I've been doing a lot of thinking lately (always a dangerous thing). I've come to a startling revelation. I have discovered the real key to keeping all my stuff organized! It is so brain-dead simple, too.
The real way to keep my stuff organized is to have. less. stuff. Way less.
The less stuff you have to organize, the easier it is to keep it organized. (You can award me the Pulitzer Prize any time now.)
Our culture has become a "buy, buy, buy" culture. We always want more. And when our possessions overtake us, we rush to the local container store to buy more stuff in the form of containers to hold all the other stuff we bought. At no point do we look around ourselves and say, "I've got enough stuff now. I don't need any more." There is always that one more thing. When will we realize that our possessions can never satisfy us?
This "buy, buy, buy" mentality not only surrounds us with clutter, it also surrounds us with stress. Have you ever noticed how great if feels when you check into a nice hotel? Have you ever wondered why it was so freeing and relaxing? Part of the reason, I'm convinced, is that there is so much less stuff crammed in there. A nice hotel is equipped with what you need and only what you need to have an enjoyable stay. Because there are fewer things in the room, the quality of those things can be higher and can coordinate better. We are no longer inhibited by all the things around us. We are free to relax and to enjoy life.
I began to ask myself some questions during all that thinking I was doing. Questions like, "What if I only owned what I used and/or loved and got rid of everything else? What if I learned to live with less? What would that mean? Would I have more time for the things I enjoy if I wasn't constantly corralling the clutter created by things I don'tenjoy? What if I allowed myself to let go of things I once enjoyed but which no longer reflect who I have become? What if I didn't allow sentimentality to decide what I kept? What if I was brutal about what I allowed to stay in my house?"
Before I married my husband I had a chance to spend some time in Europe. I noticed something while I was there. What the people I met owned was a very high quality, but they didn't own nearly as much stuff as Americans. They had less stuff at a higher quality. Their lives were so much simpler. They had everything they needed, but nothing they didn't. They didn't consider shopping a national pastime. They were more likely to go to the art museum, the theater or hear a symphony (all of which are ultimately far more satisfying than the act of just acquiring more stuff). They weren't trying to keep up with the Jones's. They didn't buy on credit, either. And they lived well. Really well.
The Europeans I observed knew something that many Americans do not. Stuff can't make you happy. It can, however, create stress on many levels. Clutter creates stress. Debt creates stress. Knowing you spent good money on a foolish purchase creates stress. Trying to chase a Holy Grail purchase that will somehow catapult you into happiness creates stress. Not cultivating gratitude for what you already have creates stress.
So I am stepping out of the the fray. I am slowing going through our home and evaluating every item I own to see if it meets my criterion. Do I love it? Do I currently use it (or use it seasonally)? What is my real reason for allowing it to have a space in my home?
I am also being far more careful about what I buy. It has to meet some pretty strict criterion to make it into my shopping bag. There isn't much point in getting rid of stuff if I'm just going to buy a bunch more, right?
I am no where near finished with my journey to less stuff. In fact, I'm only getting started. While I would love to set aside a week and go through everything all at once, that just isn't my life. I struggle to squeeze in a little time once or twice a week to take something to charity, recycling or the garbage. It is slow going. We've lived in this house for 10 years (the longest I've ever lived anywhere in my entire life). There are six of us here to drag the clutter into the house, but only one of us dragging it out.
Which brings me to another point -- DON'T declutter someone else's space unless you actually want to destroy your relationship with that person. If it's your kids, you'll need to wait on their stuff until they are on board with you. As you declutter and remove unnecessary items from the kitchen, living room and your own closet, you'll be surprised at how much it changes how the rest of your family views their own things. I've been slowly working on this for several months now. I've culled my own clothing and possessions dramatically. As of this week, my husband has started his own cull pile and has plans to do the garage. This is big, folks. I never said a word about the garage or about his things. Not a single word.
I have a long way to go on my journey to less stuff. You'll probably be hearing more about it here on the ol' blog.
Have a great day!
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