While you may not have a hoarding problem like Marie, you may be suffering from stuffocation. According to the Macmillan dictionary, "stuffocation" is a buzzword that describes "a feeling of stress caused by having so many things that you do not know how to use or store them all".
Is stuffocation a problem? Consider these quick statistics.
- The average American owns 300,000 items (LA Times)
- 1 in 10 Americans rents an offsite storage unit & this is the fastest growing commercial real estate market. (New York Times magazine)
- Of Americans who own a two car garage, 25% cannot fit any cars in their garage, and only 32% are able to fit one car. (US Dept of Energy)
- Americans spend an average of 153 days during their lifetime looking for lost items, that's an average of 9 items a day (The Daily Mail).
Too much stuff also creates physical risks from dust, mold, animal dander, not to mention the danger from tripping or falling over items. Quite simply, all this stuff robs us of our joy, our time with loved ones, our ability to relax and and our comfort in offering hospitality to others.
The More of Less by Joshua Baker describes Johua's realization that he was missing time with his kids because of the hours he felt he needed to spend cleaning up the garage, organizing belongings, cleaning around possessions, picking up toys. How would you spend your time if you did not have to manage your stuff?
Recently, I have been stripping off layers of stuff and minimizing my belongings. My motto is that I will only keep items that are currently useful or that bring me joy and pleasure when I use or look at them. Some items that I choose to keep remind me of a trip or vacation, of people I love or possess beauty that nurtures my spirit.
The result for me is that I spend less time organizing, filing, cleaning, and moaning about dusting around objects that just take up space. I enjoy my environment because I am wearing the clothes in my closet, can find utensils in my kitchen, and am not bombarded by dread when opening a drawer or closet. I am also more cautious about what I purchase and bring into my home, so ultimately I am saving money.
1) Create a vision of what you would like your home to look like. How would you like to feel when you enter your home, bring guests into your home or as you consider cleaning the rooms of your home? Ask yourself if the items you own are bringing you joy. Do you feel delight as you look at or use them? Are they necessary for you to function in your home? Keeping only items that you use regularly or that lift your spirit and bring you joy is a key to decluttering. When feeling overwhelmed, call to mind your vision.
2) Choose one small space to begin decluttering. Don’t begin decluttering the largest, messiest space. Begin with a drawer, a closet, or bathroom. Some suggest gathering three boxes and labeling them “throw away”, “give away”, “still can’t decide”. Items that need to be moved to a different room can be put in a fourth box labeled "relocate". The "still can't decide" box can be taped shut, dated and moved to an out of the way closet or shelf. If the box has not been opened in 6 months or a year, then simply move the box into the trunk of your car and drop it off to a charity. Someone else could benefit from items you are obviously not using.
Decluttering even that one space can give a sense of accomplishment and generate a confidence for tackling the next space. Don’t attempt too large a space or you will feel overwhelmed and probably quit.
3) Get a book on minimizing that will inspire and help you embrace the philosophy of living with less. Shopping, collecting stuff, even thrifting, can be a way of trying to meet our emotional needs. These authors can share wisdom to help you rethink why you hang on to stuff. The More of Less, Stuffocation, Minimizing to Maximize and The Art of Simplicity all teach the joy of living with less.
I believe that by taking these simple steps, you too can experience the freedom, joy and opportunities that come from tackling stuffocation. You will be trading belongings that no longer hold value for the true treasures in life, time with the people you love.