> Skip to content
  • Published: 17 May 2018
  • ISBN: 9781473552784
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

The Life of Stuff

A memoir about the meaning we project onto our possessions, and the mess we leave behind when we die.

Shortlisted for the James Tait Black biograpy prize 2019

'This extraordinary, beautiful memoir gripped me from the first page.' Clover Stroud, author of The Wild Other

What do our possessions say about us? Why do we project such meaning onto them?

Only after her mother's death does Susannah Walker discover how much of a hoarder she had become. Over the following months, she has to sort through a dilapidated house filled to the brim with rubbish and treasures, in search of a woman she'd never really known or understood in life. This is her last chance to piece together her mother's story and make sense of their troubled relationship. What emerges from the mess of scattered papers, discarded photographs and an extraordinary amount of stuff is the history of a sad and fractured family, haunted by dead children, divorce and alcohol.

The Life of Stuff is a deeply personal exploration of mourning and the shoring up of possessions against the losses and griefs of life, which also raises universal questions about what makes us the people we are.

  • Published: 17 May 2018
  • ISBN: 9781473552784
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

About the author

Susannah Walker

Susannah Walker studied English Literature at Cambridge followed by Design History at the Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum. After starting out as a writer and curator, she then worked in television on programmes ranging from The Late Show to Changing Rooms.

She has published three non-fiction books about various aspects of design, and runs a vintage poster blog and website about post-war graphic design and history, as well as lecturing on posters and designers at places as diverse as the National Army Museum, the Art Workers' Guild and Marks & Spencer Archive.

Praise for The Life of Stuff

I found Susannah’s book absolutely fascinating. She writes with admirable honesty and the result is a compelling and moving account of her mother’s life and relationships as told by the apocalyptic accumulation of "stuff" she left behind. Susannah’s book is not only a brave testament to an imperfect but precious relationship, but also a reflection on the similarities, however uncomfortable, between mother and daughter. It is a book I know I shall read again.

Ruth Hogan, author of THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS

A gripping read... a riveting piece of writing

Saturday Review, BBC Radio 4

An excellent memoir... I finished this book in awe of the sheer interest to be had reading about ordinary people and their lives, but perhaps the point is that no life is ordinary; there is always treasure hidden in the rubbish if we look for it.

Cathy Rentzenbrink, The Times

A moving memoir.

Sunday Times

Beautifully written ... a powerfully evocative description of [Walker's] interest in the meaning of things.

Charles Saumerz Smith, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy

This extraordinary, beautiful memoir gripped me from the first page. Susannah Walker writes especially well on home and motherhood, yet never resorts to cliche or sentimentality. I loved this book and it moved me profoundly, whilst also making me look at my own life - and the stuff I carry with me - with a new eye. The mess of her mother’s life might frame this book, but Walker is really concerned with human relationships, and in her writing addresses big questions about what it means to be both a mother and a daughter, the power of memory and the devastating loss all of us feel with the passing of time.

Clover Stroud, author of THE WILD OTHER

This is a cracking book ... Walker is a brilliant writer.

Viv Groskop, author of THE ANNA KARENINA FIX

If Marie Kondo has taught us all to ruthlessly clear our lives of stuff, then Walker compels us to think carefully about what we’ll hang on to.

Jean Hannah Edelstein, The Pool

An intimate and moving memoir ... a revealing story of a mother/daughter relationship.

Woman & Home

With bold prose and ceaseless courage, Susannah Walker tells a mother-daughter story like no other... It is incredibly refreshing to finally read something from the perspective of the child of a hoarder. It is a must-read if you have a parent with a serious hoarding disorder or even if you just suspect hoarding tendencies. I really couldn't put this book down.

Stelios Kiosses, Psychotherapist and Presenter of Channel 4's The Hoarder Next Door

A touching memoir.

Good Housekeeping

Related titles