Keep Clutter at Bay

Anybody remember that commercial for plastic bins? The family had too much stuff, so they bought a bunch of bins and packed it all away. Then they had extra room, so they bought more stuff!

At The Betty Brigade we do a lot of home organizings and clear-outs. We have occasionally worked in true hoarding situations, but in most cases, the problem is simply that over time, more has come into a household than gone out.

I have nothing against plastic bins; they’re great for storage. But they should allow you more space — not more stuff.

Remember your first apartment? Relatives and friends gave you cast-offs, and you could barely furnish the place? Then, gradually, you replaced pieces with nicer pieces, and more stuff started coming in. In this country, from toddlerhood, we’re primed to consume and acquire. It’s no wonder so many of us live with clutter.

Pursuing the American dream, we go from an apartment to a starter home, to a larger home to raise our families. Not enough room for our stuff? We must be outgrowing our house; time to move! All that stuff is a sign of success, right?

Or are we confusing possessions with freedom?

I think true success means you have more choices and fewer limitations. You can travel where and when you want to, spend time with loved ones, enjoy your hobbies and your fulfilling work. Not much stuff is required for that.

For an interesting take on clutter and being green, click here.

We’re currently working with a family of four who is preparing to sell their home. It was cluttered and messy, and they needed help clearing it out and staging it. They’ve lived there for 13 years, having moved in with a toddler and later having a second child.

Over the years, stuff came into the house. School papers, art projects, gifts, toys, sports paraphernalia, computer games, clothing, books, etc. Stuff became clutter… You see where I’m going, right? Very little ever went back out.

The husband and wife called each other pack rats, but they weren’t holding on to things on purpose. They just never considered getting rid of anything. Closets were stuffed full, and furniture blocked the closets anyway, so no one even remembered what was in there.

We’re all encouraged to consume, but few are trained to let go. Yet the process is quite liberating. As we continued de-cluttering in this home, one by one, the family members got on board. As more space appeared, tension levels subsided.

Boxes of stockpiled books and clothing left the house. Recycling bins were filled. Stacks of papers were sorted into categories: keep, recycle and shred. The kids became excited to see their rooms transform into a nice place to spend time — to read, to work, to have friends over.

With spring underway, consider letting stuff go. Get some free boxes at the grocery store and label them donate, keep, sell and discard. Remind yourself that very little is irreplaceable.

As you look at each item, if you keep hearing yourself say, “But I might need it someday,” you are keeping real stuff for an imaginary reason. Trust in your own ability to find what you need when you need it. The world is full of amazing things. But they don’t all have to be in your house.


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