It’s time to rip off the band aid. Here’s the harsh reality that we all need to face when it comes to getting more organized:
We have too much stuff and no amount of storage systems or labels are going to fix that.
I’ve tried to come up with a nicer way of saying this, but the truth of the matter is that, for most of us, our struggles with clutter and disorganization are due to having too much.
I haven’t read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“, but I know a lot of people that have. From what I understand, one of the keys to the kon-mari method is evaluating your stuff as you work to organize it. In deciding whether or not to keep something, the question you ask yourself is if the item sparks joy. If it doesn’t, you thank the item for the role it played and get rid of it. It seems a little new age-y to me, but the concept is a great one. I would take it one step farther and ask yourself if it’s sparks joy and if it’s fulfilling a purpose. Thinking about our possessions this way helps you to be realistic about what you use and what you need. We need to create high standards for items to meet in order to take up space in our homes and in our lives.
Sounds great. So, why don’t we all have uncluttered lives? Because, like a lot of healthy life habits, this is easier said than done.
Almost everyone has a hard time getting rid of stuff. I’m a compulsive purger, and I still keep stuff that I shouldn’t.
For some people, the struggle in purging can be due to a sentimental attachment to things. This can be really hard to work through. Our stuff reminds us of a special person or moment. It sparks joy. Stuff can spark joy, but no tangible item can bring eternal joy. Eventually, stuff piled on stuff added to more stuff just becomes lots of stuff. Individually, those items spark joy, but collectively, they are weighing us down.
If your struggle with accumulation is rooted in a sentimental attachment that makes it hard to part with stuff, it can be tempting to think that the solution is to swing to the other side of the spectrum and just “buck up”, ignore your feelings and go on a purging binge where you throw everything. This is bound to backfire. You will, inevitably, regret it later, which will make it harder the next time you are overwhelmed with stuff and feeling like you should get rid of it. Those same emotions will be there, but this time, they will be amplified by the regret you felt last time and make an already hard task nearly impossible.
A better way than purging cold turkey is to give yourself “x” amount of space for keepsakes. How much “x” amount of space is isn’t as important as you deciding what that is ahead of time and sticking to those parameters. Write Matthew 6:19 somewhere and as you go through your things, and keep referring back to it. Remind yourself what stuff on this earth is. Then, think about that item in reference to the amount of keepsake space you have available.
Another reason people struggle with having too much stuff is that we think it will make us happy. Sure. We don’t say that because we all know better. But this thing will make that easier and that thing will make this quicker. We justify and purchase without thinking about the big picture or the real reason we’re making the decisions that we are.
Matthew 6:19 says “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do break in or steal.” None of our physical stuff on this earth is eternal. All of it will run out, get lost, break, lose it’s value or outlast us. Whether you believe the Bible or not, this fact cannot be argued. And whatever you believe about the afterlife; your possessions don’t go there with you.
Our stuff is not, inherently, bad. So much of it is good and are blessings. However, we cannot let the good things become the main thing. When our stuff is our source of joy, hope, or motivation, then we are making our stuff fill a purpose it was never created to fill. And it will leave a void. We all know that void. Unfortunately, a lot of us try to fill that void with more stuff. It is a never-ending, unfulfilling cycle.
In addition to the obvious things you consider when making a decision to purchase something (cost, why you need it, etc.) two questions that I ask myself are 1) How often will I use this? and 2) Where will I store it?
Frequency is paramount. If I’m not going to use/wear something on a very regular basis, then I don’t buy it. There just isn’t enough room in our house or lives for things that get used now and then.
This is the reason that I have 8 pairs of pants and 12-15 shirts for each of my kids. I do laundry once a week, which means that they always have something that fits and is clean. And that’s all the drawer space they have anyway. But what if Elida gets paint on her pants one day and has an accident the next? Then I do laundry a day early that week. Or she wears another pair of pants two days in a row. I refuse to live in the ‘just in case’. There are too many unknowns and I don’t have the time and space for that. And it a dangerous slippery slope.
If frequency of use is paramount in making my decision, where it will be stored is even more so. Storage trumps use. I can’t think of a single thing that we use 24/7, which means that even our most used items have to be stored at some point. And if there isn’t a spot for it when it’s not being used, then it is clutter. Harsh, I know. But I firmly believe that most of us (including myself) need a little tough love when it comes to this area of our lives.
Convinced? Fired up? Feeling ready to purge? Here’s my suggestion: Start small. It’s tempting to want to go straight to that abyss of a closet that keeps you awake at night. Resist the temptation. Find one small area and start there. You are starting new patterns and thought processes, and it’s best to do that in small increments. I’m going to steal some Dave Ramsey lingo here and say that what you need is a De-Clutter Snowball. Start with your smallest project. And when it’s complete, celebrate! The size of the completion isn’t as important as the assurance that this can be done – and maintained. Take what you learned and the momentum that you have from one completed project and put that toward the next smallest. And let it snowball.
This is not a quick fix. Implementing these ideas in your everyday life is not going to make your life simpler or better overnight. But it will help you to slowly get to where you want to be.