Is STUFF bad for us? Could it be causing unnecessary stress in our lives? Would we bet better off without so many things?
These are the questions I’ve been asking myself lately about my own stuff. I’ve been craving a more calm environment and a flat that I don’t have to tidy as often. Everyday I’m picking up and sorting clothes, shoes, books, notebooks, cups, plates, pots, laundry, beauty products.. the list goes on.
Research shows that hoarding is a spectrum, which we are all on. On a scale of 0 = a monk with no possessions and 10 = extreme hoarder, can’t move around your house because of all the stuff, where do you think you are? I would possibly rate myself a 4/5, because I don’t have tonnes and tonnes of stuff like I used to, but I still crave less and messes do build up everyday if things are put back where they belong. I could certainly survive without less.
So, is it bad for us?
I’m currently reading Stuffocation for our Conscious Consumers Patreon bookclub and although I’ve read it before, it’s still shocking me at just how bad ‘stuff’ is for us. You’re more likely to die in a house fire if you’re a hoarder, although most housefires should be easy enough to put out. But the more stuff in your home, the more flammable it is. Physical clutter can cause stress and anxiety if we are constantly tidying up around our homes instead of doing more meaningful tasks, like spending time with our families or taking time to relax, or enjoy a hobby.
In the book, Wallman discusses a study carried out by a group of anthropologists at UCLA, where 32 families were selected, and researchers were to record every part of their lives over a number of months. In one house in particular, they counted 2260 items, and that was just items that were in view (not in cupboards). How many items do you think you have in your home? I don’t think I want to know how many I own!
The other homes were just as packed. On average, each family had 39 pairs of shoes, 90 DVDs or videos, 139 toys, 212 CDs and 438 books and magazines. Nine out of 10 had so many things that they kept household stuff in the garage. Three quarters of them had so much stuff in there, there was no room left for cars.SOURCE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30849473
Wallman describes this as a “clutter crisis” which sounds pretty serious to me.
Let’s take our wardrobes as a small example of where this clutter crisis can occur for us. We have lots of clothes and nothing to wear. We spend too long in the mornings deciding what to wear and get decision fatigue so resort to our fail-safe look that we wear everyday. We spend hours each week doing laundry and then folding and putting away clothes. This where having less is actually more; more time to spare in the mornings, more free time NOT doing laundry at weekends, more confidence in your style because you have just the pieces you love to wear.
And let’s look at how this affects our wellbeing. According to Wallman, women who are surrounded by excess clutter and more likely to suffer from stress, high cortisol levels, PTSD and have a higher risk of mortality.
Two psychologists who worked alongside the anthropologists at UCLA recorded how people feel about their homes and tested them for the stress hormone cortisol. They found that women who have issues with clutter have the signature pattern of cortisol that is associated with people who have chronic fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a higher risk of mortality.SOURCE: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30849473
Is our STUFF worth it? Personally I don’t think so. And I’m on a mission to change my relationship to what I already own and what newness comes into my home. I know my home will only get more cluttered as I live here for longer and accumulate things, when I eventually have kids and all their stuff starts piling up.. and if I don’t change things now, both my attitude towards it and also how I deal with it, then it’s a one-way street to hoarder-ville.
This week I’m tackling my own space, starting in my bedroom as most of my stuff is in here; my clothes, shoes, fabrics & DIY supplies, other crafty things, notebooks, etc.. and I want to get really ruthless and clear on what IS and IS NOT important to me. I know i could live with less, and that is my number one goal for May (as well as writing everyday – woops, I’ve already failed at that).
As a start, here are some easy and obvious things to declutter:
- Declutter what no longer serves you or no longer serves a purpose
- Declutter multiples of things
- Bin / recycle broken stuff
- Anything you don’t wear.. byeeeeee
- Anything that doesn’t fit you, or your lifestyle.. also byeeeee
- Books you have read and wouldn’t read again
- Books you’ve never read but have been ‘meaning to’
- Worn out clothing or loungewear that doesn’t make you feel good
- Almost empty beauty and skincare products. Finish them once and for all and recycle the bottles.
- CDs & DVDs if you no longer have a CD/DVD player or have the digital version already.
- Homeware that serves no purpose other than decoration but you’re not even that keen on it
- Things you’ve held onto because it was e a gift and you feel you SHOULD keep it
- Empty candle jars (if unused)
- Greeting cards – take a photo instead and save them to google photos
- Out of date food that is clearly never going to be eaten
Most of all, enjoy the process because it’s leading you to a better life and a better you!