American Excess & Balance

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I’ve often contemplated this seeming disease that plagues us.  I love to organize and clean things and have since I was a kid.  Definitely a “Type A” here.  Just for fun, I enjoy watching YouTube videos on organizing or cleaning, and I’m amazed by the glutton of household items average people possess!

I will preface any further observations and opinions by saying – we have moved many times in our twenty year marriage, which forces evaluation of one’s “stuff”.  That said, after our recent move back to sunny Florida a year ago, it was incredible the stuff I’d deemed so valuable that we paid money to move it 1,000 miles.  Since our move and settling into our home, we have had Salvation Army come out twice with their big truck to haul away many boxes, Christmas train sets, set it and forget rotisserie oven, faux ficus trees, brick-a-brack, clothing, china, etc.  In addition to that, we’ve taken bag after bag to Goodwill almost weekly for the past year as we continue to sort through boxes.  Incredible the volume one collects over the years!

So, I’ve been forced to handle every item and evaluate.  I can only imagine the challenge for those who’ve lived in the same house for twenty plus years and how quickly things can get out of control.  Tastes in decor and furnishings change, fads come and go, the kids outgrow toys and clothes, hobbies move on, etc.  And if you have an issue with excessive shopping, especially as a means of therapy; well, then, all bets are off!

What is one to do when our “stuff” overwhelms us?

I think it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed if the chaos fills your entire home.  I would strongly suggest enlisting the help of a good friend or family member who can help you evaluate things and offer perspective.

When sorting through a room/box/dresser, I always ask myself three questions:

1.) Have I used it in the last year?

2.) Am I currently using it?

3.) Will I likely use it in the next year?

The task of letting things go can be so difficult.  Even a “Type A” like myself has found it hard putting some items in the donation box because it may have sentimental value or because it once cost a good bit of money.  The consequence of holding onto these items that we are no longer using and serve no purpose is that they seem to multiply and therefore occupy mental space as well.  They bog us down and we are hindered from letting our creative juices flow and general happiness from a tidy room.  They are “non-value added items”.  Now, I am not suggesting in any way, getting rid of all sentimental things or counting your household goods, etc.  But, I am offering a method to consider applying to our excess, which seems to be an epidemic.

I recently read a statistic that said 10% of Americans rent a storage unit outside their home!  Wow!  That’s staggering and in my humble opinion, a huge waste of money.  If we do not have room to house said item, then maybe we don’t need it.  I understand there are causes for short term leasing, such as military personnel, etc.  But, we’re talking long term here.  Why do we have so much stuff?

I often tell my kids that when I was their age, we didn’t have Walmart to run to for whatever item we thought we needed at that split second. There were grocery stores, hardware stores, department stores, etc.  And things were pretty expensive so we did not often get new things outside of Christmas, birthdays and the beginning of a new school year.  This must be a foreign concept to them as now we even have the all-too-tempting Amazon and internet shopping in general.

The stuff is so entirely accessible.  Add to that the “in your face” marketing that envelopes our society and there seems to be no escape!

On the flip side of consumerism, we have this new trend of minimalism.  Interesting.  While I think there are merits to this idea, I personally do not think it is for me.  But, I do wholeheartedly agree with keeping our “stuff” to a minimum but in a more balanced way.  For instance, I don’t feel like our family needs seven bottles of shampoo and conditioner, nor do I feel the need to count our toiletries.  I don’t believe we need three sets of everyday dishes, nor do I feel like we should count our plates and bowls.  To every area of life, there should be balance.  So how do we achieve this balance with our stuff?

I would say that we have to nip it in the bud.  Deeply evaluate items before we purchase them.  Do I really need this?  Do I already have something that could work just as well? Do I need “another” one?  Will it add value to my life?

It seems that once an item enters our homes, it takes up permanent residence and eventually reaches the point of excess.  I like the “one in – one out” idea.  If you purchase one item.  You put one in the donation box.  Simple idea but effective.

And now to address our current glut of stuff…

I love the old adage – “How do we eat an elephant?”

One bite at a time, right?

That is my suggestion in this regard as well.  Forget that the entire house may look like a tornado came through last night.  Forget that it’s been years since you’ve done anything with the basement or storage room.  Forget the cobwebs, the dust bunnies, the space invaders that have taken over your house!  Forget them all.

Today is a new day, my friend!

Writing things down has always proven effective for me when tackling tasks, especially undesirable tasks.  Make a list.

I would start your war plan with the rooms your family utilizes the most frequently.  This would be the kitchen, the family room, the living room, etc.

Outline the major tasks that require attention in each room.  Checking tasks off a list yields tremendous satisfaction and is very rewarding.  It propels us naturally to the next item.

Enlist the help of all the troops!  Even the smallest of soldiers can lend a hand.

One of the most common reasons for accumulation of things is that they do not have a home … OR … the soldiers did not take the extra steps necessary to take said item to its trusty home.

“A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Taking a room by room approach will inspire you to continue your war path to the other affected areas.  It doesn’t matter how long this takes.  The point is that progress is being made.

“Begun is half done.”

I think the greatest purging/organizing/cleaning tool is your attitude, frankly.

“Attitude determines altitude.”

If you have a sloppy, couldn’t care less attitude, then your home will reflect that.  If you are disciplined and focused, your home will reflect that also.

“Input yields output.”

Put on some happy music.  Whatever that is to you.  Sometimes I prefer classical, sometimes contemporary Christian music, sometimes easy listening.  Depends on my mood, I guess.  Whatever will inspire you and bring happy feelings, put it on.  Music has an amazing ability to carry us away from our present tasks (mundane as they may be) and take us to a joyful place in our soul.

Give yourself a pat on the back during each step of your progress.  You deserve it.  As long as your feet keep moving in a positive direction, you are one step closer to the environment that you desire.

Just think of the joy you could bring to someone less fortunate as you place unwanted items in the donation box.  And, next time you feel the urge to place that Amazon order or hit the mall, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a war plan to develop regarding the glut in our garage.

 

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