Friday, November 18, 2016

Are You A Slave To The Inanimate? Cleaning House!

Stuff is great!  Because of stuff, I can stay in touch with friends and family, my teeth stay clean and healthy, and holidays are distinctively beautiful! Huzzah!  
Here in the USA I enjoy many things that make my life easier! ... To an extent...

I am sure most of us are familiar with the stress that clutter can cause.  Maybe you like your room a little messy; but every room? All the time? Probably not.

So what do we do? Usually one of three things:
  1.  Ignore it, because we are tired and the job of cleaning will be too much of a drain.  
  2. Satisfy ourselves with a quick clean, shoving clothes into laundry baskets, things away here and there.
  3. Put everything away how and where it is supposed to go. (probably at most once or twice a month occurrence due to a freak influx of cleaning energy)
Doesn't sound like you? Have it all figured out? Great! 

If it does sound like you, then you might sometimes wonder "why do I have all of this stuff".  Well, why do you? Is it making you happy?  Do you really need it?  

Your house doesn't have to be in constant disarray.  Messiness doesn't have to be the rule, and cleanliness doesn't have to be the exception.  The fact is, if you are having a hard time keeping your house clean, you are probably beholden to too many things. 

The three biggest reasons, I can think of, that we hold onto what are really non-essential things are as follows:
  1. We have invested time or money in them.
  2. We think they might come in handy in the future. (i.e. situation changing, gonna lose that weight, might use it in a special project, etc)
  3. We ourselves, or family members have an emotional attachment to the stuff.
The first is known as a sunken-cost fallacy. Because of the previous cost of something, we ignore that it is no longer providing enough use to off-balance the continued cost (stress) to us.  Okay, easy to understand.  Just get rid of it.

The second, holding on to things for possible or even probable future use, may seem sensible to many.  But why hold on to spare shirt buttons or pieces of lumber when they are easily obtainable.  The small cost of purchasing these things as needed, is nothing compared to an actual tax on your health from a cluttered living space or the extra effort when it comes time to move.

Perhaps hardest of all, are our emotional ties to our stuff.  I remember my dad always seemed to be throwing our stuff away when we weren't looking.  It was so upsetting!  Especially the day I realized he had tossed out our Nintendo Entertainment System.  (I might mention it had been sitting in the closet for about 8 years...) If this seems at all upsetting to you, then you can probably imagine that I was quite upset at the time.  It was a "no forgiveness" kind of situation for me.  A lover of games at the time.

Only now that I am grown and have moved a number of times, have I realized that less is more.  The problem with emotional ties is compounded when it is a spouse's or a child's emotions that are tied to an object.

So what do you do? You could be sneaky like my dad... But it might be better to hold a family counsel about solutions to this problem.  One tactic I've seen for this particular problem is to go through your things, looking at them, touching them, and paying attention to how they make you feel. If it is a negative emotion, you would probably be better off getting rid of it (not applicable with bills). 
Whatever you decide to do, remember to measure the stress from clutter against each individual object, because they do add up.  Perhaps, dedicating one small box or tub for things that "just can't be gotten rid of" at the time could help the process from shutting down completely.  Giving yourself a reward, like a pizza movie night in your new uncluttered living room, can be a great way to get the kids on board.  Remember you are all sacrificing some things for something better.  It should be a happy thing if you can keep that in mind.  

Now, to stem the flow.  It may be beneficial for couples to honestly and openly evaluate where the influx of stuff is coming into your home from (this can include extended family, shopping habits of either or both partners, or swag from all your fancy outings).  Set aside time to have these conversations, as opposed to impromptu emotionally driven arguments. 

Finally, if you really can't imagine parting with anything, yet you feel like your house is a constant mess then perhaps it is time for a vacation.  Next time you have the opportunity to take at least a week long vacation, try to realize how little you really can get by with while you are living out of a suitcase.  Take time to think about if the things you own are owning you, and how it feels to take a break from all that stuff.

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