L.T. Force, Ph.D., Gerontologist
I. Stuff - NOUN
1: materials, supplies, or equipment used in various activities: such as
a. obsolete : military baggage
2: material to be manufactured, wrought, or used in construction
clear half-inch pine stuff
— Emily Holt
II. Stuff - VERB
stuffed; stuffing; stuffs
1 a: to fill by packing things in : CRAM
the boy stuffed his pockets with candy
b: to fill to satiety : SURFEIT
stuffed themselves with turkey
c: to prepare (meat or vegetables) by filling or lining with a stuffing
d: to fill (something, such as a cushion) with a soft material
e: to fill out the skin of (an animal) for mounting
2 a: to fill by intellectual effort
stuffing their heads with facts
b: to pack full of something immaterial
a book stuffed with information
As you can see - there are a number of definitions for the word: “Stuff”. Some forms of the word: “Stuff” are nouns and some are in the form of verbs. Regardless of the format….we all have "Stuff!" Some “Stuff” is psychological, as in: “Internal" in composition and some “Stuff” is “External" in composition. The “Internal Stuff” is housed and found within our emotions and our self-dialogue exchange. The “External Stuff” are the possessions we have acquired across our lifetime. The interesting thing is depending upon where you are in life….will dictate how you look at.... and interpret and interface with the: "variety of Stuff” that is in your life. The other interesting thing is, at times there appears to be an: “inverse relationship between the "Internal Stuff" and "External Stuff”, i.e., we seem to have an appreciation for the "External Stuff" in our life - when the "Internal Stuff" is smaller in size". And when the: "Internal Stuff" is larger in size - we have have little appreciation for the "External Stuff" that we have acquired and are in engaged with".
There also seems to be a relationship as to what stage of life you are in - as to how you interpret: “Internal or External Stuff”. It seems that early in one’s life, for example, young adults are in the "acquisition stage" where they acquiring resources, degrees, relationships, houses, jobs, and so forth. And then as we move into the later stages of life, for example, midlife and beyond…. it’s not a question of "acquiring" anymore.... but it’s a question of "minimizing" and "detaching". Years ago - we hosted a conference on midlife development. The keynote speaker was Judy Levinson the wife of Daniel Levinson. Daniel Levinson was a highly acclaimed researcher in the field of:: "Midlife Development" and he was the author of: “The Seasons of a Man’s Life”. He and his wife Judy - then began work on a second book titled: “The Season of a Woman’s Life”. Daniel Levinson passed away before the book was completed and Judy finish the book. We asked Judy to join us as our keynote speaker on: "midlife development". She was wonderful, she was engaging, knowledgeable, personable and very pleasant. At the conference we also arranged for two breakout sessions…. one was hosted by a Financial Planner on: "acquisition"…. and the other session was hosted by a Counselor focusing on: “minimizing and letting go". There were 120 people in attendance at the conference…. 20 of the people attended the Financial Planner's seminar and 100 people, standing room only, attended the breakout group regarding how to: "minimize" and "how to let go"…. "how to downsize". This wasn’t a surprise, because: "downsizing, minimizing and liquidating" are part of the developmental process that begins in the latter half of midlife development. It’s an interesting phenomena…. you spend half of your life acquiring and then you spend the second half of your life giving it away – letting it go....detaching from "Stuff".
I am a prime example of what I am talking about here. I’m in my 60s and as I look around my house, my office, my possessions.... I’ve come to the realization: "not only don’t I really need anything else,....anything more.... but as important, I don’t really need all of the things I have".
In fact, "I really need to make a deliberate attempt to remove things from my life…. remove possessions from my life…. clear things out". During the Covid quarantine, many of us had the opportunity to take a look at the living space we were actually living in. The Covid quarantine made us stay in place…and as a result.... developing a new appreciation and awareness "with and for" the things that we do….and for the things we have….and some of those things we no longer need... or they no longer add value to our life… beyond the role of clutter. Decluttering is not only in action.... a process....but it’s a mindset.
There is an: "Art to Minimizing". Some professionals have actually developed a whole focus on the: "strategy of decluttering". At the extreme end we have hoarders.... people who collect things and just never let anything go… you know the impact those actions and behaviors have on increasing anxiety….and the impact that it has on the individual and the family system. Hoarding Behavior is the extreme….collecting and surrounding yourself with "Stuff" - both "Internal Stuff" and "External Stuff" is an insidious process….and before you know it.... you’re surrounded by" things" (thoughts, feelings and possessions) that curtail your ability to have any type of freedom of space, time or thought.
From the "inside-out"….versus the "outside-in".…we all have Stuff!…. "Internal Stuff" and "External Stuff". Now the challenge, for all of us, is to find our personal connection and rhythm between our "Internal Stuff" and our "External Stuff". And the interesting thing.... if we don't find that connection....as my friend and colleague Vance Larson says:
“You don’t own that "Stuff"….that "Stuff" owns you!”.