The Needed But Jumbled Items: Part Three of a Five-Part Series on Clutter
May 1, 2018
Wandering Nomads: Part Five of the Five-Part Series on Clutter
May 1, 2018
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Just Too Much -Part Four of a Five-Part Series on Clutter

 

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:

  • Artifacts of Unfinished Business: This clutter consists of ignored items that were part of projects that you haven’t started or haven’t finished.
  • The Unloved Ones: This clutter consists of belongings that were once used, needed, or loved (or all of these) but now they gather dust and have for months or even years.
  • The Needed but Jumbled Items: You need these belongings and use them regularly, but they are in disarray.
  • Just Too Much: With this clutter, as described in this essay, you have too much of a particular type of item (such as books or collectibles) or too many items of various types in a space too small to hold them.
  • The Wandering Nomads: These are items that have been placed in a room or another space whose purpose they don’t serve, as with library books piled on the kitchen table. The items are easy to find—but they don’t belong where they are, causing the space to give mixed messages.

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:

  • Ask yourself why you continue to acquire throw pillows, figurines, DVDs, or whatever your collectibles are. Are there positive or negative impacts on you with regard to these collections? Are you inspired by your collections or are they beginning to annoy you? Tune into your heart for honest answers and clear, keep, or pare down the items accordingly.
  • Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, open a drawer or closet, and place the excess in bags or boxes for donation. If it helps you in the process, imagine where these items will go and how the people who need them will be joyful and grateful to receive them.
  • Take micro-movements, tiny steps, to clear out the excess. Focus on one item at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if you are incredibly overwhelmed or fearful, seemingly microscopic movements are exactly the actions to take. For example, open the door to the junk room on day one and then walk away. Day two, open the door and step inside. Day three, open the door, walk in, and take a deep breath. Keep building on these brief movements each day. Your courage will build.
  • Seek support from other members of your household. You can ask them what spaces they’d like to tackle or help you tackle, and create inspiring ways to celebrate your progress. It can become a labor of love.
  • Rent a dumpster and use that time to do a deep purge of things that need to be thrown away rather than passed on. Schedule a weekend for the purge and ask friends to come support you as you let go of the excess; perhaps they can bring snacks that everyone can eat as they help you. Wake up early to your favorite morning beverage, roll up your sleeves, and have at it one space at a time. With this approach, you can get a lot of purging done in a brief time.
  • Start in the space that is stuffed the most or the least, depending on your style of attacking the excess clutter. Sometimes if you start in the toughest area, you can reap the maximum freedom and energy to keep going. Alternatively, your style may be to be energized by the incremental steps that keep you moving to the next drawer or closet, and build up to the larger tasks.
  • Plan to limit the new items flowing into your home as you intentionally purge the excess. Begin to distinguish between what you actually need and what items you desire when you go shopping or shop online. You can create a wish list for desires and have the experience of delayed gratification; some things are worth waiting for, and other times you may discover you don’t really want the item when you reassess it later.
  • Make a list of the experiences you’d like to have with people you love. Share this with them. Schedule the experiences and savor them as they take place.

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