Here in the US, we live in a culture that promotes the acquisition of stuff–lots and lots of stuff. We have ridiculous sayings, like “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Really?? What the hell do you win? This need to keep up with the Joneses, the need to acquire more and more, has caused countless problems in our society, but I’m not going to discuss the political or cultural ramifications of stuff. What I want to talk about is how it affects you if you are suffering from depression or dealing with chaos in your life.
Like everything else, stuff in moderation is OK, but many of us spend our whole lives collecting more and more stuff that ends up in boxes, basements, attics, garages, storage units, closets, and extra rooms. We pay money to store boxes of stuff that is never opened. We save stuff that friends gave us years ago. Are you really going to forget that friend if you get rid of the trinket they gave you at 18? We save clothes that need mending, even if they are 15 years out of style or we weigh too much to ever fit in them again. We save paper from ages ago. If you are my age, you don’t need your college transcripts, your first resume, or the documents from the first house you owned (unless you still live in it!). If your child is 25 and has a college degree, you don’t need every piece of high school work. If you put all the good photos in albums, you probably don’t need the crappy ones left in the box (and I am very guilty of that one!). If you are not using that stuff, there is a mighty good chance you don’t need it. Certainly there may be family treasures that are worth saving. There are documents that you must save. Photographs bring back lovely memories and keep the good times alive. But be real folks!
Stuff can be stifling. It can halt creativity. Too much stuff can surround us with stress, and if you are already feeling like you are on the edge, that stuff can be downright debilitating. Depression often causes us to be unable to start a project that appears too daunting. People who don’t have it will never understand, but the idea that we might start something and not be able to finish easily is sometimes viewed as just another failure. Or it may be that going through all that stuff reminds you of all the good intentions you had that were never accomplished–more failure. The problem is that the more you accumulate, the more likely you feel that failure just by opening the wrong door. You walk in a room and have to walk right back out because you can’t deal with all that stuff. It has physical effects that are not pleasant.
There are books out there that deal with this subject. I think some of them go a little bit too far, or are daunting in themselves, but they have a point. If it doesn’t bring you happiness or have some value or function (my can opener doesn’t make me happy but I do need it), it might be time to toss it. That in itself can be an issue, as we are often overwhelmed with what to do with things. We paid a lot of money for this, or we know that is in fabulous condition, but where does it go? If you have to make too much effort to get rid of things, you won’t. Unless something is truly valuable (like heirloom jewelry, a fancy car, or vintage furniture), you may find greater value in getting it out of your house rather than worrying about getting something out of it. I’m not suggesting that you throw things away (unless they really are junk). You should always recycle or donate when you can, but don’t have 27 boxes all going to different places. They will just end up staying right where they are. Keep it simple.
Getting rid of stuff does require the right mindset. It can be depressing in and of itself. It is overwhelming. It can be especially awful if you have lost someone and are going through their things (you need to take your time with this–it’s a whole different issue). You need to take advantage of the feeling when it comes along. Sometimes it can actually feel good to get rid of things, and when it does–go for it, even if you have to put off something else. You will feel better in the long run. Getting rid of excess stuff can help us step away from the rat race and find some balance in our lives. For those of us dealing with cosmic crap, that can be huge. We are not defined by our stuff, and we need to be able to see that.
I would love to hear your point of view on the matter. Any tips or suggestions?