A Different Perspective on ALL Our Stuff

posted by Andrea | 02/7/2013

shelves of storage containers at The Container Store

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much stuff we, as a society, have. I couldn’t help but notice all the sales on storage containers, closet organizing systems, and other home organizers throughout the month of January.

After all, we need to get organized for the New Year… right?

Not only do we have plenty of clothes, books, games, toys, etc. we have SO MANY clothes, books, games, and toys that we buy storage containers and organizing supplies to help us organize it all, we pay professional organizers to come in and help with the process, and some of us even rent storage units just to store things we currently aren’t using.

Not only do we have plenty of food in our fridge and pantry, we have SO MUCH food that we buy extra freezers, extra refrigerators, and extra storage shelves just to store it all… and then we go out to eat!

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Just for a moment, stop and think about how much time, energy, space, and money we (myself included) spend {waste?} buying, organizing, sorting, and storing STUFF that we currently aren’t using; stuff we currently don’t need — and maybe we won’t ever use or need.

Even as I type, I think how silly this all sounds.

I rarely watch the news, but I’m still acutely aware of the poverty in this world — families with no home, children with no food, whole communities with no running water… the list could go on.

And here we sit with our extra freezer(s) and pantry shelves stuffed full, our closets bursting at the seems, our overflowing toy boxes, and all the while, we feel stressed about how we are going to pay for another 6 months on our storage unit or pay off the holiday credit card bills.

Doesn’t it all just seem a little unnecessary? 

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I don’t say this to judge, and I include myself in all of the above statements. I simply say this as a reference point for those of you who are drowning in STUFF and struggling to simplify your own home and life.

The next time you grumble about freezer-burned meat in the back of your freezer, stop and think about the millions of hungry people around the world.

The next time you begrudge your too-full closet and overflowing laundry baskets, stop and think about the many homeless people in your own community who would love one new shirt.

The next time you trip over yet another one of your children’s toys, stop and think about the children who received nothing for Christmas this year.

While I totally understand the frustration of “too much stuff” (believe me, I get it!) I think we could all benefit from taking a step back every once in a while and reflecting on just how blessed we are. 

If ALL your stuff is stressing you out and becoming a burden, it might be time for a change.

Consider how you might feel with less stuff to store, less stuff to organize, less stuff to clean around, less stuff to buy, and less stuff to think/worry about. Then consider how much of your stuff you truly NEED.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my decorations, my kitchen gadgets, my electronic “toys”, and all Nora’s cute baby clothes as much as the next person; but I still think it’s beneficial to step back and look at it from a different perspective — at least every once in a while.

Don’t you?

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pick up all Nora’s toys, fold yet another load of laundry, and pull some meat out of our extra freezer for dinner tonight :)

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26 comments

  1. Melissa

    02/07/2013

    Couldn’t agree more! Reminding myself of others less fortunate definitely puts things into perspective. That’s why I feel good when I donate unused items that are taking up space, hoping they go to a better home where someone appreciates it. I’m working to simplify our house this year and get rid of extra stuff that is only taking up space. Luckily I have a husband that is also on board and let’s me purge. :)

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  2. Kelly

    02/07/2013

    This is something I think about a lot. I think to the past and how people had an everyday dress and a good dress and not much more for clothing, had one cherished dolly, lived in small houses, shared bedrooms with all their brothers/sisters and it was ok. I struggle with wanting to have less “stuff” but I am very sentimental and become attached to anything that brings up memories. Sometimes I can get away with taking a picture of that object and getting rid of it, and sometimes I still can’t let myself get rid of it. My husband also has many big collections, and our basement is full of storage bins of those things and I often ask him what is the point of having all these things if you are never going to see them, they are all stuffed in boxes. If I think about it too much it makes me crazy all the space it takes up and the money he’s put into it.

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  3. Chris

    02/07/2013

    I have been decluttering. It seems like an onion with layers, the more you do it, the next time you’re willing to let even something more go. I donate a lot to a thrift store that helps people with disabilities, but I also have found that some of my friends actually want some of my stuff, so that is kind of fun, knowing that someone else will enjoy my “cast-offs”.

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  4. Beth

    02/07/2013

    Several years ago my husband and I decided to simplify our lives in order to save funds for retirement. It has been liberating! We purchase what we need, we spend where it benefits the most, and we enjoy our lives. We are able to live without the burden of “stuff”, because too much stuff costs time, energy, and money. I feel a little like Mel Gibson in Braveheart…..FREEEEDOM!

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  5. Deni

    02/07/2013

    You couldn’t have said it better! I was shaking my head yes the whole time reading this! Lately, I have felt like I shuffle stuff around all day and don’t feel I have accomplished much. I’m also a type A personality and I get overwhelmed with so much stuff!!! The most important thing to do is once you purge, don’t go buy more stuff. Now excuse me while I go do some major purging : )

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  6. Hannah

    02/07/2013

    We recently moved out of my in-laws house to our first place-a 1 bedroom apartment. My husband and I sleep on a futon in the living space while our daughter has the bedroom as her nursery. I often worry about how we’re going to move out because we have crammed so much stuff in here that it’s going to take a million trips up and down the 3 flights of stairs to get it all out…then I started selling things at our online yard sale and taking things to thrift stores. It’s so gratifying to give! I think, being a planner, you want to be ready in the future so you hold on to things (baby clothes and toys for future children, meat that was on sale, books you hope your children read when they’re grown…) but you can only plan so far ahead and store so much before you’re creating a problem instead of solving one. What a great thought for the day. Thanks for helping me shift my focus from stocking up to solving problems.

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  7. Jane

    02/07/2013

    I totally agree!!! For several months I have been getting rid of STUFF. We all need to be more THANKFUL for what we have. Sometimes we focus more on what we don’t have, GREAT BLOG!

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  8. Stel

    02/07/2013

    I think about that every day when we drive past the homeless man on the corner two blocks away. We have so many THINGS, too much, and our kids even more. En courage by amongst others, your blog, I am clearing out ever so slowly and have a permanent “hospice” box. Once it’s full, I drive to the hospice shop. That goes for books, toys, clothing, kitchenware, small furniture. I have no more double sets of dinnerware, or one for “best occasions” – there’s on set. Same for glasses, cutlery, even for wine I have one set and it’s used for white, red, champagne and beer.
    The one thing we do “stash” is meat. My husband hunts, so we have a big deep freeze with mince, stew meat, sausages etc, as well as biltong (=jerky) – but then we don’t really buy any other meat through the year.
    Good post.

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  9. Nem

    02/07/2013

    I completely agree with you. What is all this stuff being stored for anyways? Some stuff has not even been touch in months. Sometimes, less really is more.

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  10. Laurel

    02/07/2013

    Loved this post. I have been purging for the past 6 months. As an organized person, I just kept rearing and organizing all of our stuff from 30 years of marriage and 4 kids aged 22-13. I just became more and more stressed just looking at all of the stuff and have become almost ruthless in my attempt to get rid of it. I love giving it away or selling it for cheap, knowing that someone else will enjoy using it.

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  11. Dallas

    02/07/2013

    This is SO TRUE, Andrea — I couldn’t agree more! After becoming an avid follower of your blog last year, you have really inspired me to SIMPLIFY my life and my stuff. And the funny thing is, now that I have less stuff, I feel like I am able to appreciate what I do have so much more! Thank you, thank you, thank you for the continual inspiration and wisdom. You are amazing!

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  12. Jill

    02/07/2013

    One of my favorite quotes right now is….”When things in your life don’t add up, then maybe it’s time to start subtracting–people, places and things!! Great post!!!

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    Debby Reply:

    Oh Jill! I love that quote

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  13. Kim

    02/07/2013

    Well said!

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  14. Janet

    02/07/2013

    Been going through the same stuff here, just I didn’t think to blog about it. This is why my blog so seldom has anything new, lol. I only think to write after I see someone else — like you– has done it so much better than I would. KUDOS
    Janet

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  15. Amy U

    02/07/2013

    I’m with you! We are a society who, for the most part, overindulges. On average, it seems like Americans are overweight, in debt, and unhappy. I think it’s an entitlement thing, along with keepin’ up with the Joneses. Our [wonderful, free, amazing] country, as a whole, could use a paradigm shift. That’s the negative attitude, I know, but it’s what I see.

    Thanks for the reminders!

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  16. Heidi

    02/08/2013

    I think about this a lot, being very blessed, especially after having kids. It creeps into my mind while I give them a fresh warm bath, when we play with their nice toys that were gifts from loving relatives and friends, when the babies flash me their healthy teeth in a happy smile. I am SOOOO blessed! To have our healthy family, the love of an amazing husband, friends and family who we adore, a nice house and a car we can rely on. That is a LOT I have before I even think about household possessions.

    I have been doing really well cleaning out the clutter and giving it away to help others. But this post was just what I needed to read this morning to really ramp up my “purge and donate” cycle and go through shelves and drawers I ignored before.

    Thank you for the eloquent reminder about how blessed we all are!

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  17. Shareen

    02/08/2013

    I completely agree! I have a lot and I am always trying to figure out creative ways of putting them away. It’s so hard to be organized with so much stuff!!!! Now I want to see what I can give away in order to not have to always think about where I can stash something else that I’m not using but I’m not sure if we may need it again in the future.

    You are a real blessing for reminding us that we should be so thankful for our accumulations.

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  18. Heart and Haven

    02/08/2013

    This is so true! The past couple years I’ve been working on simplying and downsizing all our stuff…trying only to keep items we use and love. Before I buy any new organization items, I consider if the items are really even worth storing. Even before purchasing any new items, I try to see if there is something I can re-use from my house instead.

    Even this week, I received a flyer from my son’s school about Valentine’s Day…I thought I was gonna have to buy 31 valentines for him to bring. Then when I looked in my “craft crap” section, I found exactly 31 sparkly unused pencils that would be perfect! (especially since his school requests $$ at the beginning of the year to purchase the same school supplies for each child in class, there was no way my kids would use that many pencils that one of the grandparents had probably purchased in bulk from Cosco or such, lol) I had some left-over cardstock from a previous project already cut in 1″ x 4″ strips. We printed “Happy Valentine’s Day!” on one side, and “From: Caden” on the opposite. Hole punched and tied a piece of yarn to attach to the pencil. Boom! Valentines project done, fun project for the kiddo to work on, and uses some of my already existing overflowing craft stash. Win-win-win!

    I am so guilty of having a well stocked freezer & pantry, and then going out to dinner instead :-( This usually happens when we’re “out” and hungry, and won’t get home in time to make dinner at a reasonable time. This is a good reminder to work on better planning for that.

    My husband jokes that only in America, do we park our $30K+ cars in the driveway, and store all our useless crap in the garage, lol! (working on it, but guilty here!)

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  19. vera

    02/08/2013

    Thank you, thank you. This was such a good, much needed reminder to put things back in perspective. We have been working through our extra freezer and it has been more than a month since we have needed to buy meat because we were so stocked up on it!

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  20. Stacy

    02/09/2013

    So very true. Most of us in this country have so much stuff and sometimes I just think as I am giving things away, wow we purchased all this stuff and now I am just passing it on. It’s a silly sad circle. This was a great post and a great reminder, that even those of us who feel so organized and think we are doing good by recycling, using it up and donating still could do so much more by not over-consuming in the first place.

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  21. Ally

    02/11/2013

    We live in a small, but cozy, 711 sq. ft. apartment. When my now husband and I moved in together here, I downsized all my “cutsy” items to create more of a family-environment. Now I’m addicted to it! :) My husband is on board with everything EXCEPT his beloved PS3 (he wants me to remind you all that it plays PS -AND- PS2 games! Lol). Well, it finally died last night. (At least we think it did. It doesn’t have a “light of death”, but it freezes on the before-main screen every time.) And do you know what that wonderful husband of mine did? Sold most of his games, which is a FEAT considering there must be close to 200, and bought me my badly desired storage bins for the kitchen. My life will never be the same, all thanks to DE-CLUTTERING AND ORGANIZATION! :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    What a guy! That’s awesome Ally… and seriously 711 sq ft. that’s impressive! Maybe you should be writing this blog :)

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  22. Jane

    03/22/2013

    Before I buy anything, I figure out how many hours I would have to work to pay for it. That really helps keep the non-essential items out of our house.

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    Lisa the Farm Lady Reply:

    We’ve started doing the same, Jane. My hubby and I agree it’s the quickest and simplest way to put the real costs of ‘stuff” into perspective.
    We live in Canada where things are more expensive than in the States. For example, a meal for four us at say, McDonalds is around $20. This means my husband would have to work ONE HOUR in order to pay for a meal we can finish in 10 minutes. And we have nothing to show for it since it’s junk food except that my husband had to work that hour. One hour that he’s not home with his family, or doing something better.

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  23. Lisa the Farm Lady

    06/15/2013

    Oh, and this is also one of the many reasons we’ve stopped eating out…anywhere! A great way to save money!

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