Your relationship to your stuff

Dear A,

When I read your post on facebook today I was both heartened and saddened. Your secret desire to get rid of (almost) everything you own and start over is at the heart of my business’ mission statement. Unfortunately, 95% of my clients are not ready to do that—to truly simplify and start living a new life, void of so much stuff. Most people just want to thin out a little and organize what’s left so they can find it.

My passion, dare I say my raison d’etre, is to help people understand that stuff is evil. Stuff does not make us happy. In fact it makes us very stressed out. And many of my clients have an unhealthy relationship to their stuff.

As I work with different people of all income levels and all levels of clutter and cleanliness I find the following to be true: stuff is like any other addiction.  Let’s compare it to alcohol. Many people can shop and go through life without ever having the feeling that their stuff is taking over their life. Just as some people can have a drink any time they feel like it without consequence. And then there are people who suffer from hoarding disorders and alcoholism. For these people their stuff or their drinking is impairing their ability to live a healthy life. And then… and then there is you. And millions of people like you—people who can’t have just one drink, people who can’t let things go without mental anguish. Your stuff isn’t hindering your ability to have people over, it isn’t a huge problem most of the time. And yet it is keeping you from living a full, happier life. You are bogged down by the papers, the books you need to read, the articles you should read, the magazines to read, the products to register online, the piece of that contraption to find—you know its here somewhere!

You have too much stuff. And you don’t even know how you got it.

Therein lies your solution. Figure out where you got all of this stuff! How did it get here? And I mean you need to be scientific about this! Write it down. How did I end up with 4 empty 3-ring binders? What am I planning to do with them? Now take a further look at this goal, at the purpose for these binders (or whatever object you are finding multiples of). This is probably a need you have that is not being filled. Are the binders there for keeping notes at a class and you haven’t taken a class in years? Maybe you need to seriously consider taking a class! Are the binders to help you organize all of your paperwork? Is your underlying reasoning here that “This paperwork is making me mental. If only it were organized it wouldn’t make me as crazy”? Maybe your subconscious is screaming at you to curb the paperwork addiction.

I know it is in your power to thin out your belongings and live a happy life surrounded by less stuff. You need to do some thinking about how your home got this way. Then you need to start small and start letting go. The space you find will leave room for fresh, new energy and for fresh, new ideas in your life.

Hiring me to come over as often as you feel you need me isn’t an option for most people. Enlisting a friend who understands your goals and your struggles and is willing to help (in exchange for baked goods) is a great approach. Hiring an organizer once or twice a year to give you a jump start is a good idea. Reading organizing books is usually pretty fruitless. If it has worked for you before, then read away! But for most people reading is another way to spell p-r-o-c-r-a-s-t-i-n-a-t-e.

Cleaning the room and seeing it cleaned is much more inspiring than reading about how to clean the room. Am I right?

Please take some time, go around a room that isn’t overly maddening to you. Pick up a few things and think about:

  • How did I acquire this?
  • What do I believe this item says about me?
  • Does it make me smile with joy to see it?
  • If I do not then why the hell is it still here?
  • Do I have another item that can serve its purpose/Is this duplicating another item I have?
  • Would I purchase this item if I didn’t own it already?
  • Do I have a concrete plan to use this item again within the year?

Call me anytime and don’t beat yourself up. An unhealthy relationship to stuff is not just like being a big fan of The Hunger Games. It is a serious issue and one that takes a lot of honesty to overcome. I applaud you for jumping in and doing the work. You are so totally worth it!  Duh!



*I posted this actual letter to a client because so many people I talk to have these same issues. I hope the sentiment and ideas can help more than one person. Please feel free to comment.  I <3 comments!