Emotional Attachment To Inanimate Objects

As we pack up our things for our move down the road, my wife and I are constantly arguing about what to throw away and what to keep. Of course, I think all her stuff is “stuffed animals and junk”, and all my stuff is “useless gadgets and crap”. I think both terms are accurate!

I call this weird human condition the EATIOs (kinda like Cheerios). It’s short for Emotional Attachment To Inanimate Objects. This is not even restricted to things like cars or houses. There are things in our basement that we have not touched or thought about within the last year, but yet when the other person moves to throw it away or sell it, the other gets this deep visceral reaction to keep it. Some disputed items:

Really old camera film
Old textbooks
Empty CD cases
Old computer parts
Old audio/video parts and cables
150 blank CD-Rs
18 miles of extension cords, old phone cords, ethernet cables
25 AC adapters to which I have no idea what they go with
Empty retail boxes in mint condition for things I “might sell later”

My list is basically anything that might have future use, where ‘might’ means simply the possibility is greater than zero. Most also have low or no resale value.

CDs that she never listens to. Artists include N’Sync, Hanson(!), and Madonna.
Stuffed animals that are kept in basement boxes and not even deserving of bookshelf space.
Various trinkets like keychains or flashy pens.
Clothes that haven’t been worn in years.
Jackets that haven’t been worn in years.
<insert clothing type> that haven’t been worn in years.

I think this is good, we can wear each other down, and hopefully give it away or sell it via Craigslist by next weekend.


  1. Oh, yeah, I have totally been there.

    My disputed possessions:
    * Clothing either two sizes too big or two sizes too small, in case I lose/gain weight
    * Boxes of books we have agreed to get rid of but which I will eventually get around to selling online (in theory)
    * Empty pots and other gardening flotsam
    * Sentimental stuff like Xmas ornaments, even tho we only make the barest gesture toward holiday decorating
    * Clothing my son wore when he was teeny tiny that I can’t bear to part with, even tho I have no intention of having another kid

    M’s disputed possessions:
    * 12 or 15 boxes of files. I am not even exaggerating here.
    * Waaaaay more stuffed animals than the average person owns. Most of them were bought at thrift stores, too, so they have that nasty, pilled pre-loved look
    * Art I hate that was made for/given to him by various ex-girlfriends or old friends I never met
    * Posters, not framed, still in the cardboard or plastic wrap they came in that he wants to hang on our walls
    * Bedding and furniture that “is still perfectly good” even though it was bought used twenty years ago. All in gray, brown, beige, and other neutral colors that don’t wear well

    Luckily, we have about an equal amount of crap. If he can put up with my maintaining three wardrobes in various sizes, I can put up with his stuffed animals and art (as long as he leaves them decently hidden in boxes and not where I have to look at them)

  2. Heh, my wife and I had the same problem when we moved half a year ago, but I convinced her about the need to get rid of a lot of stuff. We discarded or sold about 80% of our stuff. I had papers from my 4th grade classes still!

    Looks to me like your list is full of stuff that has some value or practical use while hers is full of–forgive me, Mrs. MyMoneyBlog–junk.

    If you were using movers, you might consider slipping them a 20 to make sure certain items just happened to get lost along the way. (No, I didn’t try this myself…)

  3. Ar1stotle says:

    Here is how you can get your wife to get rid of those outdated clothes: If the article of clothing was a nice blouse, skirt, etc. ask her to wear it on the next date night or to church. Odds are she won’t do it. Off to the clothing drive they go…

    As for the gadgets, I have the same problem. I have a large popcorn tin full of cable, telephone wire, ac adapters, etc. If an individual item cost less than $25 to replace, dump it. Drop the mentality of “I might need this”. My dad still has lead paint he might use.

    When my wife and I began living together 2 years ago, we went through this little system. We completely filled two dumpsters and have never regretted.

  4. My wife threw away all my posters the second we got engaged. Apparently they screamed cheap bachelor. I also threw away all my papers from school finally myself. I kept them as if my job would require knowledge of college US History.

    No, my stuff is junk too. Maybe not the extension cords. In an old house you always need extension cords!

    Hmmm… might be a good tip on the clothes. My wife already said I’m “mean” after this post, so we’ll see…

    Lead paint – Ha!

  5. Same here. I have so many retail boxes (and original packaging materials) laying around, just because I’ll probably sell the stuff one day. Yeah right.

  6. Perhaps it is important to note that your wife’s objects seem to connect to a period of time in the past (probably her youth, hence the CDs and stuffed animals.) Holding onto these objects may remind her of good times in the past; high school, college, earlier childhood, etc.) There’s probably more sentimental value in her items than in your items, although your items probably have more “real-world” value.

    So go easy on her during the bargaining process šŸ˜‰

  7. I stopped collecting stuff for a while based on the same reason here. Then I can’t help but starting collecting again. For instance, all the DVDs I burned, copied, and purchased. I am sure that I will never watch 90% of them for the rest of my life. And the DVD format is going out in the next 5-10 years (they are not that high definition anyhow) what can I do with them? But think of it, if we don’t keep anything, why we still exist here anyways?

  8. I’d give all the clothes away to Good Will and get the tax deduction.

  9. I’m also moving in the near future, and I really think I could out-do anybody with the amount of sentimental crap I have. Glad you wrote on this – I need some inspiration to toss as much as possible!

  10. She doesn’t listen to N’SYNC, Hanson, or Madonna anymore? You’re a lucky man!

    (especially the Madonna part… *shudder*)

  11. I have a “history box” that I keep old pictures, notes, trinkets, etc. Once my husband tried to make me clean it, and I cried hysterically while doing it. So now I’m allowed to keep anything I want as long as it fits in the box. I’m going to try to swap it for a bigger box and see if he notices…hehe.

  12. Susannah says:

    There’s a site out there called FlyLady. She has all sorts of advice on how to get your house organized and clean and keep it that way. For the most part, I don’t like her advice. However, one of the things she suggested is trying to get rid of 27 things a day to de-clutter. I started doing this, and believe it or not, 27 is a great number (25 would probably be just as good). It’s enough to really force you to start cutting through the clutter right at the start, and not too much that you’re having to clean out your whole closet right at first. At the end, it’s enough that you are having to force yourself to make the tough decisions about what is really important to you.

    We’re totally decluttered, except for one box each of sentimental things that we each still need to do something with (I think it will mostly entail scanning). Making a decision to move to a 2-bedroom apartment (from our 3100 sq ft house) after our house sells kind of forced the issue. We wanted to take our time looking for a great bargain for our next house, so we’ll stay in the apartment as long as it’s necessary.

  13. We have a recycle shed at the dump where I live (in a rural area), and that makes it sooo much easier to part with things. But any local thrift shop can serve the same purpose. I like to think that if I have not used an item in 2 years, out it goes, so someone else can use it. Also, remember that getting rid of things frees up space (physical and emotional) for other things to enter your life–hence more diversity awaits you if you get rid of all the surplus in your life!

  14. My Wife and i had to come to terms of donating a lot of items just to downsize a little and avoid being compared to those you see at that Hoarding show, so we did & went on to gathering as much stuff as we could to donate to the good will centers, among my stuff was an specific item i regret getting rid off, it was this small fancy Cannon Printer my wife bought eight years ago, it was sitting in a shelf collecting dust for nearly eight years until that day, i had to let go, and days after i felt this tremendous feelings of Conflicts between rational thought and emotional Loss, it may sound silly to say that i even cried days after a Let it go as if I’ve lost a Dying Old friend, or a Beloved Pet, i remember the days we printed Coupons while My Wife and i Commented on the Printer’s Automated Components acting as if it had life of it’s own, sort of like a humble servant, a living machine that i wouldn’t mind safekeeping in Storage even after it was done doing their Job.


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