What do we do with our stuff?

Losing a loved one is hard. Afterwards, the family must go through all their stuff. They choose whether to keep something or let it go. Where does the value of a material possession come from?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When I faced this issue, I realized that I have to distinguish an item’s unique connection to its owner in addition to utility.

UsefulNot Useful
The Value / Uniqueness Matrix

D: Generic Stuff that is not useful, like birdseed or towels: Ditch or donate.

C: Generic Stuff that is useful, like leftover food in the pantry: Keep it if I can, but these are replaceable.

B: Unique Stuff that is not useful, like some antique china: Important and valuable to someone else, so give it to that someone who will value it.

A: Unique Stuff is useful, like special mugs: Keep this and cherish the memories.

In both cases, anything with a unique connection to me could provide others with value. Whereas something generic could be useful or could not be. Maybe the true value in possessions comes not in its utility, but in its unique connection to the owner. This value comes from the sentiment and memories that the item provides.

Differentiating items into these buckets helps with moving on.

It also reverses the spotlight on ourselves. What would happen if we looked at our own material possessions with the same level of scrutiny? Because if I don’t, then eventually my loved ones will.

I accumulate stuff that is useful to me. I’m not worried about that.

But what stuff of mine is unique to me versus generic? I’ll think twice next time. I won’t overvalue those generic, replaceable things. Rather, I will protect only those unique items that will provide loved ones with more lasting sentimental, memorial value.