Dog Stuff vs Human Stuff

Less time for visiting my friends online. Less time for having fun. Less time for playing with my dog.

All because I have too much stuff to get rid of before I sell my house.

How much better off would I be if I just had dog stuff and not so much human stuff?

Human stuff vs dog stuff illustrated.

My Dog Loves Her Stuff

My dog Honey is no minimalist. She loves going to her toy basket and picking out just the right thing to play with.

She has balls, bones, and squeakies.

But if I threw out every dog toy tomorrow, Honey would still be happy.

Honey the golden retriever enjoys her stick.

Yummy, it tastes so stick-y.

She’d make her own toys, for one thing. Every stick, pine cone, and pile of snow makes her as happy as the most expensive dog toy available.

And her favorite toy of all is a rather cute, 51-year-old man with light freckles and a weird sense of humor. He does take up some room. But he’s also easy to move for dusting and vacuuming.

Honey the golden retriever with Mike at Ithaca Falls.

Well this isn’t a fun game. Let’s play tug.

Going Through Stuff

By modern standards, my house is small. So we’re clearing out rooms to make them look more roomy to potential buyers. And I’m sorting through everything. It’s amazing how many categories of stuff we have.

Paperwork – In the attic I found old tax records, research notes from an academic article I published in the 1990s, and evidence of old legal squabbles. Reviewing our files brought back painful memories that were still less distressing than tearing up thousands of page before tossing them into recycling bins.

Too ugly to give away – We work hard to keep things out of the landfill. Between composting and recycling, we only put garbage out every other month or less. But we also pile up stuff that’s not good enough to donate, not recyclable, and yet have not yet figured out how to repurpose it.

I have a pile of hideous pillows and a torn pair of jeans that might make a good dog toy. If I could only find some time.

Gifts – I had one family member who was an avid gift giver. While she was alive, I kept a box in the closet labeled “donate” to catch her gifts within minutes after we received them.

Stuff I love but can’t keep – My sister bought me a paper lamp shaped like a puppy. I smile every time I turn it on.

And it goes so well with the other puppy-theme objects in my office.

Puppy collage.

Just a small peak at my collection of puppy objets d’art.

Useful, but rarely – The wooden tool that pushes dough into my tassie pans is useful–the once every year or two that I decide to bake pecan tartlets for Christmas.

And I love homemade ice cream. But how often do I make it?

I could go on but I’m depressing myself. And every second I spent writing is time I could spend listing stuff on Craigslist or tossing it into the recycling bin.

Brass door knob and metal grate architectural items.

I picked these architectural items out of a Philadelphia dumpster. I just love them. But they need a new home.

Thinking About Stuff Like A Dog

The biggest thing I’ve learned about stuff over the years is that it’s not about the stuff. It’s about the meaning we give the stuff.

To a human, an old resume isn’t a piece of paper with words on it. It’s proof of our success and failure. An art kit is an aspiration to creativity. And sentimental objects are reminders of people we’ve loved.

But dogs collect moments instead of stuff.

Dogs are fully alive in everything they do. They don’t need reminders of the past or objects to make them better in the future. They’re just fine they way they are.

And they carry their memories in their hearts.

When a dog reunites with someone she loves, she brings all the love from the past of the relationship into the present in an explosion of joy. And she doesn’t need a yearbook, photo album, or tchotchkes to do it.

Instead of feeling sad about going through my stuff, I’m going to tell myself that with every item I get rid of I’m becoming more like my dog.

And if I come even close to being like Honey, I’ll count it as a big success.

Honey the Golden Retriever smiles.

Aww, thanks.

Your Turn: What do you think your dog would teach you about your stuff?

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  1. When I moved into my place I decided I was going to have less ‘stuff’ and go for the fun minimal look that I so love. It hasn’t fully happened yet, in fact the only was I have achieved minimal is by keeping a lot of things in boxes, which is such a waste. I will find time to go through them, I will!!

    • Students in my first home buyer’s classes often tell me they want to buy a house so they have more room for their stuff. I don’t have the heart to tell them that their stuff will expand to fill their new homes.

      So you’re not alone. :)

  2. Margaret T says:

    I need to keep this up on my computer where I’ll see it all day, and be inspired to go get more stuff gonegonegone.

  3. Mom went through a lot of my stuff while stuck in the house during the blizzard. Needless to say we found a lot of old toys that she put away for a “rainy” day. New or old its just stuff and I would be happy regardless! Have a great weekend!

  4. Well said. Good luck cleaning out your house and selling it. I go though my house every now and then and purge so I don’t have to have a big project if anything ever happens. I do have a ton of dog stuff with all the training for hunting I do.

    • It’s true that any serious hobby brings its own level of stuff. Sounds like it’s good you keep everything else purged.

  5. Harvey has no desire for any stuff – but, if I were to take a leaf out of Willow’s book it would all get chewed into tiny pieces, slobbered on, rolled in and taken into the garden for burying – I’m kinda liking her style 😉

    Good luck with the house sale!

  6. “If you can’t eat it, lay on it, or throw it around, it’s not much use.”

  7. Loved this article! We’ve been making moves in this same direction, although we aren’t attempting to sell/move anytime soon- it’s just nice not having all that STUFF. The dogs have way more ‘stuff’ than me finally, which I’m counting as an accomplishment, but we always have room for improvement. Right now, I’m trying out the idea of putting things I think I don’t want/need away for 3-6 months- if I haven’t needed them in that time then they’re gonners!

    • I also saw a suggestion to turn all the hangers in your closet backwards. When you wear something, turn the hanger forward. After six months or so you’ll see what clothing you actually wear.

      If you run out of stuff to organize/get rid of, feel free to visit. :)

  8. Great post!
    I too need to get rid of stuff…my office is supposed to be for bills and my craft hobbies…but while I am working on getting my Bach. degree I just don’t have time between, dogs, homework, housework, and sleep! Even in the summer I can’t quite catch up. I have a jewelry kit (I was into jewelry making for a while) full of half started and carefully bagged items that I want to put together, I have a sewing machine pilled up with things needing repairing, a box of fabric with ideas for making doggie jackets etc, and I don’t even want to mention that wedding album I never started! Of course it is sitting nicely in a box with album paper, pictures, stickers, special pens….maybe I should just hire it out..
    SOMEDAY I’LL GET TO IT…Maybe…hopefully.
    Oh and did I mention the stack of wooden crates ready for me to make cutsey signs out of? Ya, about that…
    Thanks pinterest.
    Way to much stuff!

  9. Hey Honey!
    Make sure your mom enters you into our treat giveaway for a $25 gift certificate to the Paw Street Barkery, they have all natural, organic, treats! It’s a cutest begging face contest!

  10. I had so much stuff before I moved to my current house. Just…stuff. Stuff I didn’t even remember getting! I did a major clean through and got rid of 60% of what I owned. Now I just have a lot (and I do mean a lot!) of books and the dogs’ stuff, lol!

    • Books used to be my serious failing. But then someone invented the internet. Now I only own books I’ll read again and again.

      If you’ve kept your stuff pared down since your big move, I’m really impressed. So many people fall back into bad habits.

  11. Your point is so good about our dogs’ “stuff” and how they don’t have emotional ties to it. Good luck with your project. It cannot be easy.

  12. I have a lot of stuff to be honest. Mom has stuff too, but we aren’t pack rats, so our stuff has been kept to a nice minimum and moving also helps slim down the collections.

  13. Yep…stuff. You don’t realize all the stuff you have until you have to get rid of it.

  14. I don’t get attached to a lot of stuff. I actually enjoy the yearly or twice yearly purges I do. I feel like I can breathe easier without all the clutter.

  15. Such good advice! Barley is actually very into some of her stuff. She has her favorite toys, the ones she knows by name and can pick out of a pile on command–and no stick or pinecone could ever replace them. But her favorite stuff could all fit in a bag while mine does a pretty good job of filling an entire apartment, so I should definitely take a page out of her book, too.

  16. I’ve been working on clearing our house out, for no other reason then we have a lot of stuff. I’m finding the same issues that you have. My rule of thumb is if it hasn’t been used over a year, get rid of it. If it doesn’t have an animal on it, get rid of it. It’s actually been working. 😉

    Monty and Harlow

  17. And then there’s all the “digital stuff”…it takes up less space but still requires some purging, sorting, maintaining and backing-up. I guess the digital stuff takes up mostly time instead of physical space. Have fun going through all those memories as you sort through things there at home.

  18. WHY DON’T I LIVE CLOSER. I would rescue some of your stuff and offer it a loving, forever home…like that grate piece. LOL.

    I’m trying to embrace a life with less stuff, largely unsuccessfully. I think Felix is egging me on though. That boy is a HOARDER.

  19. Doodle Dad and I were having the very same convo last week. We keep EVERYTHING. I am trying to slowly purge, giveaway, donate and trash those things that we’ve walked past for years and never touched. Went in the attic the other day, and that was like a party. We were able to condense a great deal. We too are finding that it doesn’t take much to survive day to day. Keep going – be my inspiration LOL