a place to put it, you need to feel like you’re doing something with it. This can be very, very anti “getting things done” and cause a tone of stress.

Now, to the dumpster.

20 Comments on Stuff = Stress

  1. Bruno says:

    Are you complaining about receiving gifts, or I misunderstood?

  2. Ryan says:

    I more than understand this. I’ve battled with a bad case of “Pack Ratitis” for a long time and am only now getting a handle on it. I’m only 28 but have just so much stuff. A ton of it was stuff I inherited from various people, and there are certainly a fear share of unwanted gifts as well.

    My main problem is just an almost irrational fear of being wasteful, though I’ve pretty much gotten rid of that now. It just seems like our society is so wasteful, and I did not want to be part of that. But clearly one can take this non-wasting mentality too far, and somewhere in the middle is the best place (as usual.)

    It is funny how something like a wedding can result in one getting so much unwanted stuff. Most people don’t have the self-realization you have to realize how all this stuff starts to own you, not the other way around, so they welcome all these gifts. I’ve gotten where I dread Christmas because I don’t like receiving unwanted gifts, and just as much I hate being forced to buy possibly unwanted gifts. I’ve become the master of the gift card. Sometimes even those can go unused (I have quite a stash myself at the moment.)

    Anyhow, I think the wise path is to only live with things you need and love, instead of trying to prop your life up with stuff. The American Dream is becoming more of a nightmare, without most people knowing it.

  3. Jeff says:

    I fully understand this as well.

    Luckily, it is in my nature to both a) resist and confront incoming items and b) show no mercy when it is purge time.

    It is often a VERY trying transition for a couple of differing mindsets. One wants to make “a home” and the other wants to have only what is reasonable and necessary. Buying a bigger house equates to the latter person losing the battle.

    The thing is, you’re responsible for it. Responsible for setting the tone of wedding gifts, etc. Any reasonable person can stomach and understand a nice letter explaining your desire to stick to the wedding registry or cash as gifts, due to limited living and storage space.

    Our immediate family draws names from a hat for Xmas. One present for your recipient, $50 max. If you go over $50, you are chastised. We started this when everyone in the family was over 25 or so.

    When my parents recently moved out of a BIG house into one 1/3rd the size, they were trying to hand off a good 60% of their stuff. I rejected thousands and thousands of dollars worth of stuff and took only things I absolutely had a use for.

    Gotta be vigilant.

  4. Dan Wolfgang says:

    My brother use to do seasonal work, so he always traveled light. In fact, his mantra was “if I haven’t used it in 6 months, I get rid of it.” There were certainly some exceptions to this rule, but I’ve started to take it under consideration. Stuff I haven’t unpacked in the two years I’ve lived in my current apartment has started going to the dumpster, Goodwill, or eBay.

  5. Jeff says:

    Dan, that is definitely one of the best ways to purge I have found :) Move and remove things from boxes only when you first need them. Just leave the boxes out for 3 months. After 3 months or so, you’ll have most of what you need. Then move the boxes out of the way, but accessible. After another 6 months, it will be very clear what’s not essential.

  6. BradFitz says:

    Sorry to hear you’re over-whelmed Keith, I know the feeling of having too much stuff around that you don’t really want or need. There is a definite stress level involved, especially if you’re on the anal-retentive side.

    One thing that helps me in this area is to look at it from another point of view… like *appreciating* having too much stuff. I’m fortunate and blessed to have the luxuries that I have. There are places in the world where people don’t have enough food to eat, or clothes to where, or pots to cook in. Yet we complain about having too much stuff.

    I bet there are some people in the south right now who lost everything in the hurricane who would kill to have this problem right now.

  7. Shannon says:

    Wait until Staci gets pregnant… But I admit gifts (giving and getting) are one of the best things in life.

  8. Keith says:

    BradFitz — Oh, I know, there are worse problems. One of my problems is how much a waste much of this stuff is. It makes it worse that I’ve got thousands of dollars of crap, if that makes any sense. Makes you really think about what you really need and whats really important.

    Shannon — I think we’ve got some time before I’ll be thinking about that! ;0)

  9. Britt says:

    I understand this issue. I have problems when we get box loads of stuff we don’t need at Christmas. My wife and I are good about passing it along to charities ASAP, but I also have trouble dealing with it at first.

    Having a child, we’ve also tried to minimize the toys that quickly accumalate. If our daughter doesn’t seem to be interested in a toy anymore, we store it somewhere out of site. If she doesn’t ask about it within a few weeks, we get rid of it.

    It’s amazing how much useless crap gets produced and also makes you realize what is really important–time, relaxation, family.

    I have friends who have asked people to donate money rather than buy gifts. That could be a good way to avoid this problem.

  10. I agree stuff definitely equals stress.

    Three years ago we were in the process of building our log home along the Tanana River in Alaska. In the process of attaining a construction loan the river jammed up with ice and flooded its banks destroying all our “stuff” that was stored on-site.

    However, when the house was finally built (and yes we built high) it only took us 20 minutes to move in. Do I miss all that stuff? Not really. The house is kid proof, easy to clean, no legacy junk you feel guilty about getting rid of.

    I don’t recommed throwing everything away, but Keith has a point here. Do we own stuff, or does the stuff own us?

  11. Matt says:

    I can help you get rid of the popcorn if you want!

  12. As Tyler Durden said in “Fight Club”:

    “The things you own end up owning you.”

    It’s definately true…

    Like you said, you need a bigger place, more debt, more things to repair, more clutter, more stress when you can’t find something amongst the clutter.

  13. inkling says:

    I agree with everything being said. Now how do I convince my wife to think the same way? About a year ago I proposed a rule that every time we buy or are given something we have to get rid of something else. She looked at me like I punched her in the gut! And she still gets nervous whenever I walk near her Boyd’s Bears collectibles…

    I do agree about stuff owning you. I have a friend with a boat, a dirt bike, an ATV, etc. Of course he never hangs out with us because he’s too busy tinkering with them in every free moment.

  14. Julie says:

    As the Buddha says… possessions cause pain.

  15. patRice says:

    Britt. Good idea re the kid’s toys. My friends have since day one involved their kids in this process (because the latter hated any of their stuff being thrown away). There is a fixed appointment every month when they all go through toys, drawings, etc. together & decide what will be thrown and/or given away. By now all threed daughters are pretty good at letting go of things!

    On the general subject: I am from Europe, but now living in Asia. Maybe I’ll soon have to move house, and it is mad to see just how much stuff I’ve accumulated over the past 24 months! (Thinking of all my possesions back “home”, in several storage places, makes me want to cry…)

    Anybody need anything? ;-)

  16. I just got married too and we’re still trying to dig out from under the stuff. We’re to the stage of needing to buy lots of storage stuff to put our new stuff in. It’s almost as bad as moving really; we’re reorganizing everything. Good luck & congrats.

  17. Phil Rodgers says:

    When we got married it took us two days to open all the gifts. The living area of our small apartment was knee deep in them. The very last ones we opened were from my parents’ neighbour. We took off the outer wrapping to find two boxes, a toaster and a kettle. We thought this was a slightly strange choice, as we already had both a kettle and a toaster, but after two days of gift-opening we were ready to quit, so we just put the boxes unopened in a cupboard. Later we wrote to thank her for them.

    Some months later, our toaster caught fire – quite dramatically, too, with flames leaping out. Fortunately a damp cloth put them out quickly enough, but the toaster was a write-off. We then remembered the toaster we’d received as a wedding gift, and got it out of the cupboard. However, on opening the box we found not the toaster we had expected, but six rather nice highball glasses. With something of a sinking feeling, we opened the kettle box as well. A fine glass jug. Rather a shame, then, that our thank you letter had mentioned a kettle and a toaster.

    The moral of the story: Open all the boxes!

  18. Elaine says:

    Yet another reason I’m glad I eloped 5 yrs ago. ;)

    I totally hear you about the peanuts, though. I finally broke down with my mother, whose every Xmas/bday gift box was half packing foams, and begged her to do something else. Last time, it was extra quilt batting, which made a great insta-pillow for the cats.

    and FYI, you can recycle the peanuts at any UPS store.

  19. I think the tradition probably started back when people were living with their parents until getting married, and didn’t have any of their own household items yet. Now that people live on their own for quite a while before getting married, it doesn’t really make as much sense.

    Anyway, didn’t you register for just the things you wanted? Did people get you stuff that you hadn’t registered for? I agree with Jeff’s idea of a polite request for only items on the registry or cash – I don’t think people would really like their gifts to go to waste, after all, and that would let them know ahead of time that they would if they got them for you.

  20. Alex says:

    Hey.. its nice to see soemone in the same boat as me. Funny thing is that I was reading the article thinking.. there was going to be some awesome resolution but alas I think you were just venting. I was married in June and still have closets and floor space covered with wedding gifts. Living in an apartment with the possibility of getting a house in a year or so.. has us rethinking the gifts we asked for. We will probably be heading over to Crate and Barrel soon enough and returning some of the gifts and saving the money for the “house fund”.

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