Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's All Too Much

I suppose I'm like other librarians (and a whole lot of other people, too)--when faced with a task, I'd rather read up on how best to do it, rather than actually starting right in with the project itself. Before I began my spring cleaning, and after looking into hoarding issues, I found this book by Peter Walsh--It's All Too Much; An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff.

Stop for a minute and close your eyes. Take a little mental drive through your neighborhood. I'll bet you've seen those houses--perfectly nice houses that might be new, or close to new, with a garage so crammed full of stuff/junk/trash that the car, representing one of the biggest cash outlays for most families, is left out in the weather to fend for itself because it simply won't fit in the space that is designed for it. I've even seen garages where the door can't be closed because the stuff is starting to overflow. How did this happen?

We are a consumer society, after all, and the combination of our disposable income and an endless supply of cheap goods allows us to just keep on buying. When we run out of space in our houses, there are entire stores devoted to storage solutions, and the self storage industry is one of the fastest growing in the country. One in ten families has turned to the self storage solution (storing goods in a site away from their home) to deal with their overflowing possessions. See The Self Storage Blog for this, and other interesting and worrying statistics.

If you are dealing with just too much stuff, you should take a couple of hours to read this book. Here are a couple of Walsh's ideas that I really liked.
  • Look at each room in your house, and ask yourself--What is this room for? What is its ideal function? What should it contain? What has to go? (There are more questions to ask yourself about each room, but these were my very favorites).
  • "You only have the space you have!" Walsh says this again and again, and it's worth repeating. Our family figured this out years ago. Re-stated in Zee-style, it goes: When there isn't any more room in the bookcase, you don't need another bookcase. You need to weed the books and get rid of the surplus, just like librarians do. Actually, as we've gotten older, we've stopped buying books and rely on the library for our reading needs. Our bookcases are getting emptier all the time.
Walsh will give you some simple ideas to reduce your possessions--so simple, indeed, that they will remain in your mind long after you have finished the book. For instance, go through a pile of possessions, discarding, say, 2 out of every 5. Put those in your charity/trash/recycling bags. Now, go through what's left, discarding maybe 1 out of every 4. You'll find that it works.

One last idea from Walsh. We keep a lot of items because they are connected with memories that we don't want to lose. Ask yourself--is this "precious" item given a place of honor in my home, or is it stuffed out of sight in a molding cardboard box in the cellar? If the answer is the latter, take a photo of the item, and throw it out! Now, you are on your way to a clutter-less home. Think how happy you'll be!

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