Tuesday, August 23, 2011


We all own too much stuff. Every household likely contains clothes we don't wear, items we seldom even see (let alone use), meaningless papers (miscellaneous receipts and obsolete warranties) and lots of "stuff" we have obtained, all of which seemed like a good idea at the time when they were obtained.

In part, this compulsion to obtain "stuff" comes naturally. Our childhood years were ripe with conspicuous consumption. Homes overflowed as our families enjoyed the post-war boom combined with new product technology. We had air conditioners, televisions, hi-fi stereos, sleek cars and mail order catalogs, all representing vast lifestyle improvements in a surprisingly short period of time.

It was this fascination with obtaining "stuff" that helped our towns evolve from communities with friendly downtown stores to huge shopping centers and big box stores. Less time wasted driving and parking meant more time to shop for "stuff."

Over time, our personal inventory of nearly everything expanded to the point of absurdity. We currently have shoes and clothes that don't fit or are slightly out of style. What do we do to remedy this situation? Buy closet organizers and bundles of new hangers. We have more pots, pans and dishes and utensils than we will ever need, not to mention electric gizmos we used once but "might need again."

The back of every linen closet hides old towels, mismatched sheets or lint rollers in need of a refill. What is it about our inbred sense of practicality that makes us keep such "stuff"?

Let's face it. Now is the time to simplify.

Look around and clean out those closets. Separate out clothes of no possible good. Make them into dust cloths or discard entirely. Donate the better items to local charities. Plenty of people will appreciate your gesture to a worthy cause. Or have a yard/garage sale. This choice may require a little effort to collect and organize the items. Allow plenty of time if you want to advertise the sale in your local paper. But a yard sale can be fun, allows you to clear out non-essentials and may even bring in some money.

If you are intimidated about getting rid of something you might want later, start small. Carefully review what you are going to eliminate from your surplus, excluding items of sentimental value. Perhaps you want to dispose of extra copies of a DVD or some large platters you only use on certain holidays. You think you can't dispose of your daughter's high school "letter sweater" so ask your married daughter if she would like to have it hanging in her own closet. You'll soon get into the swing of things.

Even if you aren't planning to move or downsizing isn't in your immediate future, you'll feel glad to be rid of extra items. It's a little like cleaning out your purse. You'll be rid of the excess and get yourself newly organized.

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