This is such an important topic – why do we rely upon our clutter. Does it make us feel good, does it hold memories (good and bad), or is it just a habit we can’t break? Zen Habits recently posted an article on this very topic that I thought I would share:
Clutter isn’t an easy problem to solve, no matter how many times you may try to toss it out, or know that you don’t need it.
A book isn’t just an object with words on it. A jewelry box isn’t just a container. Clothes aren’t just protection from the elements.
Each of these inanimate objects means so much more to us.
We put our emotions into them. We rely upon these objects to fulfill needs in us.
They are our crutches.
These crutches are convenient, because they save us from having to learn to cope with tough things. We’ve relied on these crutches often since childhood, and our culture has programmed them into us. If I point them out, some of you may get angry at me. That’s OK. Anger is an appropriate response — I’ve felt it myself when these issues came up in me.
What are we to do when we discover these crutches? We can’t just toss them out and think we’re done. We have to find new ways of dealing with our emotions and the world around us.
The 8 roles of clutter:
These aren’t all true for every person, but I’ve found they’re very common:
1. Security. When we have lots of stuff around us, we feel more secure. Somehow it’s as if we can survive the apocalyptic winter, or at least an earthquake or economic recession.
New habit: Learn to combat fears with information. What’s the worst-case scenario? What could you do in that case even without the items around you? Do you have people you could rely on? Can you learn skills that don’t require clutter? Could you live without? Try it for a little while and see.
2. Self image and self worth. Clothes and jewelry and shoes and handbags make women feel pretty, feel attractive, feel good enough as a woman. Men rely on clothes, gadgets, hats and other accessories, tools, sometimes weaponry. We feel manly and good enough. Buying these things — shopping — is an activity that fills us with more self-worth, or at least staves off the feelings of inadequacy.
New habit: Learn that you don’t need external objects to be attractive or good enough. You are already perfect. Learn to love yourself as you are, without self improvement. Most people aren’t judging you, and if they are, they are not good for you.
3. Memories and holding on to the past. Photo albums, mementos, gifts from loved ones, yearbooks and other school memorabilia, souvenirs, books, trophies, plaques, framed photos, sometimes old clothes … these objects and more hold emotions and memories from the past. They represent good times, perhaps better times, perhaps love from someone special, past glory, shared experiences. But this is living in the past, and while the past is important, it isn’t your life.
New habit: Learn to live in the present. Let the past go, like an old friend who has come to visit and has now left. You can always revisit this old friend later, but there’s no need to hold onto her. Let her live her life, and you live yours. You don’t need objects to represent memories and good times and glory, because those objects aren’t those good times or glory. Those objects aren’t the love that they represent. Live new good times, make new love.
Read about the next 5 roles of clutter here: http://zenhabits.net/crutches/