Clutter: The Freeloader from Hell

Another "box" for many, whatever their ages, clutter can begin to feel overwhelming as the years mount. Inconvenient, often embarrassing, it not only encumbers our lives but also hounds those who cannot bear the thought of leaving a mess for the heirs. Some of us have dealt with that kind of “mess” already, maybe more than once, and remember all too well the monumental hassle and drain.

Clutter Defined

So, what "qualifies" as clutter, anyway? Perhaps one of these definitions will resonate with you: “anything unfinished, unused, unresolved, tolerated, or disorganized” (Vicky White) or “any obsolete object, space, commitment, or behavior that weighs you down, distracts you, or depletes your energy.” (Julie Morgenstern).

Here's another possibility: "anything that crowds a part of your work/home space or your broader life—particularly if it’s something you don’t really need/want and/or duplicates something you already have." (Me). You, perhaps, might go broader still and pop in some additional elements. Now, even our definition starts to get cluttered, and this on a page that's talking about getting rid of that stuff!

Sure, I’m just horsing around here, but you also take my point, right? Clutter in All of its forms is hard to escape. And boy has it got some downsides! Besides crowding our spaces, it even seems to make breathing more difficult, as though all that Stuff were absorbing part of the oxygen. And let’s not forget the dust factor—more bad news for breathing and an ordered environment.

The Origins

If you're ready to reduce clutter in your own habitat, you might be wise to ponder how it gets there in the first place. Although once established it seems to breed like a field of rabbits, the “parent” clutter has to originate somehow. Here are two common ways:

 Other People's Stuff

As you may already know too well, our clutter sometimes includes goods and gear that don’t even belong to us. In your case, that might include all those boxes you’re “storing” for your kids/grandkids, friends, and next year’s charity’s auction…

It may also include all or most of what your deceased relatives were storing themselves, a possibly vast load of personal effects that landed on your premises and gained a fatal toehold. If you loved those relatives, you might find it quite hard to let go of their possessions.

But remember that they already had the joy of those things in their own lives. Does some cosmic law decree that you (and possibly even your descendants) must do so as well? Only you can answer that one for yourself.

 Your Own Accumulation

Like it or not, much of humanity hangs onto stuff: sometimes simply out of habit, sometimes because we fear we’ll need it later. Perhaps you hang onto things yourself out of love or nostalgia…or thrift or even simple conditioning. Whatever the reason, the end result tends to be the same: clutter.

You may also over-buy from time to time. Plus, as your tastes change over time, you may buy to accommodate those changes. If you “collect” objects of a particular kind, these collections might further add to your clutter. When you add in any unfinished projects, you can see how this particular monster feeds itself.

The Costs

If you have this kind of clutter, my friend, it’s costing you. It costs you space that could accommodate something you really need or want, or space that could simply remain as elbowroom. It also costs you any money you might be spending for storage (oh, the pain!).

If the volume of your possessions has forced you to buy or rent a larger dwelling, I don’t have to tell you how much that cost. You and your banker know that already. If these same possessions drive you crazy and/or make you feel like a loser, they’re even costing you a portion of your self-esteem.  Expensive stuff, clutter...

Ready to ditch some of yours? Then take a tip from the turtle: your best shot very possibly lies with the small-steps approach. In other words, pick a place to start and then do it: start. Deal with just one step (a single shelf or box, for example) if that’s all you have time for.

Then take another clearing-out step…and yet another until, over time, you’ve freed yourself of at least most of the things you neither need nor want. Could you make that work? It might feel really good.


***Because clutter-control tends to be an ongoing process for many of us, you may need to monitor your acquiring/retaining behavior. Once you finally evict the “Freeloader from Hell,” you sure don’t want it sneaking back in again!

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