Why we accumulate so much stuff: organize your home seriesOctober 19, 2012
Before we dive into the process of organizing all our possessions, we should first figure out how and why we have accumulated all this stuff. More importantly, we have to figure out how we can start to reduce the amount of unnecessary stuff that we continue to bring into our homes. Nowadays we have way too many items in our homes, cars, offices, etc. – stuff that has been collected over the years and stuff that we likely do not use often. Let us first start by separating the concepts between what stuff is and what stuff isn’t.
Stuff includes all those miscellaneous inanimate unspecified objects. However, the accumulation of these individual items sometimes transforms into a mass of objects that seems to take over our lives. The line between where our stuff ends and where our existence begins sometimes gets blurry. We obviously know that we are not our sweaters, our computers, or our cars. At the same time, people sometimes have trouble distinguishing between themselves and the objects that surround them. These people know they are not actually an automobile, but somewhere the lines get blurred, and they feel like the car is somehow an extension of themselves. The car seems to represent their thoughtfulness, their success, and their taste. We have to cognitively realize that our possessions are not an extension of ourselves. We don’t need to completely eliminate objects – we need to separate ourselves from the stuff that surrounds us.
If you’re not your stuff, then what are you? Your core values lie at the very center of who you are. To help determine which core values describe you best, consider the following list of words: achievement, ambition, casualness, clarity, cooperation, dedication, dignity, empathy, excitement, family, friendship, growth, health, hope, humor, justice, passion, recognition, respect, service, survival, trust, wealth, willingness and wisdom. Which words do you believe are the best descriptors of your core self? Obviously, these are just a starting point; feel free to add your own words to the list.
Once you have identified your core values, you can begin to eliminate activities that don’t align with these values. One common incompatible activity is accumulating unnecessary junk that don’t help you in achieving your goals. People accumulate stuff and have trouble parting with it because the object is closely tied to a personal story that is related to the object. Maybe that heirloom watch was passed down from your grandmother and it reminds you of all those good memories you had with her. Maybe that golf club reminds you of that great business deal you did on the golf course. However, we must remember that that watch and that golf club are just that – a watch and golf club. Deciding to take that watch and golf club and store them somewhere appropriate will not affect your memories. We have to take these mementos and set aside a specific place, preferably in a garage, basement or attic, where we keep sentimental items – items we do not use on a regular basis but want to still keep for the memories they provide.
When we take a piece of gum out of the wrapper, we have no problem discarding the wrapper. That wrapper has no sentimental value and it no longer serves a purpose. However, for some reason, when we no longer wear a shirt (because it’s too small or too big or too colorful or too expensive or too cheap), we are not as quick to throw it in the trash. We often want to hold onto it until it fits right or until it comes back in style. We need to change this pattern right away if we want to have a more organized home, life and mind. We need to tell ourselves (and believe) that things need to be put in a dedicated place in our homes in order for order to prevail. When our homes are organized and orderly, our lives become organized and orderly.
To view the rest of the posts in the Home Organization Series, please click here.