Do you ever look around at the amount of stuff in your house and just feel buried? I’m referring to that claustrophobic feeling you get when there is literally so much stuff that you don’t even know where to begin to get it under control.
It’s a feeling that probably makes you grumpy (okay, make that angry), that makes you want to have a mad house-cleaning and throw away everything, and it leaves you swearing that you’ll never – ever – let your house get in this shape again.
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My house gets like that sometimes and it’s a major source of frustration (which makes me feel frenzied). It’s as if all of the sudden I wake up from a coma and realize, “Holy cow! There is more crap in here than I can stand!” As I look around at the massive amount of stuff I’m left wondering how this stuff got into my house in the first place and who I need to go fuss at for bringing it in. That feeling, by the way, is one of the definite signs you have too much stuff!
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And then I realize that the chances are good that I am the culprit.
Oh, there are other culprits too. But I’m not blameless (although I would really like to blame someone else completely!) The thing I find most interesting, though, about the clutter phenomenon is that it’s so easy to get rid of someone else’s clutter, and so hard to get rid of my own.
When I really start to ask the critical questions to get rid of clutter and to examine my motives for hanging on to things, I find that frequently it’s my own mindset that is sabotaging my efforts to get the stuff in my house under control. Perhaps some of these thoughts are lurking in the back of your mind too.
Clutter Mindset #1: I paid for it
This one always gets me (and likely you too) because it’s hard to admit that I spent money on something that I ended up not wanting. I mean, seriously, how wasteful and silly is that? After all, money doesn’t grow on trees (at least not at my house) and I like to think of myself as sensible and careful with money.
But sometimes, even when something was purchased years ago, it’s still hard to just toss something that I paid my hard-earned money for. The ironic thing is that holding on to the item(s) doesn’t make my money any less gone (after all, you can’t change the past) – it simply cutters up my house and keeps me from enjoying the present. In effect I’m sacrificing my happiness right now because I’d rather not admit that I made a mistake in the past.
Boy, do I need to get rid of that mindset!
Not everything purchased in the past was a mistake, though. Just because we don’t love something right now doesn’t mean that we never got any enjoyment from it. We’re constantly changing – as are our tastes. There comes a time when it’s okay to let something from the past go and give it a chance to be enjoyed by someone else. In fact, cleaning out and donating to a worthy cause is a strategy that most pros will suggest to help motivate you to take action.
Or just get rid of it and let fate determine what happens to it.
Clutter Mindset #2: It’s one of a kind
First off, is it really?
Unless something is handmade or you commissioned it made specifically for you, the odds are that it is not one-of-a-kind. Most of us have homes filled with items that are mass produced – and there is nothing wrong with that. But it also means that your stuff isn’t unique. There’s likely nothing in your home that isn’t found in thousands of other homes just like yours. The question then becomes, “Do I love it?” because the truth is that it’s probably not one of a kind.
And even if it is…so what? Perhaps that wood carving or painting you’ve got IS one of a kind….do you still love it? Would you buy it if you found it today? If not, get rid of it. Just because something is one of a kind doesn’t make it something you need (or want) in your home. I’ve seen some pretty ugly stuff that is one of a kind – and so have you.
Clutter Mindset #3: It’s sentimental
Ahh, these are tough.
Perhaps you’re still hanging on to things because they were given to you by people you loved – perhaps by people who have since passed on. Getting rid of those things can sometimes feel like you’re getting rid of the person. Or that by getting rid of something they gave you, or that you inherited, that you’re saying to the universe, “This person’s stuff isn’t important to me therefore they must not have been important to me.”
Even if the item IS sentimental – perhaps your Aunt Ethel made that pretty doily just for you – do you still want it? Does it make you happy when you look at it? Does it make you smile? Do you love it?
Now you may smile at the memory of Aunt Ethel and remember how much you loved her….but do you really still want the crochet doily?
Here’s the cold hard truth: Getting rid of something that was (or is) sentimental does not make you a horrible person! Yes, you’re likely to get some naysayers who think you should keep every single sentimental item that you’ve ever been given.
Those people do not live at your house (hopefully). And there’s a name for those people – my hubby calls them “shrine builders”. The attitude that everything is sacred is just not true because things are just things.
If you don’t love something today – and if it doesn’t fit your space, your lifestyle, or your vision for your home – you are under no obligation to keep it. Getting rid of a thing is not a rejection of the emotion you felt for the person.
So along with the stuff, you are also free to let go of the guilt.
Clutter Mindset #4: It fits the space
What is it about space that just beckons to us to fill it up?
I find it odd that we check into a hotel and enjoy the feeling of luxury we get at the uncluttered space.
Or we drool over magazine photos and covet those rooms that look pristine and spacious.
And then what do we do? We fill up every square inch of our own homes with stuff and then wonder why we don’t get that spacious feeling.
Duh! It’s because we filled up all the space! It’s hard for something to feel “spacious” when there is no space.
Clutter Mindset #5: It’s “all the rage”
I blame HGTV for this one. I’ll admit that I absolutely love some of the shows on HGTV because I’ve always loved houses and decorating. And I’ve probably got a small girl-crush on Joanna Gaines, but that’s another story.
We watch our favorite designers on TV or see beautiful magazine spreads and trends get started. Before you know it an item is “in” and incorporating it into our own decor feels like we’re keeping our homes from becoming dated and stale looking.
Now there is nothing wrong with incorporating certain trends or fashions in our home. But we’ve also got to realize that today’s trend has a good chance of becoming tomorrow’s regret (see “I paid for it” above). As long as you’re not breaking the bank and you won’t insist on holding on to it after your love for the piece has faded then go ahead. But try to take a little time to determine if you love something because it’s “all the rage” or if you would have loved the item(s) if you’d never seen them anywhere else.
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves this question: If JoAnna didn’t love it, would I?
Clutter Mindset #6: It means “I’ve arrived”
Certain items represent status and that can be a huge hurdle to get over. Again, some honest reflection on your part is required here. Some items may have been highly desirable at one point in your past because you were working so hard to attain them. Their purchase represented a big moment in your life.
But do you need to hang on to the item in order to realize that you’ve achieved something that was important to you? Is a constant, physical reminder necessary to maintain that sense of pride you felt when you acquired it?
There’s nothing wrong with being proud of an achievement or accomplishment. If you’ve worked hard for something then a sense of pride is a deserved. The question is simply whether you still need the physical object in order to remember that you’ve achieved your goal.
Do you struggle with any of these mindsets? They can be difficult to overcome even after you realize they’re influencing you. But facing them makes letting go of the “stuff” easier.