Clutter: How Much Stuff Is Too Much?
The allergy season has me seeing clutter a little more clearly. This morning, through my red and swollen eyes, the thin layer of dust and pollen which has settled over the interior of my home became my enemy. It’s a more subtle version of the layer that’s settled over my city. The vehicles, windows, and lawn furniture are all sporting that ominous yellow top coat of death. It’s one thing to deal with sensitivities to cats and dust but, add Middle Tennessee pollen and I feel like I’m being assaulted.
This is that season every year when I want to slip away in the night to go live in a small concrete room with no furnishings. Once a day, I would use a hose and one of those huge industrial brooms to wash away all of the allergens. I would take with me only what fit in a backpack, which I would pack and sit just outside the door each night while I cleaned. I think the whole process would take about five minutes and on days like today, it sounds absolutely dreamy.
Instead, I live here, in the real world, where turning a hose on the place would do far more harm than good and so, sadly, I must dust.
This is at the root of my resistance to keeping anything that no longer serves me. I don’t want anything else to maintain. I don’t want to spend the extra time and energy dusting vases, bowls, trinkets, and whatever other assorted whatnot unless I absolutely love them or use them often. I don’t want to get on my hands and knees to scrub more bathtubs than we need to function as a family (which right now is only one but, honestly, I welcome a second). I don’t want to lose precious energy sorting and filing papers that I don’t actually need to keep.
I don’t want to spend hours and hours of my life tending my stuff. I want to tend my life. And even worse, most of us who have stuff that no longer serves us aren’t actually spending the hours that it takes each month to properly maintain all of the stuff in our space. So, our garages are full of stuff that we don’t use and it’s eventually covered with layers of dust and spider webs and whatever else blows in when the doors are open.
If it’s too much to dust, isn’t it too much to keep? Seriously, if we don’t have it in us to keep all of this stuff clean, are we not living beyond our means?
Our bathroom cabinets are filled with stuff we haven’t used in years. It’s dusty and grimy but we don’t pause every week or so to maintain it. Instead we stop opening the drawers and leave the new version of that same stuff on the counter so we can see it. We don’t take time to dust and straighten our piles of paper, so the mountain shifts and grows and soon gains landslide potential.
So, what if we could shift the way we see our space. What if, instead of thinking that all this stuff is so sacred, we considered the space our most precious commodity? What if we auditioned the things in our home to see if they are of enough value to us to justify the resources — time, money, energy, etc. — that it takes to maintain them?
What if we decided that living was more important than having? And what if that simple decision could free us to have more of what we really long for in our lives? Every single day someone tells me about how they wish they had the time/money/space/energy to read, learn, create, play, love, exercise, eat healthy, make money, travel, etc. Aren’t those desires valid too?
Why would we allow this stuff to keep us from loving our lives? Is it really more important just because it made it through the front door already? We can’t fall for that! “This stuff was here first” is a terrible reason to not be healthy or love well or create or heal. We all deserve better than this.
Take a deep breath and repeat after me: If it’s too much to maintain, it’s too much.
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