Once upon a time long ago (mostly in the 1980s) big was beautiful (remember all that hair—and the shoulder pads), more was always better, and, according to Gordon Gekko and Wall Street, greed was good.
It was all very simple we were told. If we wanted to have more, we had to spend more. Saving wouldn’t get us the things we wanted. We were openly encouraged by the government, the manufacturers and retailers (and the Joneses next door) to spend, spend, spend. And it worked. We got all the stuff we wanted: a better standard of living, flash new appliances, bigger and better cars, rooms full of possessions, and wardrobes full of clothes … and shoes … and handbags … and scarves … and ….
But can we have too much of a good thing? Come on—admit it—how many others of you out there (yes—I am counting myself in here) have cupboards full of kitchen gadgets you’ve never used, books you haven’t got around to reading yet, drawers full of ‘things that might come in useful’, closets stuffed with clothes and garages full floor-to-ceiling with barely room for the car? If having all these possessions makes you happy—great—but if look around and wish most of it would just hurry up and tidy itself up, or even better, go away, you could be at extreme risk of ‘Stuffocation’.
Stuffocation is, James Wallman (journalist, author and trend forecaster) says, “that feeling you get when you look in your bulging wardrobe and can’t find a thing to wear; when you have to fight through piles of stuff you don’t use to find the thing you need, and when someone gives you a present and your gut reaction isn’t “thank you”, but “what on earth makes you think I could possibly want or need that pointless piece of stuff?” Sound familiar? Well it seems that you are not alone.
In our busy cluttered lives it seems more is no longer better and research suggests that ever increasing numbers of people are now focusing their energies, time and money on experiences, rather than possessions. Reasons given for this change in thinking include everything from carbon footprints, landfill, climate change, ‘affluenza’ and status anxiety. The ‘material’ mindset is so last century darling! Whatever the reasons, people are getting rid of their physical stuff and going travelling or hot air ballooning, or spending their money on festivals, concerts, theatre, eating out, or buying services that make their life easier or more enjoyable. So if having too much stuff has become a problem for you, why not take yourself in hand and ‘de-stuffocate’!
I have recently started to practice what I preach and am slowly clearing my clutter one box of books, one black bin-liner of clothes, and one wheelie-bin full of unwanted stuff at a time, and, once over the initial shock of getting rid of things that took me years to accumulate, I am now enjoying the process and feeling ‘lighter’ for it.
(A quick hint though: box, bag and bin what you have decided to get rid of and get it out of the house as quickly as you can so you don’t give yourself enough time to second guess yourself, change your mind, and re-open a bag thinking ‘I might just keep this … you never know if might come in handy’. Re-gift, give it to charity or sell it on ebay—just get it out of the house!) And, and this is important, once you have successfully de-stuffocated, DO NOT start to re-stuffocate all over again! That, for me anyway, could take some practice.
One final point—although James Wallman may have coined the absolutely apt word ‘de-stuffocation’, it is not an entirely new concept as it seems one of my favourite quotees, Albert Einstein, already had his own take on the issue when he said, ‘Long hair minimizes the need for barbers; socks can be done without; one leather jacket solves the coat problem for many years, and suspenders are superfluous . . .’.