Considering The True Value Of Stuff (Clutter)

Strangely enough, the conversation about the true value of stuff started during a group call when a student asked, “What about all of these business cards?” Years ago, she had a job that allowed her to meet a great many people and accumulate a great many business cards. She didnít actually know any of them but she was resisting letting them go. She said, ďI feel like these are connections, potential connections, and while Iíve never used them, and I donít know what Iíd use them for, I canít seem to make myself put them in the recycling pile.Ē

Sometimes we cling to things that no longer serve us because we have a false understanding of their value.

If a business card is the only connection between you and another human being, itís probably not enough for you to call the pair of you connected. If that encounter didnít result in something more substantial than a business card exchange, these tokens are rarely worth keeping.

Again, this process is about releasing that which no longer serves us and a business card has a pretty specific range of possibility and it narrows with every day that passes without action. If youíre going to be in touch, get in touch. If youíre going to add someone (with permission) to your professional mailing list, add them. If you made a useful connection, do whatever youíre going to do with it. Add that person to your address book and let go of that piece of paper.

Remember, releasing a business card that doesnít actually have any value for you doesnít mean the other person is going to vanish from the face of the earth. It doesnít mean you didnít meet them. It doesnít even mean you didnít think they were cool, or nice, or pretty. Recycling that tiny piece of paper just means there is nothing else for you to do with the information. Again for clarity, it means it doesnít actually serve you anymore. Its value has declined over time to the point that the space it occupies is of more value than the business card. Let it go.
The same student had in her stacks of papers booklets, reports, and magazines from organizations that she supported with her time and money in the past. Again, she was stuck because they felt so valuable–the work that went into them, the trees that it took to make them, and the information. Oh yes, the information… Almost every paper stasher Iíve known, has a profound respect for knowledge. We actually want to know all of that stuff. We want to be inspired. We care what these organizations have to say. We strive to learn and grow, to improve ourselves. Itís all very noble but… there is only so much time and so much space and things start to pile up. Soon weíre stuck in the middle of piles of good intentions, too overwhelmed to be who the world needs us to be.

I asked if she knew what all of that stuff really is, and she guessed, ďTrash?Ē We laughed for a moment and then I explained that those things are actually marketing materials. Those companies and organizations donít send them to us for us, they send them to us for them. Marketing materials help them keep us connected.

Those things come so we will stay engaged in our relationship with them because when they need us–our money, time, or connections–it helps if we feel the hook. Look around, its working. Weíre hooked.

So, hereís the reality check: Any information worth knowing will be available on their website or by contacting them. Unless we need to take a specific action on anything in those stacks of papers–at which point, I wholeheartedly encourage you to take it out right now and do whatever you need to do with it–let them go. Yes, thank those kind marketing professionals for thinking of you, for sending you these high-quality nuggets of inspiration and knowledge, or updates about how they spent your money, and let them go.

Itís a false perception of the value of those papers that keeps us hanging on to them. The same goes for all of the other stuff that we cling to that no longer serves us.

Whether you’re in the SOBS program or releasing on your own, it’s important to consider the true value of these items instead of assuming that it’s valuable because it is pretty or costs money, or that it was loved by somebody else.

Instead of asking if you can use a vase, ask yourself if you will. Instead of remembering how much you paid for a dress, remember what it’s costing you energetically to remember your ex-husband every day when you go in your closet to get dressed. Yes, a recipe is valuable… if youíre going to cook that meal. Yes, an article about employing social media to market your business can be valuable but only if you can actually find it, read it, decide if it resonates for you, and if so implement it.

Does this item serve me more than the space it occupies would serve me? If not… release, release, release.

When we do, we create space for what is true and important in our lives. We can find what we need to thrive. We can treasure our most sacred possessions.† We can have room at our table to share a meal with friends and family. We can cultivate the space to care for ourselves well, to play, to create. We have room to love, to breathe, to dance. When we release what no longer serves us, we can at last… truly live.

YOU’RE INVITED: Registration is open for the March Sick of Being Stuck Intro course. If you can’t get this done on your own, come to class. It works. Visit for more information.


Paola Paniagua
Paola Paniagua5 years ago

Idea: all the magazines sent to you from non-profits can be donated to vet, doctor, dentist, ect. offices. :) Also, all the pamphlets and stuff I get I keep in folders neatly labeled and mounted on my wall so I can easily give information to any curious visitors! ^_^

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe5 years ago

I'm a paper clutter freak. I am afraid I will want to reread something that I forgot about and won't have it.

I'm also a clothes freak. I worked at a store where I got great discounts on clothes and I just hate to let them go.

I will work on getting rid of at least some of them!!

Carol B.
Carol B5 years ago

working on my clutter - slow but sure

Leslie Poe
Leslie Poe6 years ago

Great article! Thanks for the advice--I'm ready to start purging.

Linda H.
Linda h6 years ago

Jay W., I am in the same boat. I came to this city with a large purse and a medium dog 38 years ago I struggled for pennies for many years and raised a child on next to nothing and the thrift store. Now, many people would consider me well off. I filled my apartment with stuff I found in the street and refinished or fixed stuff up. One day I looked around and realized I could hardly move around and couldn't always find what I actually wanted or needed in the chaos. I also owned a vacation house that was totally filled with fabulous things and stuff I thought I might need again some day. Then came the rented storage rooms. But as I have learned the hard way, letting go of all this stuff let's new and much better stuff come into your life. You need to trust that you will never be poor again. When I finally got rid of a terribly dense last huge pile in my apartment this December I treated myself and my husband to a short fun cruise and took only a large purse for a week. Our son and his wife came along and we had the best time ever. When I came home I looked around and was totally happy. I have faith in you Jay. Truly rich people don't need much of anything.

Jay Williamson
Jay w6 years ago

at one time i had nothing and nowi have too much and cannot bring myself to part with it even tho i agree with everything in this article

Roxana Cortijo
Roxana Cortijo6 years ago

I used to download and print books and articles to read at home which now occupy a large portion of my bookcase, I guess it's time to say goodbye to them in order to release space. I'm starting this weekend. thanks.

s. ryan
p. q6 years ago

i'm not good at this.

Tracy G.
Tracy G6 years ago

Just what I needed to read today, as I sort thru boxes, preparing for our move! Thx!

Gloria H.
Gloria H6 years ago

solution could be biodegradable coffins made of business cards, library over due notices, etc...yes! You could take it with you (at least for a while).