Why Do We Accumulate Stuff?

With 18 years experience in watching how people react to death and the division of personal property, I have an interesting theory.  Down deep, I believe we are all connected not only to one another, but to our ancestors through our DNA.  If the cavemen did not gather (collect or accumulate) staples such as kindling, nuts, berries, meat, etc. for their family, they would surely perish, and many did.

I believe we still make the connection of “having enough, just in case” so that we feel safe and taken care of.  By today’s standards, however, we simply have too much!  We have taken accumulation to the extreme, in many instances.


If we look back into our recent past, we can examine our Great Depression generation.  Because they had so little, and often nothing to sustain them, they came through that extremely difficult period in history with a built-in behavioral pattern.

What we have learned

  • We can waste nothing because we might have to go without again one day.
  • Be prepared or go without.
  • Make sure we have enough accumulated.  You never know what we might need, and when.
  • I might need that one day.
  • If I hold on to it long enough, it will be valuable.

All of these thoughts are completely understandable and all have some truth.  In today’s world, however, much of what has been saved through the decades is no longer useful.  It has been held too long and should be discarded due to damage, health hazard (mold), obsolescence, etc. 

This is the type of accumulation that often the Boomer children are left cleaning up, much to their chagrin and lack of time and knowledge on how to dispose and distribute all this stuff.  I have personally thrown out enough bread twister ties to go around the equator at least once!

A great guide and gift idea is my book, “The Boomer Burden — Dealing with Your Parents’ Lifetime Accumulation of Stuff.” 

© 2009 Julie Hall

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