Can Your Stuff Haunt You?

ownsyouHow’s your summer been going? I hope you’ve taken some time to relax and have fun! I spent part of my summer vacation in Key West, Florida with my husband. We went on one of the ghost tours the haunted city is famous for. I’m a fan of ghost tours when I travel because I enjoy hearing the stories that make a city rich in history.

One story that stuck with me was ‘Robert the doll’. It was about the strange relationship Gene Otto had with a doll that was crafted in his image and given to him when he was 4. He was attached to the doll his entire life – even constructing a room for it in the house he shared with his wife Anne. She wanted him to get rid of it, but that never happened.

Many people believe the doll (dating back to the early 1900s) was (and still is) possessed. It is displayed in a glass case at the local museum and there are still bizarre circumstances surrounding it. In the book Ghosts of Key West, David L. Sloan says “Robert (the doll) will always serve as a reminder to beware of objects you possess, or one day they may end up possessing you”.

Although I’m not worried that any of us have objects that are possessed, I do believe objects can possess us – but not necessarily in the way you may think.

The more you own, the more owns you.

Each and every item you bring into your home takes up valuable space. It costs you in real estate (which you heat, cool, clean and pay a mortgage and taxes on). You also need to care for it – repair it when it breaks, and clean it when it gets dirty. If space is limited, you need to find a creative way to store it, so you need to buy bins, put up shelves, or even rent off-site storage space. Then you may worry about it, especially if it’s valuable. What if it gets damaged or stolen? Perhaps you need to insure it.

You may decide that the item is worth all this time, energy, money and even stress, because you cherish it and it brings you joy. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Or you may decide it’s not worth it, so you let it go. And in letting it go, you experience sweet relief, because you didn’t realize how tense it was making you until it was gone. Suddenly, you feel lighter because the weight you’ve been carrying for years is finally gone.

Look around your home. Check out what’s lurking in the recesses of your attic and the dark corners of your basement. Perhaps now is as good a time as any to deal with the ghosts of your past so they can no longer haunt your future.

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This post has 10 comments

  • Diane says:

    I like this. Especially the last line ….”deal with the ghosts of your past so they can no longer haunt your future.” I’ve been feeling freer as I sell, give away, donate, recycle and trash much of what I own. This has been an ongoing project for the last few months as I get ready to sell my house. I also feel that my house owns me. I’ve been retired for a year and a half and live alone. The maintenance and upkeep has been difficult time-wise when I was working, and now money-wise. With my daughter’s help I have painted everything, cleared out and cleaned. I found it useful to pack as I go and take boxes to a storage unit as ready. It keeps my house clear and lets me focus better so it’s worth the expense. I’m getting in tradespeople to check and fix things. Friends say “Oh, you won’t want to move”. It does look nice and I feel momentary relief but I know I don’t want the overall worry. All the decorating shows teach us to want, want want! Guess what my dream is now….a one bedroom rental apartment! Never thought that would be so, but simpler is better and am looking forward to my new stream-lined life!

  • Melissa says:

    So glad you enjoyed Key West and the ghost tour! We live in Florida and visited there a few years ago – my daughter and I still talk about Robert. Creepy!!! I certainly appreciate the hidden tolls of stuff. In Florida we don’t have basements, and attics are generally too hot for storage. It has been a huge challenge to manage our belongings. Often I drive through neighborhoods and all the cars are parked in driveways instead of in garages. When the garages are open I see that they are filled with boxes. It’s the reality of very little storage space and too much stuff.

  • Howard Winn says:

    Good to see you still sending hints. They have helped me and my family greatly.

  • Karen N says:

    Hellen, that’s a dreadfully scary story! Thanks to your shows, I’m rapidly clearing out both my basement and my upstairs, but wow, it’s tough. I’m the sentimental type, but I’m ready for clear spaces and fewer “haunted” moments. You once said that objects carry energy–that really spoke to me. I’m moving out all the objects that remind me of my failed marriage and only keeping the things that give me joy. thanks for the booster shots!
    K.

  • Carol C says:

    I took your teleconference class about a year ago and feel very fortunate to have been able to do so. This story you tell is very rich itself. We all have things to continue to improve upon and your thoughtful pointers, including this story, are so helpful. Thank you so much again!

  • Roxy says:

    Eeeeewww! So creepy! I want to go see that doll now…but don’t want to at the same time! Loved your show, “Neat”! I enjoy your blog and your newsletters too…very inspiring. Thanks!

  • Carol Sweeney says:

    I liked reading your latest article, I also enjoy Ghost Walks. The best one I have attended was at Casa Loma about 3 years ago. This walk was not only fascinating but also quite scary, a few of us did hear a spirit walking around in the basement and couldn’t believe our ears….that said….you gave me good advice so I’m going to get cracking on clearing all of the (dead stuff) around my basement before this summer is over.
    Thanks again and keep writing good advice.

  • PART OF LATE SPRING AND SUMMER MY HUSBAND AND I STARTED DECLUTTERING THE BASEMENT. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A SORE SPOT FOR ME ESPECIALLY. THROUGH YOUR TV PROGRAM I RECOGNIZED IT WAS HARMING MY “SPIRIT”. WE HIRED SOMEONE TO HAUL OUT THE UNNECESSARY STUFF. I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER. IT IS NOT COMPLETELY DONE BUT IT FEELS SO MUCH BETTER. I WISH YOU WERE BACK ON TV. THANK YOU. PS IF YOU ARE EVER IN ST LOUIS MO FEEL FREE TO STOP BY AND HAUL TO YOUR HEART’S CONTENT!! LOL AGAIN THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU HAVE DONE.

  • Velma J. says:

    Hi Hellen:

    Just wanted to say I thoroughly enjoy your television show and the (much needed) advice that you give. The advice that you give others has been very helpful to me as I have seriously started to clear my home of clutter. I love your no-nonsense approach.

  • Michelle says:

    I agree that there are pieces we own that haunt us. The china that belonged to your grandmother. The outfit your child came home in from the hospital. The books on the shelf that remind you that you need to read. Often we hold on to something because we think we are disappointing someone by giving it away. I am learning to let go of some of these items. I greatly reduced my book collection. I have sold or given away a fair amount of my grandmother’s costume jewelry. By learning to do this, I have created happiness for the buyer and created physical/mental space in my home.