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Stuffed: When Things Take Over

Fay Johnson

By Vicky Norris

A sign outside the storage unit facility near my home reads: “If you can’t find your lawnmower, bring your garage clutter here!” In a world where we too often fall into the trap of overconsumption, we are being encouraged to ignore our excess by simply relocating it. However enticing it might be to put our overage out of sight, relocating our surplus doesn’t bring freedom. Over the last 13 years, working as a professional organizer, I have had a front-row seat to thousands of people’s relationships to stuff. At times I have literally been up to my waist in people’s possessions! I can tell you, from first-hand experience, that the acquisition of more and more stuff only leads to unhappiness and stress.

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How did we get here? We have become a culture of collectors. Our society, particularly in the United States, encourages accumulation. We are continually told, through advertising and social norms, to get the latest gadget, the replacement appliance and the upgraded versions of our toys. Without a clear definition of what ‘enough’ is, we don’t know when to stop. It is difficult to identify when ‘enough is enough,’ so we just keep adding to the pile.

We’re told we deserve a break, a treat, a reward. We may be looking for relief or reprieve from the stresses in our lives. This can lead to us going about life with a mindset focused on what we feel we need, rather than what we can give. When we create habits of focusing on what we need and want, we no longer are thinking about how we can build, create and contribute to those around us. The vicious irony is that once we have accumulated all the things we think we need, our possessions can actually begin to negatively affect our lives: becoming overwhelming and hindering the way we actually want to live. Whatever we collect we must save, dust, store, protect, inventory and insure. Having stuff that we need and love isn’t wrong, however, when we have too much it can negatively affect our lives. When we stop stewarding, using and appreciating what we own, then our possessions are no longer a tool for better living, they are an obstruction.

Whether we’ve been implicit or active participants in a life of overconsumption, there’s only one thing to do: simply stop. To create a lasting change in our behavior, we must start with a shift in thinking. Here are a few suggestions about how to start thinking about our consumption differently:

Prune out the overage in our schedules, eating, commitments and shopping, so we can create more mindshare for the things that matter.

Examine the attitudes and beliefs we have around stuff and activities that cause us to over-commit and over- place.

Defeat the consumerism giant by writing checks to our creativity, families, growth and culture rather than to the companies and causes that break down those things.

There’s really no need to live life stuffed. If we engage with life realizing we are already complete, we won’t feel compelled to spend ourselves trying to become full.

Adapted from: Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good  copyright© 2007 by Vicki Norris. Available now at www.RestoringOrder.com.

Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission.