Most of us know that clutter is a problem. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times). As a professional organizer people hire me, in part, to help them clear it out. Shows like “Hoarders” and “Clean House” have brought the issue to our attention in the past few years. The cheap fashion industry, disposable toys, and our consumer mentality, are all major factors in the war we are fighting against excess.
So what can we do to stop this endless tidal wave of clutter from turning our homes into a Tsunami of tears? How do we slow down the freeway of junk, before it makes us want to set our houses on fire and move into a van? As the old folks say “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and there’s a reason they’re still around to repeat that phrase, they know a thing or two, about a lot of things.
This article is about how we can help EACH OTHER stop the overload, by doing NOTHING! That’s right people, you don’t have to do a thing to stop excess in your house. Clutter will not climb down your chimney, nor seep in through the mail slot while you’re sleeping. All you have to do is hire an armed guard, to block people from walking it through the front door. Or, if you’re on a budget, you can do the job yourself.
It actually enters in a terrifying and subversive manner: WRAPPED IN PRETTY PAPER, usually with a bow on it. What’s worse, is these pretty packages of generosity napalm are delivered to you by a trusted loved one, probably wearing a big smile on their face!
Okay I’ll get to the point, let’s all make a deal: We quit buying/ giving each other useless stuff! Ready for a gross statistic? “Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education” (Psychology Today). As a millenial, most of my peers complain about their massive student loan debt. I feel for them. But assuming the above quote is true, maybe a little less time at the mall, and those loans would be gone.
Maybe if it wasn’t true that “ In 2016, the average American spent $935.58 on holiday gifts.”(investopedia.com), they could be freed from their payment prisons, and afford to invest in a home. Why is this shopping culture so prevalent, nay, EXPECTED? I know it’s not acceptable for me to show up to Christmas dinner empty handed, but why?
I know, you’re thinking “This grinch wants to steal Christmas!”
No, no, no, I don’t. I want to ENJOY Christmas! And Birthdays, and anniversaries...
I love shopping too, and gifting, and getting that PERFECT gift for someone. BUT, think about what you get at Christmas. Do you remember last year? I don’t. But I do remember the burden of getting something for each person, then watching their slightly disappointed look after opening another “I don’t really know you, so here’s a random coffee cup with hot chocolate packet inside” face. Thanks for the chore! I will now drive this around in my trunk until February, then guiltily re-gift it to some other poor unsuspecting person later. (On a side note, I’m pretty sure Santa is a closet hoarder with a shopping addiction. It explains why he never wants you to come to his house…)
As I write this I’m conjuring images of my clients’ faces when we hit their “Mother’s day gift” piles in their closets. Such guilt, and a heavy sadness that they feel they are throwing out the love of their families, and the money spent. They aren’t, but these poor Moms can only keep SO MANY pairs of slippers! Do you know what Moms want? REALLY? Ok I’ll tell you the secret: The want a hug, a card, a nap, and some food. The order in which these gifts are provided may vary by your Mother’s model number and creation date, consult her manual.
I think a really great idea is actually ASKING people what THEY want when you bless them with some wrapped cash. In my family, we generally get one birthday present, and it’s from all of us! Combine your buying power to upgrade your purchase. Instead of 6 random items, I tell my family I want a laptop and BOOM! I got what I wanted?! It’s magical.
As a mother of one, I have had to declutter my daughter’s belongings a staggering 5 times, in her 2.5 year existence. Of course I’m more prone to get it done, being that I’m your friendly neighborhood professional OCD consultant. But if I could somehow get the amount of what’s coming in to slow down, I would have more time and energy to actually play with her, instead of endlessly cleaning up the good intentions of our loved ones. No wonder I have a job, some people even have MORE than 1 child!
There are other ways to show your love! What if there was no product purchase at all? I know I know, please don’t report me to the mall cops! But let’s explore what it would look like if we gave non-tangibles. There are gift cards, experiences, and “coupons” you can make for each other. Who doesn’t love to get a voucher for a free car wash, a back rub, or a trip to the ice cream store?
“For a typical trip within the U.S., people spend an average of about $581 and go away for about four nights” (valuepenguin.com) So basically if you decided to buy less for Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever your culturally ingrained money bleed is, you could go on 2 vacations per year baby!
Give your loved ones experiences and time, not another choice to make or collectible plate to dust. Let’s free eachother from this expectation that major cash must be spent everytime Hallmark demands it! Let’s be very mindful about when we give. Are you really giving that person something that is enhancing their experience? Or are you feeding your own shopping addiction?
I feel strongly that if everyone could see what my clients let me see, the look of overwhelm and despair in their eyes at being left grandma’s doily collection. The loneliness of being expected to keep a huge collection of dishes that your mother in law just KNEW you would love. This is not what we want each other to feel!
Now I’m not trying to put myself out of a job. I think we do a perfectly good job of buying ourselves too much every year. I’m just saying, let’s make our own poor choices in the way of product accrual! You be responsible for what you want to hoard in your one bedroom apartment, and I will mine. Let’s help each other live our lives. Don’t tie me down with a crocheted pair of handcuffs!
Let’s not take it as a personal rejection that your taste is different than mine, we’re all different flavors of people. I know you like that perfume you bought me, but maybe it makes me machine-gun sneeze. Too bad we couldn’t have gone to lunch together and caught up with that $50!
Ok, that was my whole point. Now go shopping and get your husband enough ties that he can make a rope ladder and escape somewhere into the night, before the Father’s day mugs start pouring in!