Passing Down Our Stuff

In History, organization, Thoughts, Uncategorized by Brenda3 Comments

At 58 years old, I’m facing a crisis that none of my ancestors had.  Too much stuff!  Ok, arguments can be made against that, but honestly, I plan to make a pretty good argument here myself.

From early American pioneers to today, we have watched the overall growth of the economy, lengthening of our lifespan, and a great increase in creature comforts, all leading to a pretty cushy life. I doubt any of you can argue with that.  So many, many things have changed in the last couple of centuries.  Technology has driven these changes to a breakneck speed.  It’s hard to keep up, but no matter our age, we seem to be interested in all that is new, as it shines and makes our life easier.  You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t have a computer of some kind and the internet, right?  We connect differently than at any time in history.  (Do you think they felt similar when the first mail route was established?  Or the first telephone system installed?)

Progress and change sometimes take us by surprise.  We don’t really plan for it.  It just finds us.  Next thing you know, our life is changed.  And sometimes, the need for making adjustments in our life because of “progress” just sneaks upon us.

Let’s start with photos.  I honestly don’t know what my great-great-grandparents look like.  Were cameras invented?  Well, I just looked it up and since they were invented in 1816, I think so.  But I don’t have tubs full of pictures of my great-great-grandparents.  I have a few of my grandparents (and maybe one of my great-grandparents) at selected years.  I have more of my parents, as my dad had a nice 35mm camera when they were dating and took quite a few slides!  There are many of me and my sister growing up, and I have a HUGE tub full of all of the pictures of my sons growing up, plus all of their school pictures, sports pictures, and the like.  Now.  Today we all have about 2.5 million digital pictures stored on jump drives, external hard drives, old computer hard drives, computers, smartphones, and clouds.  I have pictures of things I never would have dreamed I’d have pictures of.  (What to see a video of my inner guts?  I have a VCR tape of it when I had a laparoscopy!)  Home videos on VHS (now converted to DVDs), old super 8 reel to reel home movies for some of you, we have them all!  And where is it?  Stored somewhere in our homes.  Taking up space.  And I’m started to wonder if the next generation will ever dust them off to look at them.  We tried so hard to preserve their past for them, but darn it if they don’t just choose to live in the present.  So what do you think about that? Should we make provision for our offspring to be able to look back at our lives and those that came before us?  Is this time well spent?  I feel somehow we need to find a balance.

Now let’s think about STUFF.  Let’s start with children so it won’t hurt so much… TOYS.  Most families have more than one child.  The first child’s toys get used, then passed down to the next sibling.  How many toys do they need?  Well you know as well as I do that every occasion, kids get more and more toys, they have so many that the burden of picking up toys takes longer than actually playing with them.  They just keep piling up and piling up. Are we burdening our children with materialism?  And maybe setting them up for futures of too much organizing and storing?

Clothes.  Can you believe that people didn’t use to have closets in their bedrooms?  They just had a few hooks or pegs on the wall!  (Check this out when on vacation to the oldest American historical homes of the not-so-wealthy.) Their few clothes hung there.  And what happens today?  (Just go look in your closet and I’ll leave it at that.)  Shoes?  Do we even want to get started on shoes?  People used to own one pair and didn’t get another until they grew out of one pair or wore them out.  Wow. Let that sink in.

And the list goes on.  In our homes, we are enticed to own so many things I won’t go through them all in hopes you will continue reading and the end will be in sight.  (And many things are not even to use, but just to make things look pretty…and not just look pretty all the time, but maybe just for this season or that season.)  I’m starting to see why all of my closets are stuffed full but I can’t find what I need when I need it! And in my case, in particular, I enjoy so many different hobbies. And there is “stuff” that goes with each art I pursue.  (Let’s not examine that for now.)

As I feel pressure on my chest just as I’m listing these things I must press forward to observe.  I feel the meagerness of the pioneer days and the depression led people to embrace prosperity (for obvious reasons) when it came.  And a lack of having things helped people later to cherish things with a great sentiment (and possibly this stance led subsequent generations to today’s hoarding extremes in some cases). We may treasure great-grandma’s dish from so many years ago because that’s all we have of hers to remember her (and maybe one picture), but my great-grandchildren will have a houseful of stuff they can remember me by (and an iCloud full of pictures!).  Will they want them at all?  Too much, I’d guess.  And I think this helps describe why the generation below me seems to have lost the sentimentality that my generation and previous generations have embraced.  Things are no longer rare, so they have lost their meaning.  Maybe sentimentality was carried to the extreme.  It was almost felt to be a moral issue if you didn’t feel ‘close’ to ‘things’ from those you love. Thoughts???  I struggle with this as I feel I am living in between two generations that are opposites on this spectrum.

As I continue to observe, if we continue to pass along all of our pictures and stuff, people will be forced to build bigger homes and spend more of their time organizing ‘stuff.’  Is that what we want for the future?  Is that how we want to spend our time…spend our lives?  Food for thought.  Really think about it.

My own conclusions are bringing me to realize that IF no one younger than me cares about my stuff, it is totally mine to do with as I please.  But that deeply engrained sentimentality within me still makes it difficult to just “send to Goodwill” the clothes I saved from high school (over 40 years ago) and just pulled out of the cedar chest the other day. I at least want to share the memory with someone first while I can still tell a story or two about them.  And then I ask myself if I have room for this stuff, should I get rid of it?  If it’s still there when I’m gone, I won’t be there to tell stories about it anymore.

(As a side note, I have to mention that I now realize I posted two other blogs on this note.  Five years ago I posted Too Much Stuff, and over three years ago, Photos.  Check them out if interested. As you can tell, this comes to the forefront regularly!)  🙂

So anxious to hear your thoughts on this subject.  Thanks for reading!

(Next blog will bring you a peek at the many quarantine projects!)



  1. I have had many of these exact thoughts recently.

    Last year, we moved from our home of 25 years to our current, smaller home. It is cozy but crowded with many things I just ‘couldn’t get rid of!’ Through the process, I learned that only 1 of our 7 children, was slightly interested in retaining some of our memorabilia. All the toys I saved for years to be handed down to the next generation have been thrown away or given to this one child.

    A lit of the items I had in collections, were disposed of, given to friends or now sitting in boxes in our garage. My husband, who has 5 full tool boxes of tools he will never be able to use again, has most of our garage space taken up!

    As we continue to age, I have been trying to bring myself to go ahead and part with all the ‘useless stuff.’ (The process continues to be delayed. 🙁 )

    1. Author

      Diana, somehow we need to learn to think differently about our stuff. But it’s hard to do at this age!

  2. Just now going through this whole thing as we downsize(yet again!) I have to smile. We are struggling! I find that my husband’s stuff is so much easier to call junk and encourage getting rid of than my “good” stuff!! And soooo much stuff!! Our daughter doesn’t want it and probably no one in the younger generation does but we shall plug away, sorting, giving away, taking to Goodwill, and maybe we should just throw away?…

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