Our Cluttered Lives – Shepherd Express

We Americans love our stuff, but they don’t love us back. Instead, much of it turns into clutter, which research shows has become a widespread psychological irritant in the average household. This riot of personal belongings and useless documents that litter most homes has spawned an entire self-help industry. There are books, TV shows, podcasts, and even personal coaches to help us untangle our material lives, promising greater peace of mind in the process. Predictably, chapters of “Clutterers Anonymous” (really language, huh?) have sprung up across America, each charting a 12-step path to redemption through “minus it.” is more”.

Sometimes excessive clutter is symptomatic of deeper ailments. Sometimes people who feel like a mess mentally display their inner disarray through the outer anarchy. Some clutter diehards suffer from depression, mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or ADHD, and a few become pure hoarders who find it unthinkable to throw anything away, ever. We’ve seen where this can lead, and it’s not pretty.

I suspect some of you might be wondering, “Aren’t there people who are just slobs?” Sure, but many of us become cumbersome simply because we feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the stuff dumped into our lives. Certainly, it is up to individuals to manage their material affairs. However, today it is much more complicated and time-consuming than a few decades ago. For example, the primary culprit for most clutter is paper, which Americans use well above the global average. The computer age promised less printed material, but the opposite has happened, so that most of us now find ourselves inundated with junk mail, catalogs, user manuals, printed articles and emails, magazines and more.


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Clutter disaster

The simple act of sorting, filing and recycling this avalanche of paper overwhelms most of us, but studies show that those who leave it in a mess spend the equivalent of several days a year looking for lost documents. Throw that on people who are poor organizers, procrastinators, or buried under an overwhelming to-do list, and the clutter catastrophe emerges.

Beyond paper, many of us slowly accumulate piles of stuff that we tell ourselves that maybe one day we will need. Sure, items with sentimental value are one thing, but decades-old unfinished craft projects, clothes that don’t fit (but maybe one day?), stacks of unread books, school supplies, and more. unused exercise and shelves full of unnecessary trinkets is another.

Becoming largely clutter-free has distinct benefits, both practical and psychological. It reduces cleaning time in the average home by nearly 40%, saves countless hours of searching for misplaced items, reinforces feelings of squareness, both logistically and mentally, and amplifies feelings of personal control. Unless you’re a bona fide hoarder, fewer things and better organization lead to a greater sense of well-being. How to do? Proven steps to liberation involve:

  1. Recognize that clutter is anything you own that doesn’t support or improve your life on a regular basis.
  2. Attack clutter in increments, such as a few minutes each day to sort, donate, recycle, and organize, often tackling one drawer, box, or closet at a time. Decluttering is most effective when it becomes a daily or weekly habit.
  3. Keep pace with incoming spam by acting on, filing, or recycling mail and other receivables as they arrive.
  4. Unsubscribe from promotional emails, news feeds, and other online junk that make your inbox look like a closet stuffed with useless bullshit.
  5. Stem the inflow of material goods by distinguishing “need” from “want”, which reduces unnecessary or frivolous purchases.

When they are present in excess, we don’t own our stuff. It possesses us and weighs us down. But luckily, bulk is a type of weight we can lose without dieting. And if we do, we’ll feel much lighter all around.

To learn more, visit philipchard.com.

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