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Who’s in charge? You or your stuff?

Posted by Sue on Dec 2, 2006  

Looking at decluttering from another perspective.

The other day I was consulting in a beautiful old home. The room
that is used as an office for volunteer work was jam packed with stuff
from the past including a bureau filled with a grown up daughter’s
childhood items. The daughter has not lived in this home for 20 years.
I had been called in to help make that room manageable.

I found myself thinking in a sort of odd way about STUFF and it’s power to rule. So often the stuff of the past control a household despite the reality of the current needs It seems to me that at this point STUFF is in charge- perhaps even the dictator. I am not immune to this phenomenon.

So who’s in charge??? The other night for me it was the Wheat Thins.

I wasn’t the least bit hungry, had just come in from a wonderful movie “AKEELA and the Bee”, and was full of a sense of I CAN! I was focused on my goal of getting strong and healthy as I nearly skipped home from the movie.

When Bob and I decided to hang out on the sofa to read for a while, he brought along a box of Wheat Thins. I thought to myself, I’m not hungry, I won’t have any. I heard him munching but I was going to keep my promise to my future self.

It was my turn to read. Then it was Bob’s and suddenly I was munching away.
YOIKS! …when I think about it, those little crackers were now in charge.
They were telling me what action to take. I bet they felt quite victorious.

And how does this work with STUFF?

Well it’s not exactly the same but I think there is more similarity than one expects. Let’s go back to the room in discussion. Here’s a bureau with drawers that open and close nicely, filled with stuff from 20 years ago. No one uses the items in those drawers but they sit there very contentedly using space that could well be used for current supplies.
They are in charge so to speak.
Now-I’m not questioning keeping the stuff. For sure the daughter should be given the opportunity to have her say BUT- my client needs space for the work she does every day. She is dealing with all kinds of materials that need a place. I imagine the stuff saying, “Hah- I am here no matter what you need! I don’t really care about what you are trying to do. This is MY space! I’ve been here for a long time.”

Imagine your entire house. How much does the stuff in it have the final word?

Yes- truly, decluttering is about becoming the boss – about granting your work and your current priorities due importance. As in, “Hey- I believe in the work I am doing and it makes sense for me to be efficient. I have lots going on, so hey, I deserve this space. I will put this old stuff in a safe storage container. We will figure out what should happen with it soon but for now- my current work will have a good space!”

Try it out. Think about who’s in charge – you or the stuff, and see what happens.

For an excellent article on the command of stuff and it’s meaning in people’s lives see

http://www.aarpmagazine.org/lifestyle/conquer_clutter.html

From AARP Magazine Jan-Feb 2007.

5 Comments »

Jerome:

Joanna-

I have been doing yoga for three years now, and it’s all about removing the clutter! And, secondary to that, it’s all about moving efficiently without the tentativeness and drag that comes from clutter.

Clutter: utterly unprofitable information and utterly unprofitable stimulation.

Clutter makes me feel something like math-phobia. In other words, even the smallest problem is exacerbated by clutter. Now that this has been realized, I am faced with an excellent creative, and in some ways moral challenge: how to create order.

Well, it’s a great challenge. And maybe some people never get rid of the clutter because they’re afraid of the really greater problem of creating sovereign order. You are right when you say that clutter is controlling. The great quest is to free onself of controlling clutter, and create a liberating new order that is controlling in a profitable way, i.e. like yogic discipline and the strict moral code that goes along with it.

December 16th was Beethoven’s birthday. He used a certain amount of dissonance in his music. So, now I have to ask as a kind of devil’s advocate: do you ever use dissonance as part of your overall aesthetic?

Your fan in Philly-
Jerome

December 17th, 2006 | 3:15 pm

Hi Jerome!

Great to hear from you.

Yes to the decluttering of yoga and absolutely to dissonance! The non-symmetrical – the touch of whimsy.

I’m not a straight line,all in order person …

I’m not sure how I feel about “a strict moral order” – that isn’t how I see life I guess .. but rather a simplicity and a connection to
Spirit … if people are getting real joy from any item I would prefer that they keep it — it is when the STUFF is oppressive and keeps people from doing what would genuinely make them happy that it needs to be cleared out. Of course it’s more complicated than that — earth’s resources etc. but for now this will do.

AND just a little dissonance goes a long way.

Wishing you harmonious holidays with just the right touch of dissonance, Joanna

December 20th, 2006 | 6:53 am

[...] Joan helps you organize your life at Breathing Space. At her blog, you will find wide ranging articles that will give you a sense of her values. Her articles about how to take on the clutter in your office and home are extremely helpful. She writes “Think about who’s in charge – you or the stuff, and see what happens” Read more here. [...]

March 8th, 2007 | 5:58 am

Thank you for your message Dave! I’m not sure how it all works in the world of blogging– yet another frontier for me but I will get there! Meanwhile – appreciated! Joanna

March 15th, 2007 | 7:02 am

[...] Joanna Rueter helps you organize your life at Breathing Space. At her blog, you will find wide ranging articles that will give you a sense of her values. Her articles about how to take on the clutter in your office and home are extremely helpful. She writes “Think about who’s in charge – you or the stuff, and see what happens” Read more here. [...]

April 10th, 2007 | 5:59 pm
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