On Stuff – It’s All Too Much, Organizing & Decluttering

Almost everyone on the planet now has ‘too much stuff’.  Drive through any city or town, count the storage places.  And as we grow older and move into larger places, our ‘stuff’ seems to magically expand to fill that void.  And then suddenly, we realize our house is full and we can’t afford a bigger one so we ‘put a few things into storage’.  Ah, that’s better.  The house seems more spacious.  But then we begin to fill it back up again, because we can.  And more stuff goes into storage until finally the storage space is full.

We buy spend money on fancy containers to store our precious ‘stuff’.  Fabulous closet systems, over the door racks.  It’s insidious, there’s no end to it.


My stuffed to capacity storage unit in New Orleans. Almost $250 a month to store… what???

This is a big deal to me because I spent 19 years carefully  stuffing way too many belongings into a very well organized house, then had to yank them out and drag them to an apartment half the size (because of my divorce), then store the things that couldn’t fit at my mother’s house for a year.  Then I tried to move in with my poor boyfriend into a home that was barely bigger than my own apartment (with all of his mounds of stuff too).  Between the two of us, our ‘excessive stuff’ drove us both insane and drove us apart.  Material objects should not be enough to threaten a relationship with another human being.  But it does all the time.


Here’s all my furniture pushing Aaron’s lovely leather sofa and love seat out of his living room

So I put 95% of my belongings in a storage room for almost 9 months, with the intention of sorting it and getting rid of a bunch of it so we could fit into one home, but it was too overwhelming, too inaccessible… So we separated to sort out our things on our own, and I hauled my stuff to a different state and I am currently trying to make it fit into an even smaller apartment with two tiny turn of the last century closets.  I have been forced to employee a lot of organizing tricks to maintain my sanity – built a custom, multi level clothing closet, added overhead storage, I’m using underbed storage, I bought a bigger dresser to replace my small childhood one.  And I’m installing built in shelves in a wasted alcove for DVDs and paperbacks.  I eventually want to transfer all my DVDs and CDs to my computer and make them truly portable, but that will take time.


My very organized but overstuffed (already) custom closet

But that’s where I must stop.  And then seriously began the journey of sorting through all of this ‘stuff’ and separating the things that I love, that really mean something to me, clothing I love and wear regularly, books I love, from all the extraneous crap that’s just overwhelming me.  Tripping over things, having to step over things on the floor, makes me want to cry.  I cannot be healthy in this environment,  I am claustrophobic and the unopened boxes and the big piles of god knows what that have a habit of slowly sliding over give me panic attacks and make me feel sad and overwhelmed.  And the expense of renting a storage unit, having to rent the largest Uhaul made for my last move… I’m just one little person with a cat.  If I can’t manage my own mounds of life debris, how can I ever share a home with someone I love without driving them insane.  It’s just all too much.

This was a few weeks ago, before the curtains.  And before I freecycled all those damn storage boxes and shoe racks

If something in your life makes you feel guilty because you are neglecting it, it reminds you of something negative, you don’t enjoy it, it only has some distant sentimental attachment, get rid of it.  Find the things you own that make you happy, make you smile when you look at them, make you proud to own them, are useful to you, are good quality, you are passionate about and enjoy using.  Find these things, some of them you probably have forgotten you even owned, may have not seen in years.  That’s the real tragedy, neglecting what you love and spending all your time shuffling things from one place to another just to get through life and maintain your sanity.

If you haven’t worn something in a year and it’s not something of exceptional quality, that fits you well, and/or has a use (seasonal, special occasion clothing), get rid of it.  If you have lost weight and are keeping fat clothes?  Get rid of them, it’s an incentive to stay healthy and slim.  They’re probably out of style anyway.  Same thing for outdated, ‘I used to be a size 4’ clothes.  Besides making you feel guilty that you can’t wear junior sized clothing anymore, again, they’re probably also out of style.  If you’re losing weight, treat yourself by buying new, fashionable clothing as you lose weight.  If you have something tiny and valuable, give it to a consignment shop, and use the profit to buy something that will make you feel good about yourself.  Life in the present, stop living in the ‘back when I was XX age…’.  I’ve been regularly donating clothing for the last few years and it makes me feel lighter and will hopefully make someone else happy and be useful to them.

I have a problem with books, magazines and knick knacks, decluttering is a difficult thing for a bibliophile.  The books are a lifelong problem, and my first job at a library cemented my fate.  Bibliophiles say that ‘you can never have too many books’.  Well, yes, you can.  I am unearthing books I forgot I owned.  I am coming to the realization that I will probably never reread the majority of my books.  There are a lot that I will probably never give up, but one person does not need 11 bookcases.  I had 22+ big plastic storage tubs of boxes in my last move, which is completely insane.  I forgot what the estimated weight of my move was (5000-7000 pounds?) but most of it was books.   Since then I’ve sold and donated three boxes of books, a box of LP’s, and four boxes of comic books (nothing valuable).  I know I could have spent hundreds of hours selling them on ebay, but the relief at just getting rid of them made me much happier than the few dollars I would have netted.

I have almost an entire bookcase crammed with glass collectibles

As for the knick knacks, I collect things like figurines of cats (I have OCD and worked at home selling on EBay full time for many years, so the temptation was in my face literally 24/7).  They are dust catchers, I’m constantly worrying about breaking them, and the sheer volume of them makes me uneasy.  A year or so ago, my shelves got full and I filled a plastic storage box with the lesser figurines and put it in the closet.  I pulled it out a few weeks ago at a garage sale, and didn’t even remember I owned some of them.  They didn’t sell well so I began giving them to children who seemed to show a genuine interest in them, remembering my passion for horses at a young age (yes, I know, don’t pass the problem on to the next generation ;-).  But it made them happy to get a new treasure, and me happy because they were happy and I didn’t have to take them home.  I have a lot of work to do.  I may never finish.  But the journey will lighten my soul and my life.

My entire life right now seems centered around sorting, decluttering and purging and trying to recognize what my priorities in life are.  It’s hard.  My boyfriend has inspired me, he has pared his life down to just the truly important stuff, I’m very proud of him.  He never could have done it with me crowding him out of his own house.  My goal is to get down to the point where I know where every item I own is, I can find it in an instant if I need it and not waste time searching for it.  And get out of the house and enjoy life, have more experiences than things 😉

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