This series of essays describes how clutter comes in different types, each with its own causes, effects, and management strategies. Most clutter fits into the following types:
In this essay, we will tackle what can be a formidable form of clutter in our homes: excess items, or Just Too Much. Some of us have “pockets” of excess—particular items that we collect in excess. During my children’s childhood, one of these pockets flowed into our home in the form of often-stepped-on Legos. My son had a passion for creating many amazing objects, so I kept treating him on special occasions to more Legos. Some of us have moved beyond the pockets of excess to have too many items overall. The Just Too Much clutter can tumble out of closets, overflow from drawers that won’t close, or fill an entire room that we’ve been tossing “whatever” into for years. Whether it consists of pockets of excess or too many items overall, Just Too Much clutter can have negative effects on our finances and our well-being.
Just Too Much clutter is the easiest type of clutter to identify, because too many belongings in too small a space create a suffocating feel. At its extreme, this type of clutter packs the homes of hoarders with too many of all kinds of detritus mixed with functional belongings buried underneath decades-old magazines and newspapers. However, you don’t have to be a hoarder for Just Too Much clutter to have negative effects on your life, so I recommend taking steps to avoid moving in that direction.
The excessive accumulation of particular items happens for many reasons, including a passion for something that can lead us toward collectibles. The desire to buy a figurine or a popular stuffed animal or two sometimes creates a perceived need to have the entire line. As humans, we seem to love to collect things, and for many of us, this began in childhood, when we may have started collecting stamps, pennies, or dolls. I have walked into many homes where it’s immediately clear that I’m with a collector of things. For some of them, the collections have multiplied, and they’ve run out of spaces to display their collections.
Some of us collect things that we don’t recognize as collections or even as excess items. For example, you might collect books excessively, but they are spread around the house so that you don’t notice the daunting number. Or you might collect DVDs or shoes, but have them tucked away neatly so that the excess is less apparent. Many of us have acquired accidental collections of useful items, too. For you, it may be food containers and lids that seem to give birth to quadruplets in your kitchen cabinets. And what about all those plastic bags from the grocery store that start to puff out the bag that holds other bags?
You may think that the pockets of Just Too Much are not a big deal (and in some cases they aren’t), but it’s often worthwhile to explore that a bit deeper. How do you feel when you walk past these items, when you pick them up? Does joy flood your heart, or do you feel unease or perhaps boredom? You might have mixed feelings—general happiness about the items, but also discomfort with the excessiveness. Do the items cause you to reflect upon happy memories and connotations, or do you think about the money spent on them? Also, how much truth is there to the stories you have told yourself about the items? We may justify the purchases of these items but then complain because we don’t have enough money for experiences we’d like to have. We may think we’ll read all those books or use every one of those containers, but we don’t. Many of us think someday I will use this, but “someday” doesn’t come or by the time it does, we forget that we have it in our home.
We all have reasons for over-acquiring possessions, and it can help to gently explore yours. In all of its forms, the Just Too Much clutter can be a way to mitigate the “not enough” anxiety—feeling as though we don’t have enough or are not enough. Motivated by this flavor of fear, we gather more makeup, shoes, clothes, toothbrushes, and tools. Maybe we stash them in odd places, sometimes with the price tags still on them. Advertisements are designed to feed this anxiety of “not enough,” and we end up with Just Too Much to compensate for feeling less than we really are. This “not enough” thinking may be a fear-based, limiting belief that is not accurate. I encourage you to consider that you are enough and that you have enough … maybe more than enough!
Sometimes the anxiety has been fueled by attunement to current events, as hurricanes and tornadoes have devastated entire cities. We might stock up on fundamentals for a predicted disaster, which makes sense, but we might buy far more than we need and continue this pattern after the storm has passed. Sometimes we see disasters happening in other cities and stock up in case a similar disaster happens to us. While this is understandable, it can be a problematic and expensive way to manage anxiety.
Anxiety is not the only motivation to acquire excessive belongings. Some of us accumulate things because belongings do not hurt us emotionally or physically, as people can. Inanimate objects don’t yell at us, say unkind things, or abandon us. So we fill our spaces with belongings, and maybe we find ourselves cautious about creating vulnerable and meaningful connections with people. In more extreme cases, belongings become an actual buffer: Some people with excessive items no longer invite people to their homes because of all the excess that now seems like a shameful secret.
The Just Too Much clutter often has unpleasant consequences, especially when it is widespread. If it stays in our homes for a long time, we can feel stymied by the excess and find that important areas of our lives have come to a standstill. We may feel stuck with regard to career opportunities, fulfilling experiences, or optimal health. We might wonder why we don’t want to take inspired actions or even get out of bed in the morning. Just Too Much often blocks the flow of joy as we become numb to the excess and to other things as well. All of these scenarios build up to a painful situation until you bravely choose to interrupt it.
Can you begin to let go of the excess you have and continue to deepen beautiful and meaningful connections to people? What matters the most in your life? What could your life feel like free of the excess? Can you find a balance point? It takes courage to make this shift away from Just Too Much to a reasonable amount and to experiences that make your heart sing. Sometimes life challenges you to regroup. Why wait for those shocking wakeup calls?
Sometimes knowing people who have lost everything because of a hurricane, an earthquake, a fire, or a flood creates a catalyst for the courage to let go of your excess. By the grace of God (or whatever term you use), you have not lost everything and are blessed with an opportunity to give. Giving generously of your excess contributes to the lives of many others, and everyone benefits.
Feng shui encourages us to connect in a meaningful way to our belongings, the people in our lives, and our life experiences in a flowing and dynamic way. Finding your balance point with belongings, relationships, and experiences can be a life-giving journey that transforms your home into a haven and your life into one you love living.
Here are some ways you can take steps to let go of the excess belongings in your home: