5 Signs That You Might Love Things More than People

Wait... what?  Love things more than people?  No way, Karen.  I love my family.  I love my friends.  My stuff is just stuff, and people are way more important.

Most of us would agree that people are more valuable than things.  People have emotions, they learn and grow and create.  People can love and support us, and offer us the chance to become more mature and selfless when we love and support them.

Our houses and cars are replaceable, but people aren't.  If everything burned up tomorrow, we'd just want to know our loved ones were safe.

But... we don't always act like this.  We say it, but we don't always live it

I hope you live as if you love people more than things.  That hasn't always been true for me.

shopping for more

5 ways your stuff is crowding out everything else

1.  You have a very long list of stuff you want to buy.

You live in a perfectly comfortable house, but you really want a new couch.  And maybe some new lamps and end tables too.  And your kitchen appliances aren't top of the line.  And your granite countertops scream 2010 – what's popular now?  And you really want to rip out the carpet and install hardwood floors.  And....

If Home and Garden Television and shelter magazines are your jones, you may spend a lot of time thinking about how you want to improve your home.  You may go deep into debt to do it.  You think decorating is just a hobby, but it dominates your thoughts.

Maybe you're not always thinking about what you want to buy for your house.  Maybe your long list includes lots of luxury goods, new tech, hobby supplies, sports equipment, even more accessories for your motorcycle, or something else.  Whatever it is, it demands your time, attention, and loyalty – and you give it.

2.  You have a very long list of things you want to do.

Yes, you probably need to work for a living.  When my husband Jon spends the fifth weekend in a row either taking care of maintenance at his parents' former home or grading papers and planning lessons, he always says, "It's my job.  You know that."

And I do know that.  I accept it.  But it's all too easy for us to focus on what's urgent instead of what's important.  We're all guilty from time to time of deprioritizing the little things that keep a relationship strong when we're worried about deadlines and responsibilities.

If my focus is mostly on what I want to achieve, the person in front of me may feel second-best.

3.  You show off your things.

We're all attention-seekers at some level.  But what do you use to get the attention you seek?

What do you post on social media?  Pictures of your new car, your engagement ring, your new Prada bag – or pictures of your spouse playing with your baby?  What do you talk about most with friends or colleagues?  The concert tickets you scored, the fancy hotel you stayed in on your most recent trip, the plans you have for your kitchen remodel – or how well your brother is recovering after his hospital stay?

Our priorities are revealed when we show off things more than relationships.

4.  You wonder what your children will say about you at your funeral.

Do you have "sayings" that you repeat?  My dad used to say, "If it only takes a minute, do it now."  As a kid, I hated that, but I live by it now.  My mom always said, "Don't just put it down – put it away."  I hated that too, but guess what?  Yeah, I live that way.

When I was teaching (1st and 2nd graders, my kids at home until they went to college, choral singers, or adult English-language learners), I always said, "No one, not even Albert Einstein, was born knowing everything."  My students probably got sick and tired of it, but I hope they remember it the next time they're nervous about trying or learning something new.

Here's what I don't want my grandsons to remember about me:

  • Grandma always said those three little words – "just a minute."
  • Grandma was always searching for something... on her phone.

And the real kicker:

  • Grandma's house was always neat and you could find what you wanted, but she was always saying, "Don't touch that.  Don't move that.  Be careful with that."

I say and do those things a lot, because my agenda, my questions, and my stuff are important to me.  Maybe too important.

5.  You have harmed or ruined relationships over things.

My family and I have a great time playing "Would You Rather...?"  It's a conversation game* where participants must choose between two scenarios and explain why.

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

If you apply this game to your relationships and your stuff, it clarifies your values.

For example, would you rather have your father's first edition Stephen King novels or a close relationship with your sibling?

You might not realize it, but this represents the kind of choices you're making as you declutter, downsize, or death clean.  It's important to ask yourself the question so you can imagine the results before making a decision you regret.

Many of us fear that decluttering will lead to regret.  We focus on what we're giving up, and worry that we'll discard something we might need or want later.  But sometimes keeping stuff causes the loss.  Keeping stuff we don't need can mean a loss of space, time, money, freedom, energy... or even relationships.  ("I had no idea that fight over Dad's books would create such bad feeling between us.  I wish I'd known I was choosing those books over my brother.")

Our choices and actions craft a message about our true values.  Are you happy with what your choices say about you?

Manage your things and love your people.

The problem with too many in our society is that we love our things and manage the people in our lives.  We figure out the logistics of our relationships, such as:

  • where the kids need to be when
  • how to squeeze in a dutiful phone call to Mom
  • whether we can fit in date night this week (or not)

We put our relationships (even our self-care) on to-do lists.

Don't be guilty of saying that people are more valuable than things while making choices that indicate something different.

Are you just starting your decluttering journey?  Do you feel like you need a cheat sheet?  I've written a pocket-size guide that breaks the project into manageable tasks.  Decluttering: The Simple Guide from A to Z delivers bite-size tips and tutorials to help you achieve the beautiful, spacious, uncluttered home you've been dreaming of.  It's small, it's short, and it's really affordable.  I hope you'll get a copy for yourself or a friend (the paperback is coming soon, too).


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