Stuff x Emotions ~ A guest post by Andréia

It seems funny to talk about emotions and feelings when talking about inanimate objects that can be replaced, but we place emotion and feelings on stuff all the time. It can be good or it can be really bad.

If you have a loving memory attached to a few chosen mementos in a little cardboard box or on a shelf, well cared for and displayed in your home it is all good and fun, because those things take you to a good place and make you feel good every time you look at them.

On the other hand, we, as human beings, tend to hold on to suffering and pain as well. Not only in thought but in objects that bring us sadness like 

  • …an unwanted gift from someone who we know doesn’t really like us that we feel obliged to keep which is constant source of irritation.
  • …a piece of jewellery from a broken romance or marriage.
  • …something from a passed loved one that brings feeling of the sadness of loss.

We keep some stuff around out of guilt or obligation (because it was a “gift”) Out of anger ~ yes, even the most sane of us sometimes keep stuff to remind us to keep on disliking someone else!.  Out of remembrance even though it causes us pain. Out of fear that we might need it someday. And sometimes we don’t even know why we keep it. And many other reasons.

So, what to do? Well: get rid of it! Donate it, pass it on to someone else who might appreciate it. Or even trash it, burn it if you have strong need of a good purge. But get it away from you and your home along with the grief. In the case of a reminder of a passed loved one, learn to associate the object with happy memories of that person instead of the grief of losing them. 

I am saying this because our homes are our sanctuaries and should be treated as such.

Sanctuary, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is a “Refuge or safety from pursuit, persecution, or other danger”. We seek in our homes a place to be safe, to take a much needed break from the world outside. It is our refuge, our little piece of haven in this earth (or it should be it). Some of the readers even decluttered their tvs in order to have a more restful and calm environment at home. So, if we consider our homes our sanctuaries, why would we keep something attached with negative feelings for us in it? There is no logic in this choice and it can cause a deep hurt along the way.

So, if you have any object/stuff that brings out in you feelings of anger, angst, hate, deep hurt, unhappiness or anything really negative, think really hard if you should keep it, and consider getting rid of it as soon as possible, or better still now. 😀  That is especially true for things that came from people we don’t really care about or like.

So, do you have any objects that are bringing you hurt instead of being useful or reminding you of something good? Share your thoughts.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something that has been sitting in a storage area for quite sometime but still isn’t being used.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

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Continue reading with these posts:

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  • Share the joy while you declutter About a month back Michaela, in response to the post Memeories Are Not Stuff,  left this comment... "This week I sold one of my American Girl dolls. My grandmother had bought her for me, […]
  • Dithering? ~ By Peggy W I have dithered many times in my decluttering journey, unable to make a decision about my stuff.  Two of the “ditherees” left my house this morning because I needed soft fillers to […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Andreia, I like your post. It is so true. We do let feelings dictate what we have too often. We even do this with things we feel good about. I have a friend and an aunt who both have boxes and boxes of things that someone in the family had and that reminds them of that family member. I have told both of them that if these items are packed away and they never look at them why are they hanging on to them? I told them they need to take a pciture of the items, put the pictures in a small album with some journaling about each item and then declutter the items. They can’t be reminding them of the person if they never see them. I really think they have guilt about giving anything away that was from family and that’s why they hang on to it all. We need to stop having guilt over giving away items.

    • Hi Deb J! I totally agree with you! Guilt can be the keeper of many objects in our lives that otherwise would have gone their merry, or not so merry way, long ago. I wrote this post after a particularly stressful moment with my husband over an object he didn’t care much about and I hated, which made ma burn it. After that I felt peaceful. Inspired by that I think we should put objects in the object category and not in the place of a human being or even a beloved pet.

      • Isn’t it interesting how we can have something we absolutely hate and it still be in our house? I’m glad you both decided to get rid of it.

  2. Good post Andreia – yes our home should be our refuge, so it makes no sense to have something that irritates us or brings our mood down.

    • Hi Moni! Just seeing something that annoys you in your very house is a source of grief. In many places we have boundaries we have to respect because of others (you can’t dispose of irritating stuff at work; we keep that noisy annoying toy because our child loves it), but we can not keep stuff we dislike just because of someone who is not even there. So I go with the moto: get rid of it!

  3. Andreia, good post! I have gotten rid of quite a few things in recent years that fit in this category. One of the most unlikely was a scrapbook made by a distant family member of her wedding. We attended but it was an very unpleasant weekend due to the bride. Not an occasion I wish to remember. It seemed wrong to throw out photos and somebody’s work but after doing it I have had no regret. She was so rude to us (and always has been) I have no idea why she made us a scrapbook!
    I also gave away some good china lately that just reminded me of broken promises. I don’t need to think of that every time I open my cupboards! I never used it and don’t miss it for a minute. It sounds kind of vengeful but really with limited space and resources it really only is smart to keep what you love and use.

  4. Surround yourself with the things you love and when those things stop feeding your soul then it is time to “weed” them out, let them go and start the circle again with the things that currently bring you joy and fit who you are in the present time.
    I have no problem getting rid of anything that is associated with a bad memory or person that is no longer part of my life, valuable or not. The negative energy, or as a good friend mine calls it, bad juju, that emits from those types of items is reason enough to rid yourself of them.

    • Lovely words Kimberley, very appropriate . I am presently looking at updating my kitchen and your words have given me that much needed boost to make it happen.

      • Wendy,
        As you declutter and update your kitchen, I assume that you will be removing everything from the cupboards and drawers. This is a great time to go through everything, item by item. Also remember that anything that is chipped or broken, no matter how valuable, should be tossed without a second thought. Broken anything in the home is a terrible message to send yourself. Better off doing without. When we moved to the islands 15 years ago, I decided to get rid of much of my “mainland” stuff and infuse the aloha and island spirit with furnishings, chatchke’s and clothing in my new home. I have never looked back. I had loved, used and enjoyed most of it for over two decades. I got my monies worth and then some. It felt so freeing to let it all go and embrace the new life we were about to begin. Go for it. And, don’t hesitate. If your gut feeling is “toss/giveaway”, get it out of your home.

    • Excellent way to put it, Kimberley, especially since I am an avid gardener. 😉 It feels great to weed out the old and make room for the new or just to enjoy the open space. When I do occasionally add to the home, I really consider if the item is going to make my life better. If the answer is no, it doesn’t come in.

  5. Well said Andréia! Guilt is a terrible thing and can overwhelm us, especially when family is concerned. It is almost as if an item given by a family member , must remain in the family forever. If the item belonged to great Aunty Beryl , then all hell will break loose if you happen to sell or give it to someone not associated to the family. It reminds me of those silly chain letters we used to receive. Don’t break the chain or bad luck will come your way!
    I think I have managed to remove any items with “obligation” attached to them. If I give it away I make sure that the recipient feels no obligation to ‘hold onto it”
    Recently I gave away my much loved house magazines, I almost said to the young architecture student ” if you tire of them , I will take them back” but thankfully I didn’t. Once they were in the box and in my car I thought I don’t want to do this again !
    I have experienced my husbands emotional attachment to items. It can be a sticking point in the process of decluttering. A fortnight ago he proceeded to attempt to clean up the back yard. We have two box trailers. One is full of broken concrete and the other is full of rust. The rusty one he had hoped to repair at some time. In the end he cut it up planned to get the scrap merchants to take it away. I put pictures of the pieces of cut up trailer on Gumtree and sold it for $40. It has taken years for my husband to do something about the trailer and a week to get rid of it.

  6. What a great and motivating website this is, and the posts have kept me going.

    While we hang onto things that remind us of others, I also have a tendency to keep most emails from my boys (and close family members) who have left home now, because I feel the emails keep me close to them.

    Do others do that or has anyone found a way to either keep them in a different way, or do you just delete them and keep the memories in your mind only?

    Just wondering.

    Thank you

  7. Katherine,
    Think of your e-mails or text messages like the artwork, homework, projects and reports your children would bring home from school.
    Save a few that bring you joy, let the rest of them go. And, if you never go back and re-read them, then ask yourself why you are keeping them in the first place. Sometimes, I even print out a few that are inspirational and short in length, cut them out and pin them on an inspiration bulletin board above my desk. I just did that last night with one my sister sent. She ended her e-mail with one sentence (that I printed and cut out) that said, “I am so glad you are my sister”! Brought tears to my eyes.
    By the way, I have had a bulletin board above my desk since I started school too many decades ago. It is always evolving, always changing, always being updated. It is a great place to pin the things that give you positive energy. No to-do lists, etc. are ever on this board.

    • Yes I can totally relate to this one.
      I used to experience violence and gifts were common after the fact. Part of the process of clearing those memories was to purge every single object associated with that time. The objects contained potent memory.
      It was liberating to do that and I realise now a lot of the clutter I had amassed was through pain and fear. Through being unhappy at that time. A kind of weird nesting instinct set in I guess.
      Emotion can really reflect itself in how we surround ourselves so part of decluttering and creating a sanctuary is getting to the source of that too.

      • Sarah, I just read your comment and you have my deepest sympathies for what you may have experienced. It is so freeing to let go of the toxic objects in our lives before they take hold and poison our hearts.

      • Hi Sarah! Thankfully I have never experienced what you went through, but you did very well in getting rid of all the toxic objects. The objects that we surround ourselves must be useful or bring happy memories. If they remind us of anything bad, they must be gone. Good luck and happy decluttering!

      • Sarah,
        I agree with Jean and feel much empathy for what you may have gone through. I have always preached that no matter how valuable, if an item represents a time in your life that evokes sadness, it must go.
        I remember reading in several books that this is especially important if you begin a romantic relationship or marriage. You should always move to a home that neither one of you has ever lived in. Old places hold old memories, both positive and negative. Likewise for any items or furniture that were shared in other romantic relationships, especially the bed. It makes complete sense to me. Subconsciously, we always remember what the item represents to us.

  8. My sister and I were talking about friends and cousins a little while ago and how painful it was to realize that our emotional attachment to people we cared about (and the gifts and artwork they gave) were so much more meaningful to us than it was to them. Maybe we just love more deeply, because of our own broken family, I don’t know.
    People have the right to move on but sometimes we just wish they would have acknowledged the bond we had. I had an absolute best friend years ago who had been my everything from age nine through age fourteen. She stopped responding to my letters when I was going through a very rough emotional time and then sent one last “chain letter” and stopped all contact. I kept the many letters and drawings she sent over the years until I was 29 and was only able to release them just a few years ago. Obviously she had moved on but I had not and it was beautifully liberating to sever those ties with the past. I will never know why she decided to let go of our relationship, perhaps she felt it wasn’t serving her, although I had also stuck with her through rough times. Now it’s not my problem anymore and I am my own person with my own life anyway. Those letters and drawings had a place in this life once, but no longer.

  9. I agree -talking about emotions re inanmate objects is “funny”, but we do mix it all up. After all, the object cannot know what memories are associated with it, cannot love us back, cannot know it is special/collectable/expensive. What “funny”creatures we are