While it should be easy to determine if you’ve got too much stuff, most of us become “clutter blind” over time. The fact is that we’ve become so accustomed to all of the stuff around us that it simply fades into the background. However, if you’re at all confused whether or not your house is out of control here are the signs that you have too much stuff…plus a few ideas on what to do about it.
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So how do I know if I have too much stuff?
It’s a good question and one we should ask ourselves occasionally. As you’re going through things in your house ask yourself:
- Is every surface in my house covered? Do I have clear space or is every square inch covered with something?
- Can I find what I need when I need it? How long does it take for me to find what I’m looking for?
- Do I end up buying replacements for things I already own because I can’t find the original?
- Do I know where things are? Do the other people in my house know where things are?
- Does every item in my house have a place where it belongs? I used to talk about things having a place to “live” inside my house.
- Do I follow the rule of “like with like” so that items are grouped together?
- Do I have things stored somewhere other than my house? Does it take off-site storage to hold everything I own? How much money is my “stuff” costing me?
- Do I frequently make excuses for the way my house looks?
- Am I embarrassed by the appearance of my house? Are other family members (husband or children) embarrassed by how the house looks? Do they hesitate to have company over? Is the state of the house a source of conflict?
- Do I have sentimental items stored away where they’ll be ruined or deteriorate? If these items are so important, why am I not taking better care of them? We need to quit saving the good stuff for later – use it now!
- Do I sometimes feel like I’m drowning in stuff? Does my stuff make me feel closed in or claustrophobic?
If the answer is yes to even a few of these questions, then there’s a really good chance you have too much stuff.
Once you admit that you’ve got too much stuff, you need to deal with it. There’s no use identifying the “stuff” problem and then doing nothing about it. And trust me, your kids will be grateful later!
I’ve got too much stuff – now what do I do?
Again, questions help you focus on what to do about specific items in your home.
- Is this item useful? Even it the item itself is useful, are YOU ever going to use it? Many of us hold on to items because we figure we’ll need them one day. We justify keeping things that might be useful when the truth is that if we have too much stuff, we probably couldn’t find the item when we need it anyway. And just because an item could be useful doesn’t mean it will be useful to you.
- Do I love and adore this item? And be honest with yourself… you don’t love and adore every item equally. If you don’t love it – get rid of it.
- Is it sentimental? If it is, am I keeping it in good condition? (Peter Walsh talks in his books about honoring sentimental items). But even sentimental items need a limit. If you’ve got space and are keeping the item in good condition, it might be worth hanging on to. However, if you’re short on space then you need to make some choices and prioritize what you can keep depending on your space limitations.
- Do I have adequate space for it? The answer is no if it’s crammed in a drawer or box somewhere – you know the definition of adequate!
- Is this something I can use up? Do I intend to actually use it before it goes bad or expires? If you end up throwing it out then it was a waste of money and space.
- Does this item cause me (or someone else) anxiety, frustration, or distress? Unless you live alone your stuff has an impact on other people. And yes, you need to consider how your stuff makes the people around you feel – it’s only fair!
- What need does your stuff satisfy? (memories, aesthetic, status, intellectual, comfort/emotional). This one may be tough to answer but it may be the most important. Lots of us hold on to things for reasons we don’t really understand.
But I need practical suggestions to deal with my stuff!
Here they are…
This is the process I’d go through with you if I was helping you organize your home (and how I approach areas in my own home and is a service I offer).
1. Decide how you want an area to look, feel, and function.
Before you start to declutter, organize, or redo any space, think about your vision. How do you want to feel in the area? What activities do you picture taking place here. How do the people who occupy the space move, access items, etc? Don’t skip this…it’s what will keep you motivated.
2. Purge. Seriously, start getting rid of some of your junk.
You have to get real with yourself. Quit telling yourself that you’re planning to use something or that you love it too much to get rid of it. Dealing with your stuff requires you to get serious and put on your big girl panties.
3. Get creative about storing the things you do want to keep.
You’ll have to go through and take a look at your space with fresh eyes. You’re looking for hidden storage, unused space, underutilized areas.
For example, are you using the back of doors? Are you making the most of vertical space (most people aren’t), are there areas up high that could be turned into storage? What about under your furniture (or furniture with storage built in)?
It doesn’t take much to run a shelf up high around most rooms. Putting in a shelf right above door heights lets you display things that are sentimental. I’ve seen it used to store stuffed animal collections and sentimental toys in a child’s room. And I’ve seen one with pretty storage boxes to conceal bulk items or other things in longer term storage (and this is a great place to hide Christmas presents!).
You’ll also want to consider your wall space if you’re short on floor space. You’ll be surprised at how even a few feet of shelving can make a difference in what ends up in disarray on your floor.
When you’re ready to tackle your stuff
Now, if you’re ready to start tackling some specific trouble spots in your house, Abby Lawson’s course Impactful Habits, Organized Home is the next best thing to having a professional organizer come to your house. She’ll teach you the skills you need to tackle the primary clutter and “stuff spots” that we all deal with (and that are driving us nuts). It’s a cheap investment in acquiring the skills that make a calm and clutter-free home a reality.
So, are you ready to put on your big girl panties and get your stuff under control?
More to help you get rid of clutter:
Getting rid of clutter can be tough…unless you ask yourself this one critical question.
Learning to recognize these mindsets about clutter is the first step to helping you get rid of it.