We humans are hardwired to clutch at possessions.
From a laboriously-carved flint arrow to a coffee machine, we spend a lot of effort in accumulating belongings. Advertisers and lifestyle businesses know this. They target us with scientific precision to make us buy things we don’t need. We’re sitting ducks for advertisers because we want our lives to be comfortable and to reflect who we are.
We buy and buy, but our things remain a source of dissatisfaction (just look in the drawers to see how much unused stuff is in them).
My parents used to bellow ‘Tidy up your room!’ at me once a week. This sounded unfair and hypocritical to my young ears and my resentment grew. Why should I tidy my room when the whole house was in chaos? Parents project their poor housekeeping skills onto us.
Children experiencing sad moments comfort themselves with a toy or a blanket. As adults we also comfort ourselves with things – our stuff is a valuable connection to people, memories, money well spent and future aspirations. It’s a reflection of who we are.
So why does it make us feel bad?
We feel overwhelmed by our stuff but we can’t quite get rid of it.
Instead of keeping a photo album of carefully curated photos on the shelf, to admire and to hand down to future generations, we keep them in boxes in the attic, basement or under the stairs. We feel overwhelmed by the thought of sorting photos so we leave them indefinitely. The feelings around these photos might be nagging, overwhelm, guilt, regret, procrastination.
Our stuffed wardrobes and drawers hide clothes we haven’t worn for years. Loads more are in boxes or suitcases on top of the wardrobe/in the spare room. Our thoughts on clothes might be that they’re expensive/useful in the future/unique/vintage. But they also make us feel we’ve lost our youth, are out of shape, bereft of a previous life, financially irresponsible, delusional, dissatisfied, overwhelmed, bored, tired, depressed. And we can never find anything to wear.
If we hang on to this excess stuff for the rest of our lives we will feel dissatisfied, embarrassed, guilty, stuck, tired, depressed, panicked, overwhelmed, procrastinated, argumentative, defensive, angry, heavy, frustrated or sad EVERY DAY.
Imagine a room in a high-end hotel or a photo in an interiors magazine. Whatever your preferred style – rustic or glamourous – the rooms are clutter-free and calming. Sure, the photos were taken with special lighting and photoshopped, but the point is there is no clutter.
The feelings in a clutter-free room are freedom, being looked after, cleanliness, space and contentment.
We can look after ourselves by caring more about how our home makes us feel. We can start letting go of excess stuff; relinquish guilt and shame and feel something new – freedom and contentment.
We can embrace our home and feel good, rather than dreading it.