My last post on combatting clutter brought a lot of interesting comments and several great suggestions. For instance:
- Liz wrote: “We keep a large plastic tote in our living room and we drop items that are to be donated inside. Once the tote is full, we take the contents to Goodwill.” Great idea!
- DH (who has been reading my blogs for years) suggested coping with clutter is a mental exercise: “[Becoming] highly organized and clutter-free or whatever…will never fully shield us from that underlying level of anxiety you speak of, JD. That’s just a myth that sells books and blogs. The key to dealing with the underlying anxiety is to transform the material of the mind first.” Commenters Moom and Lucille agreed.
- Andrew shared a William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
- Dennis hit upon something I’ve learned over the past few years: “Invest in quality items. The few possessions I do own are of very high quality and will ultimately last many years with proper care.” KSR agreed.
- And Mrs. Money Mustache provided a tip that I’ve been trying to put into place here at my new home: “Everything must have its place. If every object in your house has a place where it lives, then clutter is virtually gone.” Yes, indeed, this is true.
Perhaps the most insightful comment, however, came by email. After nearly a year together, Kim knows me pretty well. She noted — not for the first time — that my problem isn’t clutter. It’s acquisition. She wrote:
What I’ve witnessed is what I would call an aquisition problem. I’ve been very proud and impressed with your ability to let go of “stuff”, but you still bring home little things constantly, and I would say more often than pretty much any one I’ve ever been around.
You know what? She’s right. What’s more, this is merely one symptom of a deeper problem in my life. As my therapist noted in December, I operate from a scarcity mindset. Many of my decisions are predicated on the premise that I won’t have enough: not enough food, not enough stuff, not enough love. As a result, I’ve tended toward hoarding (ever since I was a boy). And of course, this leads to a compulsion to acquire stuff.
For the most part, I’ve managed to shake this scarcity mindset with regards to relationships. I’ve shifted to an abundance mindset instead. Maybe it’s time to make the same shift in other aspects of my life. Hell, forget “maybe”. It is time that I made this shift.
Early this morning, I had a long chat with my friend Jodi Ettenberg, who’s near the end of a sojourn in Vietnam. Among other things, we talked about attitude and gratitude. We took turns sharing how lucky we feel, how grateful we are for the lives we lead. She may not have a lot of money, but she’s been able to travel the world for the past five years, eating and exploring and interacting with people. I, on the other hand, have a lovely home, a fantastic girlfriend, and work I love. We’re grateful for our lives of abundance.
As I ran errands this afternoon, I thought about the relationship between gratitude and abundance. For a long time, I hated the world “abundance”. I associated it with the myth of the law of attraction. But over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that there really is such a thing as an abundance mindset, and it’s very much tied to the ability to be grateful for what you have. As I pondered gratitude and abundance, I had an epiphany.
If an attitude of gratitude can change the way I view relationships with people, then maybe it can shift how I view my relationship with stuff. The next time I feel compelled to buy something — a candle snuffer, a drink muddler, a floor lamp — I need to take a moment to be grateful for the things I already have. I suspect that by doing so, I just might be able to put an end to my problem with
clutter acquiring things.
It worked today, anyhow. One of the errands on my list was a trip to Costco. I need batteries, and I want lots of other stuff. But while waiting at the DMV, I took a few moments to think about all of the good things I have, and to ask if I really needed to go to Costco. The answer, unsurprisingly, was no. I stopped by the grocery store on the way home to pick up a few necessities, but today at least I was able to keep from bringing more stuff into my home.