What would you do if you actually had to use everything you own, including all that stuff in the drawers, cupboards, closets, shelves and boxes in your kitchen, bedrooms, living room, basement, attic, garage, rafters, driveway, patio, side yard and cars?
Most of us will never accomplish such an overwhelming task. Instead, we pack it, stack it and pile it away — and even pay rent to store it — and keep accumulating even more. More stuff only dilutes the quality of our lives.
Every possession carries two price tags: the original purchase price and the continuing toll. That second amount is paid in upkeep, time, maintenance and storage. It can charge its toll in anxiety, depression, relationship conflict, financial distress and even impaired function.
Moving and storing clutter: I've done it. Perhaps you have, too. I've packed it all up and paid someone to move it to a new place. "I'll sort it there," I told myself. Fifteen years later, I was still hounded by unpacked boxes I'd moved from one house, one floor, one room or just one side of the closet to another.
Wasted time. Who could calculate the number of hours we've tossed down the drain because of clutter? Simple tasks turn into search-and-rescue missions. There are some people in my neighborhood who empty the entire contents of the garage onto the front lawn to retrieve holiday decorations. Then, they take the rest of the day cramming it all back before dark.
Judging junk. Ask yourself these questions to decide whether something is clutter or not:
Does it work? So much of the clutter in our homes is made up of broken things we plan to fix and clothes that might someday fit.
Do I really need it? Determine what the impact would be if this item were to disappear from your life.
Do I enjoy it? If this item brings beauty and joy to your life, it is not clutter. Sentimental belongings and things that bring true beauty to our lives should be treated with great care and respect — not packed away in the attic to be forgotten.
Am I using it now? If it doesn't fall into the 20 percent of things you use on a regular basis, it is suspect.
Will I use it in the next year? If you are not certain you will use it soon, it's clutter!
Move it out. Sell it; give it away; or throw it out. One of the best solutions for "good stuff" is to give it to someone who wants or needs it.
The more seriously you take this matter of dejunking, the greater the positive impact it will have on your life. Important stuff will be easier to find when you don't have to rifle through piles of worthless clutter.
Getting rid of the physical clutter in your home is going to do more than free up some much needed space. Decluttering will calm your spirit, clear your mind and increase your ability to enjoy your current situation, your relationships and your life!
So, what is your experience with clutter? Have you spent entire weekends moving junk around? Have you found a way to make money off of your clutter? I'd love to know.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.