What Is the Difference between “Stuff” and “Junk”?

by | Jul 13, 2016 | Conscious Living | 0 comments

Loving Your Stuff and Releasing Your Junk

fotolia © Zarya Maxim

fotolia © Zarya Maxim

A woman brought a big box of Christmas ornaments down from the attic and was going through them with her teenage children.  One of them opened a small box that had an odd assortment of handmade and broken ornaments in it. “What’s all this junk?”  her son asked.  She picked up a clay ornament, crudely painted with a star on it, and tears came into her eyes. “This isn’t “junk”, it is “stuff”. “These are ornaments from your childhood and mine that we don’t put on the tree anymore, but I just love them too much to get rid of them.”

“Stuff” is anything and everything you either love or use all the time. It is most especially anything you treasure.

“Junk” is everything else, no matter how you happen to have acquired it.

Unless you are a born minimalist, you came into your acceptance of junk naturally.  The hoarding, yes hoarding, of junk is an American tradition. “I don’t need this now, but I may need it someday” was drilled into the minds and hearts of those who went through the Depression and found out what it was like to really do without many creature comforts. That “better not throw anything out” mentality has been passed down, generation by generation ever since.

Didn’t or doesn’t your Mother have a “junk” drawer in her kitchen filled with bits of string and foil and old plastic bags and disposable cutlery?  You used to think that was amusing.

Do you have a “junk” drawer in your kitchen?  Sure, but it is filled with things that you love and use, right? Things like corks from opened wine bottles and birthday candles and packs of matches from expensive restaurants and spare parts from gadgets you assembled almost correctly. (Do you know that your kids will also find that amusing?)  Is there something to be wary about in a society that passes down traditions like keeping a kitchen junk drawer?

All that junk, that you lack the courage, the ambition or frankly the talent to unload creatively is costing you because you are storing it, heating it, cooling it, insuring it, cleaning it and being accountable for it without even realizing where it came from and why it’s still there.  And far worse than that, it’s costing you your freedom, joy and growth.  As a friend of mine says, “Where are you going to put the new couch if your living room is already full?”

And you don’t only hoard physical junk.  Junk builds up in your body when your eating habits get out of balance. Example: You love Big Macs, even though you know they’re really major fat pills, and you treat yourself to a Big Mac at least once a week. Then you turn 40, life gets overwhelming and you elevate your intake to three or four Big Macs a week.  Even if you only gain 5 lbs a year, between the ages of 40 and 50, that adds up to 50 unwanted lbs.  Result of eating junk food – weight gain, discomfort, and maybe even poor health.

Note: If you don’t eat fast food like Big Macs, please substitute doughnuts, bagels, sugared soft drinks, cookies, Twinkies or any other fat pill of your personal choice. The result will be the same.

Junk builds up in your mind when you hold onto old hurts instead of choosing to release them. Example: When you were a child, your big sister Anne, a red head, tormented you at least once a day and then lied about it.  You’ve put Anne completely out of your life, but recently you met a girl named Anne, who also has red hair.  You’ve been dating her for three months and you really like her, but her name and red hair keep reminding you of your hateful sister and her abusive behaviors.  Finally, you tell the new Anne you just can’t see her anymore.  Result of mental junk – sadness, disappointment and never allowing yourself to achieve your dreams.

Junk builds up in your life experience because you’ve forgotten how to say “no”. Example:  Against your will but because no other Mother wanted the job, you agreed to be Home Room Mother for your child’s classroom.  It turned out to be bigger job than you thought it would be, and on top of everything else you are doing for other people, this volunteer job becomes your Achilles heel.  Result of junk in your schedule – exhaustion, guilt blame and shame, and missing out on the real fun in life.

So here’s the formula for getting rid of junk – all kinds of junk:

Let your feelings guide you.  Whenever you feel boxed in or weighed down for any reason, ask yourself right in that moment.  “Is what I am doing, looking at, eating or buying right now something that I either really love or will really use right now or in the very near future?”

If the answer is “NO!”, dump the junk and experience a whole new level of freedom you’ve never enjoyed before.


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