Resisting the call of clutter

Here’s the book I didn’t buy last weekend. Neat, eh? It’s a copy of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual Hardcover from 1979, written by the late Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons. I first played “D&D” in 7th grade with my friend Dave. Today, I still play with a guy named Dave, though it’s a different Dave.

When I found this in the antique store, the nostalgia soaked my whole being. I was immediately transported to Dave’s kitchen table (the original Dave, whom we’ll call “Dave Prime”). Dave Prime introduced me to the game and I instantly fell in love. I wanted to play constantly, and did.

Holding the book last weekend, I recalled all of those amazing memories. I also thought of bringing it to “Current Dave’s” kitchen table and passing it around. I knew that gang would appreciate it and enjoy the same feelings of nostalgia.

But then what?

Well, I’d take it home. I’d show it to my kids, who’d feign interest long enough to get dad to go away, then I’d show it to my wife, who would not offer the same courtesy. Finally it would go onto a shelf or in a drawer where it would sit — for years — doing nothing.

That, my friends, is the definition of clutter.

I certainly have purpose-free items around the house, most of which are part of collections. We’ve written before about identifying a collection and this D&D book did not meet the criteria for being part of any of my collections.

Maintaining and adding to my stamp collection is an active pursuit that helps me relax, and as a bonus I meet new people at the philatelist meetings. My collection of board games provide fun family time.

That book, well, I just knew it would get ignored after an initial week or so of entertainment. Recognizing that fact helped me resist buying it and in turn, kept my home clear of clutter. So I ask the readers, are there any tricks you use to fight purchasing nostalgic items?

12 Comments for “Resisting the call of clutter”

  1. posted by Kathy on

    I have a rule for myself: if I bring something into my home, I need to define an actual use and a place for it. This comes from too many years of buying things that seemed handy to have, but that I never actually used enough to justify the purchase. I take some pleasure now in looking at things but NOT bringing them home…a recent example is a blanket I found at a second-hand store. It had the name of my county, and illustrations of landmarks from about 12 or 16 small towns (churches, etc.). Very attractive, neat to have, but….I don’t need any more blankets. Much like your book, this would be something visitors would look at and exclaim over for a few minutes. I left it there and don’t regret it.

    Another measure for me is how much delight I get from an item – I’ve learned to recognize a certain “zing” that lets me know I will enjoy this thing (usually clothing these days) for a long time. Really simplifies my shopping! If my reaction is “meh”, I leave it there and wait until I find the right thing.

  2. posted by Alice F. on

    Very helpful post, David, and I enjoyed your comment also, Kathy. I struggle with deciding “to buy or not to buy,” especially when I’m on vacation and see something I know I can’t “get back to” easily, as I was this past weekend. I appreciate hearing other people’s strategies on how to decide. One thing I remember reading — I think on this site, perhaps in the comments — was someone’s suggestion that they have started looking at shopping as similar to a museum visit — that they can enjoy looking at beautiful things in stores without needing to take them home. I’m sure that’s painful for a retailer to hear, but it’s helpful to me sometimes to remind myself that just because I enjoy seeing something doesn’t mean I have to *own* it. 🙂

  3. posted by Doc 53 on

    This edition is not clutter. Anything 3rd edition
    plus are considered clutter. You do not leave the game to the imagination.

  4. posted by Cindi on


  5. posted by John Canon on

    @Cindi, that was the most clutter-free comment that I have ever seen.
    I wish I had your succinct outlook. So much meaning could be derived from your tidy prose.

  6. posted by MC on

    I understand what Doc53 was saying. It seems this book was a rare book that is valuable and will grow in price so therefore it’s definitely not clutter. I would donate most of my books (except for favorites and rare books) to the library if I could just keep this book.

  7. posted by Amy C. on

    Last night after months of soaking my dishes in the sink in mycluttered kitchen, I decided to do my dishes, including the ones in the freezer and in the frig. I can see counter space now. It looks good in that one spot. I read this article here. An idea hit. I haven’ttried it yet. Put myclutter items in the kitchen-duct tape, flashlight, etc in a paper box, and inventory it as I go, and put that box aside, and only keep the stuff out in the kitchen that needs to be out on the counter–if I need the stone cat statute from the estate sale, duct tape, etc., I can go to that paper box and get it out If I don’t have a need to go to that over time, it is just clutter and has not point in being there and probably needs to be elsewhere yet I can keep it a box until I get in the mood to toss, etc. This way I could have a possibly clear counters in the kitchen.

  8. posted by Lisa on

    Pinterest is great for things like that. Make yourself a “Memories” board, and pin a picture of the book cover there. Sometimes, you can even find videos online of someone going through the book page by page.
    It satisfies the urge to own the item, while taking up no space that you own, or cloud space that you rent.

  9. posted by Ruth Hansell on

    I got a great sense of pragmatism from my dad, and I use it All The Time.

    1) For collections: limit the space available. For example, I love a certain style of pottery, mostly American, such as Hull, McCoy, etc. If I see something I drool over, my first question is ‘What am I willing to let go of if I buy this?’ If I don’t love it enough to make room for it, I don’t love it enough to buy it.

    For other items, not nostalgic, I always ask myself:
    1) Do I really NEED this item? if no, discussion with self is over.
    2) If I really NEED this item, double check that I don’t already have something stored that will work.
    3) If I don’t have something already that serves the purpose, the question is ‘Is this the BEST use of my money at this time?’ That’s a pretty high bar to fly over, for me.
    4) If it IS the best use of my money, then the next question is, ‘Can I buy it more cheaply?’
    5) If I’ve made it to this point, I usually make a note in my calendar to re-visit the purchase in a weeks time. Not much gets this far.

    I’ve shared this w/friends and acquaintances, and some of the response is not, shall we say, supportive. A LOT of the response is good, and people say they’ll try the process.

    Like any new habit, it takes time to set in place, but I’ve literally saved myself thousands of dollars, both in immediate purchase price and interest on credit cards.

  10. posted by Pat on

    I am with Ruth on limiting the space for a certain category of things, but it doesn’t have to be a fancy collection. For example, books have to fit on the shelves in the living room or the office. Pantyhose and socks have to fit in their designated drawer. If something doesn’t fit, it has to go – or something else has to go to make room.

    I find that the greatest boost to the decluttering process is the actual decluttering. When you have spent time making decisions on what you own and hauling things to the trash or to Goodwill, you become a lot more reluctant to accept stuff from others and a lot more discerning in what you buy!

  11. posted by GG on

    Oh, this is hard. Some items really take you back, don’t they? When trying to get rid of or not buy such nostalgic items, I go on a little mental trip. I go where the nostalgia takes me and enjoy the memories fully. Then I acknowledge that I was a different person then, or that I’m simply at a different point in my life right now, and the item doesn’t really belong in my life now. Sometimes I’ll take a photo of the item so I can go on a trip down memory lane whenever I look at the photo. Knowing that I have such a ‘backup’ makes letting go easier. But really, the key point is acknowledging that the item is out of place in my life now.

  12. posted by SkiptheBS on

    Buy it and list it at a top price on eBay. It will take time to sell it and you will have the pleasure of ownership plus a feeling of accomplishment when the item does sell.

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