Are you holding on to stuff?
Are you having a hard time throwing out certain things because you think you might need them some day? Do you hold on to things solely because they provide prestige? Do you own items that are broken and you have intended to mend for the last couple of years?
All these things are signs of an innate quality in us humans to hold on to stuff because of a fear of deprivation, that we might never get one just like it again. This idea has been burned into our brains for a long time, as a species and as individuals. Having lived through wars, famine or natural disasters has made it very clear that we might need some things again sooner or later.
These days, holding on to stuff has become a bit of an issue, because not only do we generally live in small quarters – at least the city dwellers tend to do so – but also has a lot more stuff become available to a larger part of the population.
Are you a creature of habit?
A habit can easily lead to clutter: once something is sitting in a particular place it starts to fade into the scenery and on those rare occasions that we realise it is there, we don’t quite feel the need to throw it out. We get used to it being there and we live our lives around the ‘foreign’ object. While we seem to get on perfectly fine with this thing, it is a nagging reminder at a subconscious level that we really should do something about it, but don’t. Now that’s what I call negative reinforcement.
Are you a collector?
When we think of collectors, images of crazy-eyed madmen and people cloistered in their overcrowded basement come to mind. But then we could all be considered ‘collectors’ in our own right. Do you have more books than fit your bookcases? Do you own more pairs of shoes than strictly necessary? Have you been chasing that missing DVD of a series that you own? Do you have a box where you store things to be used for craft projects that never happen? Well, I’m happy to confirm that you might be a collector.
All these things could be considered a collection. Why? They evoke thoughts like “I want to complete the set”, and that is what a collection does. Once a collection has started it is hard, but not impossible to break that chain of events.
Do you get emotional about your stuff?
Do a lot of your things serve as reminders of memories, good and bad? If so, you probably have a shelf full of holiday memorabilia, some children’s toys, chipped cups and plates, or several boxes of things you have not looked at in a while (probably stored in your attic or garage or in a cupboard behind other stuff). If you feel perfectly happy to keep all of those, by all means, do! However, while you will most certainly wish to hold on to things that you associate with the good times, there is also a point to be made for letting go of items that hold bad memories.
It’s hard to let go of items that are emotionally charged either way, but there is something to be said to let go of the bad memories to be able to move on, and to create more good ones in the future. You really do not need a reminder of those bad times, and you certainly do not want to reinforce the memories by being confronted with them all the time. You’ll find that those “bad memory items” tend to hold key positions in your home, and that does not help to make you feel at home, at all.
These four types of clutter (broken, habitual, emotional items and collections) make up the majority of items in our house. If we really want to make space in our homes as well as calm our mind, we should consider getting rid of these. Each category requires a slightly different approach, but all of them have one thing in common: you need to figure out why your mind cannot let go and make peace with whatever holds you back. And then let go of the associated stuff.
Ask the ClutterMeister
Ideas to help clear away the mess in our homes and in our minds.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.