Monday, May 04, 2009

Getting Rid of "Stuff" a Perpetual Problem

So, this past weekend I was walking through a few neighbourhoods as I was giving my dog (and myself) an opportunity for some fresh air and to enjoy the spring sunshine. Of course springtime for more northern climates is about switching winter "stuff" for summer "stuff," cleaning out the "stuff" that's collected in your car(s) over the winter, and heading to the nearest outlet and picking up "stuff'" to put on your lawn. Throughout this flurry of activity on the weekend, many of my neighbours' garages were open to the elements - including my own.

An informal survey of about 100+ open garages (it was a long walk), including my own, uncovered that for every one garage that was neat, clean, organized, and practically empty, about 30 were disorganized, cluttered, and most often over filled with "stuff" - including my own.

The results of this informal survey prompted me to ask "why?" repeatedly to try and understand the cause of the accumulation of all this "stuff." (Thankfully there were no adults around to smack me for asking repeated 'whys'.)

Some possibilities:

  • thanks to consumerism, we've developed into a society of people who are adept at acquiring "stuff" but not disposing of stuff 
  • other activites take priority over dealing with our growing mound of "stuff" 
  • very few people by their nature are organized, disciplined and are able to keep their "stuff" under control 
  • because we don't know what the future will hold, we keep "stuff" just in case
No one can talk about "stuff" like George Carlin, so I'll not go much further.

Strangely, and I do mean strangely, I related my exploration of "stuff" this past weekend with a casual conversation I had with a practicing psychologist many years back. Her theoretical roots for her practice were the work of Alfred Adler. She talked about this metaphorical suit case we have as kids, and how, as we grow, we fill it with "stuff" - perceptions, values, beliefs, mental programs etc. - that are all developed through the eyes of a child and young adult. And this "stuff" is what we use to view and make sense of the world around us, and make important behavioural decisions that affect our lives.
I'm sure you'll agree - this is very important "stuff!" According to the psychologist, as we get older the "stuff" in the suit case needs to be thrown out and replaced with new "stuff" that we develop through the broader view of an adult. Other wise we continue to think and act like a child in some ways, and not always to our benefit.
So, "stuff" seems to be a perpetual problem in many different worlds. Perhaps there is a causal link between how upgraded our mental "stuff" is and our ability to manage our physical "stuff."

A little homage to the master of "stuff" himself.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dale ...

I'd recommend the blog The Unclutterer ( on this subject. It's about personal clutter, which fits the subject of your post perfectly.

There is also the broader issue of clutter in work life and how that effects productivity. Consumerism doesn't end with the discretionary purchases of individuals, but the over consumption of junk office supplies that don't fit people's actual workflows. For example, I only need my trusty laptop, pads of paper, and a supply of rollerball pens. Yet, somehow, I have three staplers, a letter opener, and various other mono-function accoutrements.

Cheers, Peter.

Steve said...

I think of it as defragging my garage every few years. Unpacking and repacking and stacking all those half-empty boxes.