Does Your ‘Stuff’ Have a Hold On You?

Did you read the last post about our custom-built dream home? Be sure to read that one – it helped many readers take a step back and objectively question what’s most important in their lives.

The one thing I didn’t mention in that post, though, was about all the “stuff” we accumulated in the gigantic basement of that dream house. When you have the space, it’s easy to fill it. So that’s what we did.

The stuff I had been storing in my grandma’s basement for years naturally ended up in our new house. And Bill’s parents were delighted to give him back all of his childhood things in various boxes since we had the new space. No problem, though. We shoved it all downstairs where we never saw it and didn’t even give it a second thought.

But, when we sold our big house and downsized into a townhome, we had no storage. What to do? We knew we weren’t emotionally ready to deal with all the boxes, and we reluctantly paid for a large storage locker at a nearby facility. Once we moved in to our new townhome, the plan was to slowly go through the locker and sell, toss, or donate most of everything. And of course keep a few things we couldn’t part with.

Can you say “overwhelming”?

Here’s an excerpt from a popular article I wrote several years ago – about my own personal journey – which was published in various magazines titled “I Am Free.” See if you find any similarities in your own story.

* * * * *

“I Am Free” by Michelle Stimpson, 2005

I did it. It’s done. I can finally move forward. I am free.

Over the last year, I have slowly tackled my past. I had intense counseling, important conversations with loved ones, powerful coaching, and I did some deep reflecting and journaling. But what put the icing on the cake was dealing with the last of the physical clutter and “stuff” that had been like a dark cloud looming over my head for years.

I saved everything from high school and college; I didn’t really have a home-base during many of those years, so everything went into a box. The boxes were filled with letters, cards, papers, notebooks, and all kinds of correspondence from a variety of sources and people. These papers and ‘things’ had been unknowingly holding me back from moving forward in my life.

So my boxes of stuff moved with me from place to place. Some of them were even musty and moldy from being stored in various basements. Too much energy was spent hauling them around and worrying about them. There wasn’t really even much “life” to these boxes…it was just stale energy. But, after dealing with several major life transitions, I was finally ready to confront the boxes head-on.

Because there were thousands upon thousands of things to look at and go through, I was totally overwhelmed. Then I listened to my gut and began to realize that I didn’t need or want to go through everything. After all, if these boxes had been lost or destroyed, I wouldn’t have even known the difference! Can you believe that when the storage manager showed us their great sprinkler system in case of fire, she told us that most people say they wouldn’t mind if the place burned down and their stuff was destroyed?

That spoke volumes to me.

So I glazed through the contents at a pace that felt comfortable. There were select things that I gave special attention to and set aside; some things made me laugh, some things left me disgusted, and other things brought me tremendous joy. Some things I didn’t remember and had no idea where they came from. Much of it all went right in the trash pile.

Before dumping a lot of this stuff, though, I felt a need to put together a general “summary” of my past. It was important to me to make note of certain things and either reflect on them some more, take a picture to hold onto, or share them with Bill or other loved family member or friend. I did some intense journaling of what I learned while sifting through my past, which felt good.

After the exhausting task of finishing up the boxes and getting things ready for our symbolic drive to the local dump, I was compelled to share my story with some of the key people in my life. So, I called my mom. I shared a journal entry with my grandma that I wrote about her in college. I wrote out a card to my Aunt and Godmother, Jane. I sent notes to my friends. I set aside a stack of campus memories for my dearly loved college roommate, Jill, and me to laugh through together. 

And, I pulled out a few things that I really wanted to share with Bill who knows me so intimately. I wanted him to know me even more, and I’m glad I made it a priority. We sat by the fire and talked about all of my findings and learnings, and he so eagerly and patiently listened to my stories. He was so interested and was so fully present. I felt important, I felt valued, I felt like I counted. I set aside a pile of things to show him which included a childhood locket with my hamster’s picture, a eulogy I wrote when a dear friend died, a family tree project, a speech I wrote in high school, and a touching letter from my grandpa.

It felt great to formally come to terms with my past. This was way bigger than just throwing away a bunch of boxes. It was so much more than that. It was about me recognizing my past, embracing it, loving it, and being done with it.

I can’t believe how much lighter I feel. 

Working on my boxes came at a point when I was ready, and I couldn’t have done it one moment earlier. And getting rid of the clutter in my life that has held me back for so long is certainly an ongoing process.

But in letting go of all of it, I am now able to fully focus on the things that matter most to me. I am truly at peace and living the life that is right for me. I now have the “space” in my life to be me and to move forward – both literally and figuratively. 

When you’re ready, you’re ready. And the universe opens up to you in a whole new way with a set of special messages just for you. Yesterday morning, a dear friend sent along a quote by Sandra Sharpe that she probably had no idea I was waiting for.  It reads: “What do you pack to pursue a dream and what do you leave behind?”

* * * * *

What do you think?

I decided to publish this article on the blog because so many of my clients talk about how clutter has impacted their lives. There seems to be a strong relationship between our “stuff” and our “selves”. Often times, it’s difficult to move forward in life until you’ve dealt with your stuff – both physically and emotionally. And of course, that’s where I come in as a Coach. :)

If you could use some objective professional support in clearing out and paving the way, I hope you’ll check out LifeShine!

Lightening your load frees you up to be able to fully embrace the things in life that bring you joy. I can’t think of a better time to start than now. Why wait?

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8 Responses to “Does Your ‘Stuff’ Have a Hold On You?”

  • Robyn Froemming says:

    Thanks for sharing this Michelle! It’s so important to clean out all of our clutter, both physical and emotional!! I’m amazed at how easy it is to accumulate both and something I’m continually working on. Blessings

  • Barb says:

    Had to smile all the way through your article! I’ve had similar experiences myself. After major life transitions, the process of discarding [at least for me] is an on-going one that continually lessens my “past burden” and thus enables me to move forward with lighter and lighter steps! I am actually at the point now where I welcome and celebrate each new box that gets sorted, pitched, etc. Imagine that?

    Additionally, since I had been taught to revere antiques, family china and silver I didn’t associate those things with the idea of burdens – although I have learned in the last 12 years that they are, frequently, if not burdens, then barriers to some types of forward movement. It’s all in the lessons, isn’t it?

    Thanks for bringing your clarity to this topic!

  • Marilyn says:

    Wonderful! So nice to read this story again. Loved the comment from the storage manager. And I fully believe that there is a time when one is ready!

  • @ Robyn: Hi! Yes, it is sooo easy to let that stuff build up. It seems to be an ongoing process to keep it handled and organized! Thank you for reading, for sharing it on FB, and for your never-ending support.

    @ Barb: Isn’t it fun to be able to “celebrate” getting rid of stuff? I love it and it feels so good! What you said about how we are taught to revere china, silver, antiques, etc. is so powerful. I never thought of it like that. I remember when Bill and I registered for our wedding and all the etiquette books told us we were supposed to register for china. It was so freeing when we realized we have no intention of ever using china! But I swear, we almost caved and registered for it. Yep, live and learn – it’s all in the lessons. Thank you for sharing your journey here.

    @ Marilyn: I’m remembering back to when you and I did our workshop together and how powerful the whole thing was about focusing on what’s most important…and getting rid of the rest (whether it was “stuff,” old beliefs, habits that no longer help, etc.). And we all become ready at different times. YOU have taught me that everyone is comfortable with a different amount of “things” around them, and I always keep that in mind! Bill and I both like to keep it simple, so it feels good to continue clearing out.

  • Wonderful message here Michelle.

    You’re right! Stuff is just stuff; we are the ones who assign meaning to it. But the true meaning is with the people we associate these things with in the first place.

    I’m learning to let go of things, but hold on tight to relationships and life experiences.

    Thanks for sharing your article.


  • Char says:

    I have been thinking of just this subject these last couple of weeks!
    Clearing out our “stuff” has been on my mind! I have been extremely stressed these last few weeks and was thinking that we should clear out and set up for freeing ourselves to be able to do more of what we may want to do! It is overwhelming to first think about, but after reading your blog it showed the way to start the process! Thank you!
    Not sure how long it will take me, but your comment of if the boxes were destroyed you wouldn’t have known the difference is great food for thought!!!

  • Lance says:

    I’ve spent several moments over the last couple of months going through all of the physical “stuff” we have accumulated over the years. And…then I let it go.

    It has all felt so good.

    There’s more to it, though. In this whole process, I’ve also just felt a “letting go” from within, too. So, in the process of letting go of some of the physical things which no longer served me, it has also helped me to let go of some of the internal things I’ve been holding onto. And that, again, has felt so, so good…

    For me, this is a continuing process (both for the external and the internal), and it’s one that I very much embrace today…

  • @ Alex: Thank you. I love that idea of how we “assign meaning” to our stuff. That is precisely what keeps us hanging on to things! Cheers to holding on to those relationships and life experiences. Amen! Appreciate your comment. :)

    @ Char: That’s great that you’ve been thinking about this! And you are so right that it can be overwhelming to even begin thinking about clearing out the clutter. But I swear, once you dive in and start…you want to keep going because it feels so good to move things out. I’ll be thinking of you as you get the important process started. Let me know how it goes! Keep thinking of the ‘end in mind’ and how good it will feel when you’re done.

    @ Lance: Isn’t it amazing how hanging on to the “stuff” is so closely related to the internal things we’ve clung to? Absolutely fascinating. And yes, it’s definitely a continual process. In fact, Bill and I do a run-through of our entire house a couple times a year! Kudos to you for doing the work these past months. Happy to know that it’s felt so good!

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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

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