Do you ever become overwhelmed by how much “stuff” you have? Do clutter and disorganization make you feel like you don’t have control? Do you ever buy things because you can’t find the one you already own?
Recently I helped old friends move, unpacking a lot of their stuff. They didn’t have an inordinate amount of material belongings – probably the standard amount – but it still seemed overwhelming when we were surrounded by it all. And, like moving often does, it made me think.
Years ago my friend Charles moved from his enormous 3000 square foot loft in Boston to LA to finally escape the Northeastern winters. It was an epic move; he was a pillar of the edgy art scene in Boston. He also had tons and tons of STUFF. He sold every single thing that wouldn’t fit into his PT Cruiser and headed to LA. He told me how incredibly relieved and enlightened he was to get rid of all of that STUFF. How a weight had been lifted off of him.
Stuff Does a Number on Your Perspective
I was raised by my grandmother. She was an amazingly strong woman. She was also a hoarder. I vowed to never, ever collect stuff, and I did a pretty damned good job in my twenties, spending my money on travel instead of stuff. But at some point in my thirties when my income began to soar and I bought a second home, I lost control of it a little… and started accumulating. Not on a hoarder’s scale, but enough that I stopped valuing what I had.
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris
That quote meant a tremendous amount to me when I first read it. But now with age and wisdom, I realize how difficult it actually is to live by this creed. Of course, I can intellectually decide to only have useful and beautiful things around me, but the pressures of modern society make it exponentially more difficult than it was in Morris’ day. The pressures of modern day advertising and the fear of missing out compound the difficulty.
How to Keep Focus
Material possessions aren’t the only things crowding us. Social media has cluttered our minds with an overwhelming amount of mediocre information that is neither beautiful or useful. We’re bogged down by things, and we’re bogged down by social connectivity. We don’t read as many great books or spend as much time sitting down and connecting person to person anymore.
The only way to stop this collecting of things, people, and information to the point that we dilute the quality of our lives is to first be very aware that we are doing it, and second, to focus on doing less of it. Vigilance and discipline are the only answers. But now as a one-house person with far less than I once had, it is far easier to focus on the beautiful and useful.
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Photo credit: Dandelion via photopin (license).