The Modern Albatross

Modern Albatross

Is your home a burden? Do you look around and feel defeated? Sometimes, the very spaces which are supposed to refresh us end up weighing us down, like an albatross around our neck.  Many people today are overrun by “stuff” in their spaces. For perspective:

  • 74% of families can’t park their cars in their garage because it is filled with other stuff.
  • In 2013, the self-storage industry generated $24 million in revenue, more than twice as much as the NFL.
  • Almost half (48 percent) of American couples who are married or are living with a partner argue over clutter.
  • The average American burns 55 minutes a day looking for things they know they own but cannot find.  (Source: Boston Marketing Firm)
  • 23% of adults say they pay bills late (& thus incur fees) because they misplace them. (Source: Harris Interactive)

We are seeing a modern “crisis of clutter” that is causing grief in homes across the nation. In the past century, a general reduction in the cost of manufacturing has made it easier for us (and our friends and loved ones) to buy more. I sometimes remind my clients, “Cleaning up toys on the prairie was not an issue. Kids had a doll or a ball and that was about it.”

On the one hand, products enrich our lives and make our daily tasks easier. Unfortunately, we often keep items for different reasons than we acquire them. When we keep items for the wrong reasons, they become a heavy burden! Here are a few common examples…

Why We Originally Got ItWhy We Keep It
We bought it to meet a need, such as...
- hobby supplies
- clothing for a job
- tool for a project
We think we might need it in the future, even if we aren’t sure exactly when.
We splurged, such as...
- a fancy outfit
- a designer bag
- a new golf bag
We feel we can’t get rid of it because we spent so much money on it.
It was a gift from a loved one, such as...
- a piece of antique furniture
- a piece of jewelry
- clothing
- artwork
We don't want to upset the giver or imply we don’t love him/her.
Our child brought it home, such as...
- from a party
- from school
- from church
- from an activity
We feel guilty getting rid of anything our child made.

The result is a two-fold rationale for why our homes and spaces are so full of stuff: we bring items in at a face pace, and then we rarely move them out. The best reason to keep an item is because it is enhancing the life we are leading now. It’s fine to keep a few items for emergencies/changing circumstances/memories, but not to the extent that they suffocate life in the present day.

If you were in a boat that was filling with water, you would first plug the leak, but then you would also quickly bail out the water. This is what we need to do with the accumulated clutter in our homes. If we don’t start letting go, we will continue to drown under an unnecessary burden. If you are struggling, know that you aren’t alone and that there is help available. You can start by reading a post like this one.

Shedding the albatross of clutter is empowering and freeing, rendering immediate and tangible benefits. Have you recently gotten rid of something you had been holding onto?

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photo credit: DSC_0327 via photopin (license)