How Did It Get This Bad?

If you have a pile of papers in your room your energy automatically dips because you know it needs attention…every time you walk into your home and there are things that need repairing, letters that need answering, junk that needs clearing, your energy can’t flow internally because of what is happening externally.”—Karen Kingston, Space Clearer

So really, how did it get this bad?

Most of us find ourselves asking that very question at some point in our lives. Even the most organized, energetic and proactive person is going to have moments when life, with its accompanying lumps and bumps, stops them dead in their tracks. That ‘dead stop’ that we find ourselves in might take days, months, even years to overcome. Meanwhile, the clutter grows and grows, invading our lives, silent and insidious.

But you will find that it is more than just ‘life’ that contributes to clutter. Face it, we live in the good old United States of America, land of the ‘freedom fries’ and home of the almighty consumer.

We the Consumer

To properly understand the level that consumerism has invaded even the most frugal American lifestyle, I urge you to look up “The Story of Stuff” on the internet. Just type ‘the story of stuff’ into a search engine and you will find a link. The presentation is around twenty minutes long and it addresses how we were quietly (and not so quietly) steered towards the level of out-of-control spending and debt that we currently find ourselves in.

‘We the people’ has become ‘we the consumer’ and it is eating us alive through good money thrown away on the fad of the day and an overabundance of ‘must haves’ that we don’t really need.

My clients don’t like to hear that they don’t need twenty pairs of black pants, fifteen silk dress shirts or fifty pairs of shoes. But when your closets are full to bursting, when you don’t even recognize a piece of clothing as yours (or can’t remember ever wearing it) and you see dust on your clothes and hangers because they haven’t been worn for so long, I’m the one who gets to break it to you—you have too much stuff.

Everywhere we look, the message is:

Buy me I’ll make you look fantastic, sexy and irresistible.

Buy me I’ll make you feel young again.

Buy me or don’t you want your children to have what you didn’t have?

Buy me I’ll take payments with a special introductory 0% interest for 90 days.

Buy me,

Buy me,

Buy me,

BUY ME!!!!

I find it especially ironic that we now have a huge industry that provides organizing solutions. See, first they convince you to buy and buy. Then when you run out of room, they sell you something to store it in! And in case all of those storage solutions don’t work out—why you can just get a storage space down the street and fill that up too!

There is even an industry devoted to ‘organizing.’ There are books on how to get organized. You happen to be holding one right now. Then of course, there are professional organizers like me: I earn a living, helping people to get organized.

So here you are. Maybe your closet is a mess or maybe you haven’t seen parts of your floor in years. Take a long look around your house and answer me this…

Who Owns Who?

Your possessions should not own you. And when you get to that point [when] you look around and you realize ‘I’m adjusting my life around my possessions…I’m not inviting friends over, I’m not able to get into a room in my house…[then] it’s time for a change.”—Excerpt from appearance on KCUR radio—The Walt Bodine Show, March 2008

Having things is a sign of wealth in America. We have gotten so used to the idea of showing off our things, that we now buy things just to stack in corners. Decorative boxes with nothing in them, wall hangings, knickknacks, glassware in every color of the rainbow and on and on.

Every surface becomes littered with knickknacks, every closet has become stuffed and now we regularly rent storage space for the extra stuff we don’t have time to go through and yet, can’t bear to part with.

  • If you can’t see your furniture or open your closet doors…
  • If you can’t remember what is in your closet or what your furniture looks like…
  • If you have no idea what happened to your favorite [fill in the blank]…
  • If you are embarrassed to have people over…
  • If the idea of parting with your possessions induces mind-numbing panic…

Then your belongings may, in fact, own you.

I teach “Let’s Get Organized” classes to a wide variety of participants in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area. Everyone has different needs or objectives for being at the class, so before I dive into any tips and suggestions on organizing homes I ask my class participants to tell me a little about themselves. “What’s bothering you most about your home? What is the biggest issue or reason you are here today?”

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