Clutter. You know. The stuff you have lying around that you think you might need. That you’re sure you will need……some time, some day. Won’t you? What exactly is clutter? Clutter can be defined as anything we don’t need, want, use or anything that takes up space we need, or our time, our energy, or that destroys our serenity. Do you know where I got that definition? From an organization called Clutterers Anonymous! Yes, there is such an organization. I couldn’t believe it either.
I hate clutter and have been systematically going through my life trying to eliminate clutter. Clutter is, of course, items like clothes you can’t wear anymore, gifts you have received and can’t use, things you have bought and don’t like, books and papers you think you might need but don’t, and unnecessary items stuffed in storage bins and facilities. But, that isn’t all clutter is. It is also unfulfilling relationships, activities we don’t enjoy, and other psychological “junk” that we hold on to because we always have. Our minds can become cluttered just like our surroundings. Clutter seems to multiply of its own accord.
Where did this clutter problem start for so many of us? Many say it comes from fear. Instead of buying one of something, we buy two. We think if we need one, we might need two because that one might wear out, break, become unusable. Maybe we were taught in our childhood to fix things that break instead of throwing them away or to save things we buy because someone might need them. Those broken things and possible gifts pile up. If our clutter problem is bad enough, we feel hopeless. We feel we can never get rid of all the clutter. We have forgotten how to organize. Finally, clutter spills out of our drawers and our closets. It becomes embarrassing and overwhelming. Our hopelessness and helplessness over the clutter becomes worse. Clutterers realize they have a problem with their excess possessions.
Not only have I grown to hate clutter in my own life, I am growing to dislike “stuff.” The trappings of life that we feel we have to have in order to live. What “stuff” is differs for all of us though I think it may have similarities within social classes. We, in the U.S., don’t freely admit that we have a social class structure but we do. In Great Britain, they have always had a relatively well-defined social class system, more so in the past than now, but it still exists. They admit it.
The U.S. middle class, at least in my age group, still wants a nice home. Nothing wrong with that. It is the “stuff” that goes into those nice homes that gets out of hand. I’m as guilty of this “stuff” issue as anyone reading this blog post. Most of us want the good furniture, reasonably nice art on the walls, the latest appliances, the most up-to-date everything, as well as the accessories to pull it all together and make it into our idea of home. Outside of our homes, there are two or three cars, maybe a boat or RV. Nice lawns and landscaping. Individually, we want clothes, shoes, handbags, and jewelry for every occasion. I’m particularly guilty of this clothes issue! Everyone is different regarding how much stuff they like and can live with.
Last year, about this time, my house flooded and I lost a great deal of what I had. My stuff. See my Time to Rebuild blog post. It was devastating. I was most devastated by the loss of the interior of my house but the loss of my stuff was almost as bad. Until I started to move back into my house and started going through all the stuff. I realized how much of it I really did not want or need. How much was unnecessary to my life as it was in the present. How much was just old stuff stored in closets in boxes and was meaningless at this point in my life. So I started sorting. Soon, I stopped sorting and started pitching and throwing. It felt liberating. We moved much less back in than we moved out.
Now, I’m careful what I bring back into my home. I’ve found, once again, that I enjoy people more than stuff. I’ve renewed old friendships, old relationships, and those people are so much more valuable to me and enjoyable than “stuff.” My possessions were not giving me joy. The people in my life do, indeed, give me joy. I’m as careful about new relationships as I am about new stuff. New relationships have to be really worth it to be brought into my life. Otherwise, they are just so much stuff.
Our society has become so fractured and many of us have become so fearful that we surround ourselves with stuff instead of people. A problem we need to try to fix if we are to regain our American optimism and happiness.
*Image by Jonathan Billinger at SO3951