The meaning of stuff

5 min readAug 10
Chain link fence with taped sign “FREE” and arrow, boxes of junk below
Image by MoneyforCoffee from Pixabay

I have too much of it … and it has a hold on me

As we transition to retirement, my husband and I agree that we need to downsize. Get rid of stuff, stop buying stuff, pare down our belongings to the point where we can fit comfortably into a smaller single story “forever” home where we can age in place.

This is proving to be harder than we anticipated.

Much harder.

We have spent a lifetime learning from our parents, children of the Great Depression, who have far more money than they’ll ever spend and still search out bargains and do without. They are what the accountants call “net savers” — in their 80s and 90s, they spend less every month than they see in income from pensions, interest and dividends. Physical limitations restrict their activities, and they need very little “stuff” to facilitate day to day living.

Our visits now often include being on the receiving end of hand-me-downs, frequently with an accompanying story of the item’s provenance and intrinsic value. We bring these treasures home, shake our heads, and insist that we won’t be like that.

And yet, here I stand in front of a box labelled “sewing”. It’s full of odd buttons; bias binding; rickrack; underwires; zippers; fabric scraps; specialty needles and pins; and innumerable other bits and pieces that MIGHT BE USEFUL some day for a mending or needlework project. It sits in the cupboard beside a box marked “patterns and new fabric”. And mending aside, I haven’t done any substantial sewing in the last decade (unless you count a brief burst of fabric mask-making during the pandemic).

Sepia toned image of antique car in a garage full of old tools and parts
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

My husband’s workshop reflects the same mindset. Boxes, bags and miscellaneous containers are bursting with parts, fixtures, nails and screws, bolts and brackets, hinges and other things that you probably need a Y chromosome to identify. Four socket sets. A plastic bin full of telecommunications wires, splitters and connectors for systems no longer in use in these wireless days. But they MIGHT BE USEFUL some day.

A lot of this is the result of inheritance. When an elderly uncle died, his tools came to us…


Recreational writer, collector of antique corkscrews, urban gardener and management consultant to social profit organizations. Proudly Canadian.