Turns out… it’s not just about the stuff!

A few years ago, I travelled to California, where I spent three days in Palm Springs, fueling my obsession with mid-century modern design. The following three days, I attended the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) conference. It was overwhelming – in a good way! Imagine, if you will, several hundred organizers who practice different organizing specialties in various areas of the world! Something interesting, though, was the common thread during the conference; although we are obsessed with our possessions, it’s not just about the stuff. Consider the following and let me know what your thoughts are on them.

You can never get enough of what you don't really need. Quote by Eric Hoffer.
Quote by Eric Hoffer.

Physical Space and Emotional State

During one of the sessions, professional organizer Christina Gomes stated, “Our physical space is a manifestation of our emotional state.” I agree with her! Excess clutter could be a symptom of unbalance in your life. I also feel that clutter has its own energy. Keep in mind that when you let go of unneeded and unwanted belongings, you can open space for new things to show up in your life.

We Are Trained to Consume

The media trains us to consume – buy, buy, buy! One day, I told a friend I had seen a television commercial for a specific haircare product dozens of times. I don’t need to purchase it because I already have a similar product that I am happy with. But because I saw the advertisement repeatedly, I eventually became convinced to try the advertised product in case it was better than what I was using. Fortunately, I checked out product reviews online and saw several negative comments, so I didn’t order it – but I was very close! That’s what behavioural scientists refer to as consumption training. In fact, I always suggest that people take a step back before purchasing. It’s not just about the stuff; it’s about society making us think we need it.

Overbuying Can Be a Problem

Overbuying can become a problem – especially if you use shopping as an emotional pick-me-up when feeling down (also known as retail therapy). Do you spend more than you can afford? Do you still have purchased items stored in the original shopping bags, unopened or unused? And finally, the most important question is, would your life be better in some way if you were shopping less? Practice what Dr. April Benson refers to as “mindful shopping.”

No Is a Complete Sentence

Practice saying ‘No.’ We can bring too much stuff into our lives over-shopping, but it’s not just about the stuff. We can take on too many commitments as well. At the end of each day, ask yourself if you spent your time wisely. Time is like money; it’s gone once you’ve spent it. Often, people are pre-programmed to say yes when someone asks them to do something. Being aware of your tendency to say yes is the place to start. Decide ahead of time what requests you will say “no” to and practice your responses. At the NAPO conference, Susan Lasky shared her perspective on the power of declining requests. She stated, “Saying NO is about self-protection, not rejection of others.”

As you can see, it’s not just about the stuff. Our relationship with our possessions goes beyond the tangible. Our emotional state, societal pressure to buy more (programmed by non-stop advertising), retail therapy, and our desire to make people happy by over-committing ourselves all influence the accumulation of clutter.

If you’re looking for clarity, serenity and a life with less clutter and fewer commitments, reach out today. I’d be happy to help.

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