Defining Excess Stuff

The last couple of weeks I have found myself thinking about the psychology of what I do for a living and pondering when does too much stuff become a problem?

What is the definition of too much of anything? I suppose you have too much stuff when it begins to interfere with your enjoyment of your space or prevents you from using a space altogether. You could have too much stuff if you feel that your stuff is weighing you down, causing you stress and anxiety or making you feel as though it has control over you instead of you having control over it. Excess stuff can cause relationship issues with other people in your life or in severe cases may even be a health or safety issue.

It occurs to me that our natural instinct for hunting and gathering is still alive and well even though we no longer need to hunt down our food or gather firewood to keep warm. Instead we are foraging at garage sales and flea markets or in shopping malls. Many of us are inheriting belongings from loved ones who have passed on and who collected ‘stuff’ for years just in case they needed it one day.

Ask yourself if your life would be simpler if you decided to go on a ‘stuff’ diet? Instead of buying, storing, hoarding, moving and insuring your stuff, can you begin to let go of your stuff in an effort to be kinder to yourself and the environment. Can you explore what you really mean when you say, “I NEED a new pair of shoes” or “I HAVE TO have that new piece of technology,” Let’s think about the difference between “I want” and “I need”.

Many of us have learned that having a lot of stuff is a sign of success. Some of us have been taught that we must never throw away any of our stuff because we never know when there will be a crisis and we might need those old twist ties with no ‘twist’ left in them, or the rubber bands off the broccoli we bought at the grocery store last week, or that ‘perfectly good’ Ziploc freezer bag that has been washed and re-used several times (yuk – think of the bacteria, people!).

Last week I was working with a client who believes that never throwing anything away is actually a virtuous way to live – her mother drilled into her that buying and consuming is a bad thing and that every effort must be made not to do so. You would think that this attitude would lead to less stuff but alas it somehow seems to lead to mountains of useless stuff and not much useful stuff – how interesting indeed.

Excess stuff is almost always a clue that something else is going on in a person’s life – it is never simply just about the stuff and lack of systems and storage. I’ll have more on that at a later date. Stay tuned.