By Rita Wilkins
The Downsizing Designer

Do you know that the average American household has over 300,000 items in it according to LA Times? And many of us baby boomers have much more “stuff” than that!

Perhaps you’ve become blinded to the actual amount of stuff you have in your home. You just don’t see it anymore.

Clutter blindness is not unusual. It happens over a long period of time because:

  • We continue to purchase new things we think we want, need, and will use.
  • We continue to receive gifts from others, wanted or unwanted.
  • We often inherit other people’s stuff whether we want it or not.

Our big homes have become the repository of too much stuff!

How do you know when “too much” is “too much”?

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These are just a few clear signs that might signal you’ve officially crossed the line of too much stuff:

1.    Even though you have a big home, every nook and cranny is filled.

Your big home feels cramped and you never seem to have enough space to enjoy your life. For example, you might need to clear off the kitchen counter just to prepare a meal.

2.   You have more “stuff” than you can handle…

When you finally try to deal with your stuff, you just close your eyes and don’t even try anymore, hoping it will just magically disappear. It won’t!

3.   You attempt to remove some of your clutter but the task is so overwhelming that you get discouraged, even disgusted

So you just put it off to another day and the cycle continues.

If you exhibit any of these signs, likely you are experiencing the impact and burden of too much stuff.

  • You feel its impact every day when you wake up, get home from a long day, and go to bed at night.
  • You’re stressed out, frustrated, and frequently overwhelmed.
  • You have difficulty focusing in your own home because everywhere you look you realize you have too much “stuff”.
  • And you understand that at some point either you or your children are going to have to deal with it.

You finally wake up and realize you have too much stuff. So exactly what are you going to do about it?

Step 1: Wake up! Admit you have too much stuff!

If you are reading this blog, you’ve already taken the big first step by recognizing you have too much stuff and that you need to start somewhere. You know you need to begin the process of clearing the clutter so you can prevent further accumulation.

Step 2: Dig deep! Understand your WHY!

Understand why you bought so much in the first place and why you continue to keep it.

Top 3 reasons we buy stuff and keep stuff:

1. “Just in case you might need it!”

This mindset has allowed us to talk ourselves into buying and keeping things.

You want to be prepared. You don’t want to run out so you buy more although you don’t want or need it, then, you hold onto it.

So, what are you going to do about it?

If you want to let go of this mindset, start asking yourself:

  • If there is something that you could use instead or substitute for it if this item was no longer in your house.
  • If you could rent or lease that item instead of owning it.
  • If you got rid of it, what’s the worst that could happen?

2. “I feel so guilty letting it go!”

This mindset is a big reason that we keep and hold onto things far longer than we should.

  • Guilt is about how much money you spent on something.
  • Guilt because it was a gift given to you by someone you love.
  • Guilt because you feel obligated and responsible to keep something to pass it on to the next generation.

So, what are you going to do about it?

What do you need to do to let go of your guilt?

If you spent a lot of money on it, admit that money is long gone and it’s not coming back. Chalk it up to a poor decision. Let it go, sell it or donate it.

Remember: A gift is a gift.

Someone showed you they cared when they gave it to you. But once you received it you are not obligated to keep it. It is yours to do which you will with it.

Remember you will always have the memory of someone caring enough to give it to you. That is what will remain.

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3. “I am very sentimental about this item”

We attach memories to an item and we hold onto that item because of the memory.

But when we have too much stuff, when we are attached to too many things, when we have a hard time letting go of sentimental items, we get ourselves into trouble because we have too many things and too many emotions attached.

So, what are you going to do about it?

  • Recognize it’s the memories that will always be with you, not the item.
  • Reduce the number of sentimental items to only those that are most important to you.

“When you own less you value what you have more.”

Take time to display those few special items so that you can appreciate them each day and allow those memories to live on.

Step 3: Get real. Start to deal with your stuff!

  • Take pictures of every room, every closet, every drawer, and every cabinet. This exercise will open your eyes to the magnitude of stuff that you have. This will help you gain perspective and insight to exactly what you have to do.
  • Know “why” you want to declutter your excess stuff.
  • Set long-term and short-term goals and milestones.
  • Make a plan, and timeline, and challenge yourself. Break it down into smaller manageable steps so that you can accomplish small and big wins.
  • Know what to do with your stuff and where to donate, sell, dispose of or consign it.

Make time for decluttering and downsizing every day, every week. Start small but just start. Take consistent action to show progress.

When you hit roadblocks, pull out the pictures of your house at the beginning of your downsizing and decluttering journey. This will remind you of how far you’ve come.

If you get overwhelmed, remind yourself of your goals, and what it will be like when you have less stuff and less clutter. You will have more time, money, freedom, and energy to pursue what matters most to you

Step 4: Admit it’s possible!

Experience the life-giving benefits of owning less stuff.

  • Stop buying more!

Be intentional. Buy only what you need.

  • Stop stockpiling!

Buy only what you need when you need it.

  • Stop bargain hunting!

It’s not a good deal if you don’t want or need it.

Learn to make due and enjoy living with less.

This is a life-changing way to live.

It is a new minimalist mindset and way of thinking.

It is possible to own less and enjoy life more.

Wake up, baby boomers! We have way too much stuff!
What are you going to do about it?

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