Divesting of Stuff

PensWhere did I get so many pens? And hangers? And scraps of paper? And bottles of lotion? And shoes?

Why on earth have I kept this for so long?

As I make preparations for Italy (10 Days?!) I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff.

No, that isn’t euphemism for the emotional calisthenics my heart and mind have been running. I mean I’m divesting myself of my junk, by articles, my items, my possessions, my baggage, my crap.

I’m more annoyed that I have to deal with it than anything else. A rather large part of me wants to pack a small suitcase and simply walk away.

I have visions of that scene in “Waiting to Exhale” of piling all the stuff — but my stuff, not my cheating husband’s — into a giant heap and setting fire to it.

I’d confidently stride away looking fierce, snap my fingers and say “never again.”

Overdramatic? Maybe a touch, but that is how deep my desire to be rid of the things right now is. I’m getting rid of as much as I can for, in my mind, my time in Florence isn’t a little sojourn over to Europe. It isn’t even a year fellowship in my mind. In my preparations I am overhauling my life and my concept of “home.”

Florence is the first stop in what I hope to be a longterm nomadic life.

Tis a life that doesn’t need quite so many pens.


I’ve always had this “rainy day” mentality. Save things for when you will need them. Save them because they are too nice to use. Save them so they don’t go to waste…

Saving so long the act of saving becomes wasteful.

Rose Water Like this bottle of Rose Water pictured. I’ve had this bottle since I was 7. It was given to me for my birthday and so fearful of squandering it, I’ve never used it. Now it smells terrible.

For all the time that has passed, it has lost it’s purpose and value. So why keep it?

Oh, but have I toted it with me over countless moves. Holding on entirely too long. With this particular item there is a sentimental attachment to it, for the child I was and my home in DC, so it might make the cut — also for the sheer incredulity that I have kept it this long.

What of the other 100s and 1000s of pieces of detritus I have glommed onto my life?

I didn’t even remember that I had all of 2001 of “Time” in storage. And there I was contemplating if they were all worth keeping. Sure it is interesting for the fleeting moment of memory and “huh”… but past that?

Why are all the things worth holding on to?

There is the hope that one day they will prove useful. And I know that there have been times where an old shoebox, old holy jeans, cards, scraps of ribbon, piece of junk jewelry has in fact come in handy. How much more often have I just moved it from one place to another where it gathers no more use, no more joy, no more remembrance, no more care from it.

I just don’t want to feel like the thing — and the money I spent on it — was wasted.

I have yet to actually miss anything from the great purge of 2012. Same with those of 2010, 2008 and 2007. To say nothing of the 100s of times I have hacked through closet or drawer to get rid of this or that.

What value does it have if I don’t miss it when it is gone?

Perceived value

I want to feel like I got my full use out of the thing. I want my money’s worth. Barring that, I want my perceived value back for it.

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t work that way. Except for maybe art and true collectibles, things– all of our many things — lose their value as soon as they are purchased.

Time from store to home ticks off pennies and dollars, and the loss compounds as the item sits unused.

Someone once told me the only idea of economics I grasped: the value of a thing is the price someone is willing to pay for it.

A thing has no value sitting idle in our closets and cupboards. It is squandered there. To say nothing of the cupboard, table, closet, container that it is sitting in.

Piles of the Purge

So once free of the idea of need for it, why expend yet more energy kavetching on the best way to sell to get top dollar for the thing? Time = money right? Spending that time is just more lost value on the thing that is already — realistically — invaluable.

Donate it, sell it quickly at a low price, free-cycle it, whatever! Just suck it up, realize that we’re not going to get what we paid for it and instead get what someone else is willing to pay for it and be done with it.

Hopefully the process will force us to be more choice in our purchases in the future.

I’m giving myself this little pep talk daily if not hourly: Whatever value the thing had was in its purposefulness and need fulfilled. Use it up. Or if it’s usefulness is done, it is time to be rid of it.

The more stuff we have, the less we use.

Or in my case: “if you’re not willing to take it to the other side of the world, time to say goodbye.”

It might not feel as good as watching it all burn as I stride away with my little suitcase but it feels good.

Be one with your stuff. And may we…

Always Be IN,

Jo Signature



  1. It can be really tough. I have a house full of stuff to get rid of. The dollar signs dancing in my head every time I look at them.

    A lot of times we don’t want to deal with “baggage” so we just keep on sweeping it aside saying “oh, i’ll deal with it another time”…a lot of times that time never comes. For me, I just need to find the willpower to stop procrastinating and start pitching, donating or selling. I’m going to start when I’m back from Seattle in a couple weeks by identifying one item or category of items (old school papers for example) to pitch, ditch or donate each day.

    Seriously, I have a pile of old Amazon boxes, neatly stacked mind you, in my basement…do I really need dozens of them…I mean…really?

    • Thanks for adding your voice Ryan! I have so been there with the stack of boxes.
      Breaking it down into categories is a great idea. You’re right about the “some days” but also I think we don’t even know where to begin. I’ve been tackling one area a day (today is the bathroom) but you can start even smaller with a drawer or cabinet. The important thing is that you’re not just moving stuff from one corner to the other. Diving deep into the mix, stacking and sorting, helps me see past those dollar signs and look at the messy pile of stuff I just don’t use.

  2. Holy moly I love this post and it seriously just inspired me to clean some crap out pronto! I do major purges every now and then, but as much as I throw out some things and have a garage sale or two, I predominately just reorganize all this STUFF that I don’t really need. I have many a time wondered “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHO NEEDS THIS MANY PENS?” Yet, I dread the day that I actually have to go buy a pen because I threw a bunch out. I guess somewhere inside of me I think, “If I hold onto all these pens I’ll never have to buy a pen for the rest of my life!” Win! Right?

    Yet, I lose because I am surrounded by relatively worthless things that stress me out because bookcases and closets are packed with crap. This post really hit a soft spot for me and I wish I had a move across the world to force me to really purge, but I will try and live vicariously through you and imagine what I would actually need if I was also moving across the globe. Chances are I won’t need most of these things.

    With all that being said… WHOA! You are leaving in just a few days. I hope you have the time of your life (I know you will) and enjoy every second of it (duh – that’s what you do). I’m so glad I met you and I look forward to reading all about your next chapter and your new adventures. Have fun lady!! BeeGee Crew for life! 🙂

    • Glad it spoke to you Dani! I totally share the “I hold onto it because I don’t want to buy it” mentality but part of what I realized is that I usually go out and buy it anyway — looking at you stack of greeting cards and wrapping paper in the corner — because 9 times out of 10 I don’t have what suits my particular need at the time. Despite the jars and drawers of pens how often have I reached for one and not found a working one…
      Purge away my friend, happy to provide any inspiration and support to do so. I know you’re on a shopping sabbatical but one method that also worked for me was for the last yearish telling myself I had to get rid of 5 things for every 1 new thing I bought. Especially staying genera specific (clothes or shoes or books) it made me more choice about purchases as well as helped me do little clean-outs. But there is nothing like wholesale going through a closet or cabinet with the added benefit that by the time you get to the back where the least-used lurks you are so sick of everything and the process you want to get rid of it all!
      Good luck! And thank you for all your kind words and support. I hope we’ll share some beers in Florence before the year is through!

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