Yikes! That’s a Scary Thought

“Our environment is a physical manifestation of how we feel.”—Darcy Smith, Ph.D.

Over the years, I have collected, cut out, filed and pasted into notebooks articles about clutter and how to control it or get rid of it. In an effort to clear out clutter, I’ve gotten rid of most of them.

All the books and articles, although interesting and insightful, mostly say the same thing: You don’t need all that crap. And this is the most important—All that crap is bringing you down.

One of the organizing gurus—I think Peter Walsh, but I, of course, can’t find the quote—said something to the effect that all those piles you don’t want to deal with are decisions you haven’t made.

As a piler, I find that a really scary thought.

One of my close friends, who is an even bigger clutterer than I am, is finally in a purging mode, but she can only go through a little bit at a time. “I just can’t make any more decisions,” she’ll say after a relatively short time of sorting.

It’s a Catch 22: According to psychotherapist Darcy Smith, “Clutter creates chaos in our brain, which undermines our ability to function.” In order to create at least some semblance of order, we need to get rid of stuff. And that means going through drawers and closets, boxes and trunks, and making decisions about what to keep and what to toss.

Add in family stuff and there’s the added who do I give what to? Have I left anyone out? Will Cousin A feel slighted if I give her great grandmother’s sugar bowl but Cousin B gets both the salt and pepper shaker? This brother has more kids and grandkids than that brother. Is that fair? Brother #1’s family will get way more stuff than Brother #2.

Makes me glad to be an only child.

Too much stuff is crazy making.

Something else that causes decision-making paralysis is gifts. My friend feels it’s disrespectful to get rid of something someone else gave her, even if it’s useless, ugly or broken. I’ve pretty much gotten over that tendency, mostly I think because I can no longer remember who gave me what. It’s one of the good things about age-related memory loss. Now I only keep the gifts I actually like, although I have been known to take photos of the stuff I get rid of.

Someday I’ll scrapbook about them.

The point I’m trying to make is that as painful as decluttering is, the resulting mental calm will be well worth it. Imagine looking around your living room and finding that the only decision you have to make is what TV program to watch.

Wouldn’t that be lovely?

(Darcy Smith’s quotes come from a Woman’s Day article entitled, “no more clutter” from the April 2011 issue.)

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