Too Much Stuff Creates Too Little Time

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There is a beauty and clarity

that comes from simplicity

that we sometimes do not appreciate

in our thirst for intricate solutions.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

There is a lovely, generous, and gracious member of my family who, like many of us, suffers from too much stuff and too little time.  She slipped into acquiring too many things gradually over the years: buying gadgets that would save time, new clothes for special occasions, decorative objects to make her home more beautiful, food that would be available during storms, important books to read later, and even gifts for other people, until it became a serious addiction.  The process itself earned her a lot of public praise — even from the people who denigrated her habit behind her back.

Trying to help her has convinced me that these two conditions nearly always go together.  And, surprise, surprise, I began to see that I also suffer from the same condition. My house is not cluttered and I do manage to keep it clean myself, but my closets, garage, drawers, and files all need to be purged and re-organized immediately. Knowing that I have a certain paper or item that I need, but not being able to find it quickly is pretty disheartening. But even worse is buying something I think I need, then coming home to discover that I already own one — or two — is even worse.

So, I have decreed this fall to be my occasion for change. I expect to also discover more time for the things I love to do, and to enjoy the (fewer) things I love the most.

Unfortunately I fear that I’m not the only one in the beginning stages of this problem. One of the fastest growing businesses in the U.S. is temporary storage facilities. While some are rented by people who need a repository for a move or a temporary work assignment in another country, many are rented just to get stuff out of the house.

In a somewhat parallel fashion our culture has engendered a new mental illness called hoarding. From an occasional news story about someone’s house with pathways made between the stacks of debris throughout to a weekly real life television drama, stuff has grown faster than our capacity to handle it. Instead of humans being controlled by robots, many are now controlled by their stacks of stuff.

Another growing new business is the manufacturing and installation of closet organizers. You see, just a walk-in closet is no longer enough. Now each new iteration of home designs includes more and bigger closets with custom built shelves, drawers, and hanging rods installed to make the very best use of each cubic inch of closet space.

If you have ever toured an antebellum or early 20th century home, you have probably shuddered at the tiny closets even in the grand homes of wealthy people. You wonder, “How did they manage it?” Perhaps the more appropriate question for us would be, “How can I find the golden mean between deprivation and excess?”  We need to avoid the abundance that stifles but find the abundance that enriches.

Americans could easily lay a fair portion of the blame on mass media advertising. Although we tell ourselves we don’t listen or watch commercials, still we are influenced just because the messages are repeated so much that we become brain washed since our subconscious hears and believes.

And women, who make most household purchasing decisions, are even more apt to buy if the item is “on sale.” For example, some humorists say that a man will pay $2 for a $1 item that he needs or wants, just to get the purchase over with as quickly as possible. A woman, on the other hand is more likely to buy 2 items she doesn’t really need just because they are a “bargain.”

As someone who once taught writing for radio and television commercials, let me assure you that you don’t have to succumb to nefarious blandishments. You are in control, if you want to be. You are “enough” just as you are. Really.

Advertisers figured out a long time ago that fear of losing is a more powerful incentive to buy than the desire to gain a benefit. So commercial messages are crammed with suggestions and innuendos that make you fear you’ll lose out, become unacceptable as a member of the group, be revealed as inadequate, or just unworthy if you don’t buy X now.

Still you are the decider. You decide if new tennis shoes, a new bedspread, a new eye shadow color, or a new cell phone will really enrich your life for longer than a week.

If you decide that the item that caught your attention is really important to your emotional or physical well being, for heaven’s sake, go ahead and buy it. But give away, sell, or throw away a similar item from your closet or dresser when you get home.  Keep your inventory down to save yourself the headache of having so much stuff you can’t find what you need when you really need it.

No one wants to be the “star” of the next episode of Hoarders.

4 thoughts on “Too Much Stuff Creates Too Little Time

  1. Awesome! I just de hoarded for someone…dust, dust and more dust I felt liberated for them. A website called The Story Of Stuff has a little documentary let not your “stuff” rule you. Great story twinkletoes

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    • I too felt “liberated for them” when I helped my relative “de-hoard.” Unfortunately, my relative did not feel the same way. Oh well. I did my best and all of the other friends and relatives are grateful for my efforts. In fact some of them helped. Maybe time will make it better.

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  2. I have looked at, decided and either kept, passed on to a charity or have thrown out every 5 years. At theis stage I absolutley love the process as it is so cathartic and at times it is nice to revisit those precious memories. Lovely article

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    • Sounds like you’re way ahead of the game. Congratulations! I’ve had to move every five years or so, and thus was forced to pare down and clear out. I can’t exactly claim any virtue, except that I did react to the situation when I had to.

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