The Life of Stuff

The Life of Stuff

Possessions, obsessions and the mess we leave behind


Shortlisted for the James Tait Black biography prize 2019
'A moving memoir.' Sunday Times
'Gripped me from the first page.' Clover Stroud, author of My Wild and Sleepless Nights
'A gripping read... a riveting piece of writing.' Radio 4

What do our possessions say about us? Why do we project such meaning onto them? What becomes of the things we leave behind?

Only after her mother's death does Susannah Walker discover how much of a hoarder she had become. Over the following months, Susannah has to sort through a dilapidated house filled to the brim with rubbish and treasures - filling bag after bag with possessions. But what she's really in search of is 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.

'Compelling and moving.' Ruth Hogan

'An excellent memoir.' Cathy Rentzenbrink


  • 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

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.
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