“Fame, if you win it,
Comes and goes in a minute
Where’s the real stuff in life, to cling to?”
– Jimmy Durante singing “Make Someone Happy”
Good question. Where
is the “real stuff in life?” Unfortunately, it’s been displaced by the unreal stuff, the stuff crammed inside closets and stacked in garages. And clinging to too much unreal stuff takes up our time and gets in the way of the “real” stuff, the good stuff, and that makes no one happy.
Which is where I come in. With most new organizing clients the questions I ask are, “What do you enjoy doing that makes you happy?” And, “Would you like to have more time to do it?” From there we get to work eliminating the unreal stuff – the stuff that needs to be cleaned, stored, and organized – so we can make room for what they do enjoy. The lessons in my book are aimed to motivate readers to do this on their own.
Stuff is one of the main motives behind the growing trend toward living in tiny houses – the relief of letting go of possessions and focusing instead on collecting experiences, the real stuff in life.
Here is one of the lessons from my most recent book, “90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or more).”
LESSON #88: The Right Stuff
From the get-go we accumulate stuff. First comes Baby Stuff like rattles and bottles. Next, there is Childhood Stuff like Lincoln Logs, Barbie dolls and school artwork too “special” to toss. Then along comes College Stuff; textbooks, sweatshirts, and shot glasses. Those four years of further accumulation fly by faster than you can say, “Yard Sale!” and before you know it, you’re schlepping that stuff home, adding it to your Younger You Stuff, and promising your parents you’ll take it with you when you move out.
But adulthood is all about acquiring More Stuff (which is why you never go back for your Younger You Stuff–you don’t have room) and before long Your Stuff gets entangled with Your Partner’s Stuff. Over the years, incrementally, if kids and pets come into the picture, Family Stuff appears.
Then one day your kids will move out (leaving Their Stuff) and that art studio you always wanted will become possible. So first you must purge the years of Collected Stuff. Eventually you pare down to just the Right Stuff – the stuff you really love – and life is great.
At least for a while.
You see, with age comes Senior Stuff and that, my friends, is a whole other story. Your art studio may need to make room for Old Age Stuff, like a walker and a stand-up chair. And it’s in that stand-up chair you might spend your time looking around at Whatever Stuff is left and think, “If only I had spent more time collecting memories than stuff.”
Don’t let the Wrong Stuff get in the way of the Right Stuff. Get rid of it before it’s too late.
Ten Tips to Get You Getting Rid of Stuff…when you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin
- Can you get rid of five things? A Tupperware bottom missing a top or an old catalog? Easy, right? Now, get rid of five things a day for a week. That’s 35 things – buh-bye!
- Set a timer – 30 minutes, an hour. Work on one section; shirts, paper, toiletries. When the timer goes off, stop. You’re done. Chances are, you’ll be motivated and reset the timer. A limited timeframe reduces the pressure of getting it all done at once.
- Roll a pair of dice. The total is how many items to discard. Work in one room or around the house. Turns a chore into a game.
- Think of a Donation box as a Helping box. Plus, who doesn’t like a tax write-off?
- When it comes to sentimental items, think memories not things. My mother’s china, my father’s tools. An item won’t bring someone back nor will getting rid of it make you forget them. People are not defined by their stuff. Keep only what you love and let go of what you don’t. Then use it. Keeping it in a box in a closet is a meaningless gesture.
- Books are meant to be read, not collect dust. Donate used books.
- Think of your home as a jigsaw puzzle. The home is the frame, your stuff the pieces that fit inside. Every thing you own should have a place it fits. If it doesn’t, why do you have it?
- Rome wasn’t built in a day. Removing a few items a day or each week saves you the pressure and grief of having to do it all at once if circumstances change and you’re suddenly forced to downsize.
- Talk to your children about your belongings. Chances are they won’t want much of your stuff. And if not, why should you keep paying to store it?
- One thing to never get rid: your sense of humor.