An Embarrassment of Stuff by
(129 Stories)

Prompted By Stuff

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My parents, good children of the Great Depression, were frugal.  We didn’t have much stuff and what we did have didn’t go to waste, be it food or clothes.  They never bought on credit, and shopped for things that would last.  We didn’t eat extravagantly, but were never hungry. They saved.  Education was valued about material possessions, and my mother’s salary was put aside so we could go to college. We moved every few years, and she used that opportunity to regularly pare down what we carried with us.

Another friend had a bumper sticker—“Live simply that others may simply live”—that still seems like good advice.

I assumed we had modest lives. And yet, when the family traveled and lived overseas, I realized just how abundant they were, to the point of embarrassment. Since then, I haven’t sought to accumulate, but find I am still embarrassed by all that, somehow, I nonetheless have.

Of course, moving when I was in college and in my twenties was simple—a few boxes in a car, books and clothes.  Later there were second-hand furniture and house plants, and more books and bookcases.  And then I acquired a house and it filled up with housewares and tzotchkes from travels.  A piano, music, drawings and paintings. Picture albums. Pet supplies.  Sports equipment. Hardware and paints.  Boxes of old taxes. T-shirts and hats. I’m now in my fourth house, and each move has just highlighted how much stuff has piled up and I have been unable to leave behind.

I have a friend a bit older than me who ran away in the fifties to become a beatnik.  She said that her ideal room would be completely empty.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but it makes more sense each year.  Another friend had a bumper sticker—“Live simply that others may simply live”—that still seems like good advice.

All this inadvertent surfeit of stuff means figuring out how to share it or pass it on without putting it in the landfill. Will I ever use those skis?  No, and probably no one else would either. Hard to move books—fortunately we still have a wonderful second-hand bookstore in town where I can donate them. Yard sales, thrift stores, willing friends and relatives, the Re-store—all possibilities.  In the meantime, I cling to those things that hold memories, even if they will have no home when I am gone–and by now there are so many memories.

It also reminds me to stop accumulating more stuff.

Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry

Characterizations: funny, moving, well written


  1. The donation and collection and recycling of clothes and shoes and such has proven to be a big boon for me.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    You make such an important point in your opening, Khati – even though your family lived simply here in the US, it was eye-opening to see how that compared to the countries where you lived in subsequently. Those were important lessons.

    And even moving and de-cluttering as often as you have, it is still difficult to give up beloved books and other memories. I agree. Yes, it is good to pass those items along to others who can use them (though my grown children haven’t parted with their textbooks which are now hopelessly out of date). I still live in a large house, but know when the time comes, I will give away my books to those who can use them. I cleaned out an old closet before my ankle surgery and just gave those clothes away yesterday (many were about 30 years old, but in good shape, and good labels; my cleaning lady will take them to her church). I spent two days last winter de-cluttering my office. We do what we can.

  3. Jim Willis says:

    Stuff: A perennial problem for all of us for which we try hard not to notice we are not noticing it as it rises to the ceiling. Why can’t I just donate Grandpa’s Masonic Sword to the high school drama department?

  4. As much as I advocate purging unneeded and unused stuff Khati, things that bring good memories are keepers!

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    I’m with you, Khati. As a sentimental saver, I find it hard to let go of things, even if they are no longer useful.

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