Right around this time every year I start to feel a little overwhelmed by stuff. The influx of holiday gifts has left my house in that post-Christmas state where there are simply too many things and not enough places to put them. Even though I try to be diligent about cleaning and de-cluttering year-round, the dawn of the new year always brings a renewed determination to simplify and organize my home and my life.
Clutter is a huge problem for many Americans – just look at a recent survey published in the Los Angeles Times which shows that 25% of Americans with 2-car garages still have to park their cars outside because the garage is filled with stuff.
It’s clear – Our stuff now controls us, we no longer control our stuff.
The reason cleaning out is such a daunting task for many people is because stuff isn’t just stuff. Stuff is memories. Stuff is emotional attachment. Stuff is a reminder of money spent and often money wasted. Stuff is security. Stuff is “someday I may need this”. Stuff is plans for future projects long past their due dates. Stuff is gifts given to us that we hold onto for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Stuff is the byproduct of modern life.
While I often give advice to clients on cleaning out and organizing their closets, the most important piece of advice I give is to take back control over your stuff. Your stuff only has as much power as you give it.
- Your surroundings are a reflection of your inner state, and vice versa. If your space is cluttered and in chaos, your mind will be as well.
- Your home is your sanctuary. If your home is no longer peaceful and restorative due to clutter, it’s time to make a change.
- Remember that your memories live in your mind, not your closet. Memory boxes are lovely places to store physical mementos, but don’t allow too much clutter from your past to disrupt your present and future.
- Gifts are given to make others happy. If a gift someone gave you no longer serves you, don’t feel badly about getting rid of it. The person who gave it to you wants you to be happy – not guilty and overwhelmed.
- Call nonsense on the “someday I may need this” excuse for hanging onto junk. If you haven’t needed it by now, chances are you never will. And in the rare instance you do need it someday, the worst that can happen is that you have to go buy a new one.
- Set ground rules and deadlines for your stuff. If that craft project hasn’t been started, article of clothing worn, or toy played with in 6 months to a year, toss it. It’s obviously not important – if it was, you (or your family members) would have used it within the year.
- Finally, take a good look at each item you are tossing and why. An honest assessment of your clutter will help prevent you from wasting money on unnecessary stuff in the future.