You Own Too Much Stuff and it’s Time To Admit It
You own too many things. It’s not just you, though.
The average U.S. home owns 300,000 items. Does that sound ridiculous? It did to me at first. I thought, “no way” and “my house isn’t big enough to hold that much crap”, but when I began to dabble in the minimalist lifestyle I quickly began to believe that statistic.
“Consider these statistics cited by professional organizer Regina Lark: The average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards. U.S. children make up 3.7% of children on the planet but have 47% of all toys and children’s books.” LA Times
With two kids, 4 and 2, as soon as I started sifting through the abundance of mostly ignored stuffed animals, mega blocks, Barbies, and My Little Pony collections I couldn’t deny it any more. As I moved on to the master bedroom, the living room shelves, and hallway linen cupboards and beyond I admitted – we own too much stuff.
As a consumerist society we wander malls and car lots and furniture stores with black and white color wheels spinning in our eyes, hypnotized by marketing schemes and advertising campaigns, creating a need where there was none and in the process of trying to fill the need we come out empty.
Our bank accounts are emptying along with our self-worth and the only filling up that’s happening is our closets, garages, storage units, and debt.
Possessions own us.
If you turn down invitations because you need to be home cleaning or organizing…you’re owned.
If you are unable to pursue your passion because your debt has you working overtime every month…you’re owned.
If you feel overwhelmed and ashamed by the clutter in your home or office…you’re owned.
If you feel secure and satisfied after a purchase and within days feel the let down of disappointment… you’re owned.
Is this the life we want to live for the next few decades we may have left in this life?
Do we want to pass on this legacy to our children or grandchildren?
What I hope for my remaining time on Earth is to value faith, love, gratitude, generosity, and peace far above the value of my vehicle or home. I desire my home to be a place of community, harmony, acceptance, and authenticity – not a museum of sale items that saved me money but stole my joy.
There is a trading of goods that occurs when we seek validation in what we own – we trade our good intentions for economic goods that bring no significant improvement to our lives. The exchange of our value and worth for superficial attention from people who we do not know or like will override any and all other behaviors that are truly worthy of attention.
Why It Matters
We can never be truly known the way we all desire to be known until we accept who we are apart from our stuff; our spirit and heart naked in pure completeness of being and having nothing more than all that makes us, us.
Strip away the stuff and all that remains is intimacy, honesty, and grace.
“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
This matters because to live a full life, one of gratitude and generosity and peace – is to stop hiding behind our distractions and deal with the hard, heart stuff.
And something else – the majority of our society doesn’t consider themselves rich, though there are undeniable reports that we in fact are. Personally, as I reform my perspective on what my stuff is doing to me, I’m appalled that I ever thought any of it mattered anyway.
I have 99% more stuff than most of the world, and I’m still unhappy. And I think you are too.
How to Start
I don’t want to minimize the difficult task it is to remove our emotions and attachment to our possessions – it’s hard. But it’s possible, and even more, it’s important.
The kind of important like disciplining our children. Or exercise. Or education.
This kind of important, scary, and messy hard is how we discover the joy of freedom from comparison, freedom from owing another money, freedom to be ourselves and to give from our deep soul and self abundance and lavish compassion on the world around us.
So, take it slow at first. Sometimes, diving head first can seem the easiest and simplest, in a ripping off the band-aid kind of way. But I caution you against that approach.
If you’re like me, as soon as you stop denying that you own too much stuff you will suddenly feel suffocated by it all and you immediately grasp for whatever is within reach and chuck it to create more space for oxygen.
Minimalism isn’t about owning nothing. It’s about owning what enhances your life, brings you joy, and is useful. Take your time to decide what those items are. Be thoughtful about each item; some will be easy, no-brainers but others will cost you days worth of contemplation.
You may not be ready to de-own certain items, and that’s okay. Take it slow. The value of simplifying your life is in the process. This is the hard work that changes you.
Pick one room, space, closet, or drawer at a time. Be thoughtful but not overly emotional; this is an exercise of detachment and self discovery. Be graceful with yourself and be proud of your progress, big or small.
For more practical tips you can check out this article from Zen Habits and this one too at Be More With Less. Denial is never the answer to any problem we have. Recognizing the denial is a great place to start. Stop denying what the human spirit is already trying to tell you: more stuff doesn’t make a life, so stop giving your life to your stuff.