by The Organization Man
I’ve been on a crusade to reduce the amount of physical clutter in my life. Like most people, I’ve managed to collect quite a bit of stuff over the years. Couple that with a major career change some five years ago, and I’ve found myself to have saved many things that I no longer use or need.
Six years ago, I was a teacher. As such, I collected quite a bit of tools, books, and supplies befitting my trade. Then, I was no longer a teacher. After all this time, I’m probably not going back to it. So much of my Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) is sitting here taking up space and benefitting no one.
As I’ve gone through this process, I’ve managed to compile some thoughts and observations that you might find enlightening.
There’s a difference between clutter and organization.
You would not find my basement storage area on a typical episode of “American Pickers;” it’s too neat. My stuff is neatly stored in plastic bins and boxes, neatly tucked away on metal shelving of just the right spacing and height. So it’s organized.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not clutter. Clutter could be defined as any resource that you no longer use and is a drain on other resources. It takes up space. It might represent potential value if you sold it, which would allow you to access other resources if you choose to. If you have to do anything to maintain your clutter, it takes up time.
My organization was a smokescreen to my real problem. I was hoarding. And there’s a good reason for that.
Getting rid of Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) is psychologically hard.
I’ve taken the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment. One of my top 5 strengths is “Input.” This makes me a collector…of ideas, facts, quotations, and even physical objects. All of which I tend to view as having value. So keeping all these possessions quite simply arose from this very real strength in my psyche that sees all things, whether material or immaterial, as potentially useful.
I found myself viscerally torn as I began to choose to part with various pieces of Perfectly Good Stuff (TM). “I could use this!” I found myself saying. I recalled other times when I’d tossed something, only to find that I needed it later. Didn’t want that to happen again.
I had to change my way of thinking. Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) became simply…stuff.
Perhaps the fact that I tended to think of Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) in a “trademark” sort of way led me into this hoarding, protectionist mode. I had to change my way of thinking. Perfectly Good Stuff (TM) became simply…stuff. Stuff I no longer used or needed. A friend said it well: it’s not worth the time or energy to keep it.
As I began to part with my stuff, I found…
It becomes self-rewarding to de-clutter. And easier.
The more I chose to part with clutter, the easier it became. And I began to see the rewards for doing so. Every additional bin that was emptied, every load taken to the dump or to Goodwill, every piece given and received joyfully by someone else who could use it, every “one-man’s-junk-is-another-man’s-treasure” item sold on eBay…each of those occurrences was a feel-good pat on the back for someone who previously felt very conflicted to part with his possessions.
And so, it became easier. Items that were earlier off-limits were now on the chopping block. “What else?” has become the battle cry. “Please stop giving us stuff!” has become the plea of my extended family. Where once there was a certain anxiety, there is now peace and joy.
And to the person who bought a 12-year old empty Xbox 360 box from me for $25 (that’s right, just an empty carton!), my bank account thanks you.