How to Avoid “Stuff Creep”

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Is it getting stuffy in here? If you have an urge to purge, here's how I got rid of a lot of stuff I really didn't need.

I’ve been on a major de-cluttering kick in preparation for “Superfluity,” my church’s annual rummage sale. The idea is to strip your life of superfluous stuff.

Although I knew my place was getting crowded, I had no idea just how much superfluity existed around me…

Books, knickknacks, CDs, boots, a silver picture frame, housewares. Canning jars, three-ring binders, floor puzzles, a yoga mat, greeting cards, a file-card box, cookbooks, a sippy cup.

And lots of small art prints and larger framed ones of Alaska subjects (aka the “moose and goose in the spruce” school of art) from my 2006 divorce’s community-property split. I’ve tried repeatedly to sell it. No one in my hometown of Seattle is interested.

I am a victim of Stuff Creep, that insidious acquisition of belongings that crowds you in your own home and ultimately leaves you hard-pressed to admire any single thing.

Too much of a good thing?

It’s been hard for me to let go of most of this stuff. But clutter is not frugal, for several reasons….

  1. When you can’t find stuff you need, you may wind up buying replacements. (“Where the $#@!# are my earbuds/gloves/nail clippers/iPhone skin?”)
  2. A crammed-to-the-gills living space isn’t a comfortable place to be. The anxiety or outright irritation you feel may drive you out in search of solace – and solace usually costs money.
  3. Ever stub your toe on the furniture in a too-crowded room? Or tripped over something in a messy room? That could be just an “ow!” But it could also be a lot worse if you actually fall.
  4. Most importantly: You paid all that money for stuff that isn’t doing you a bit of good. There’s just too much of it.

Superfluity couldn’t come fast enough for me. If I didn’t take action my sister might call “Hoarders” over for an intervention.

More room in my life

Recently I got honest with myself…

I am never going to get back the money that my ex-husband pissed away during our marriage.

So how much more time did I want to spend trying to market something no one really wants? Even if it all sold, I wouldn’t be able to recoup what I saw as my losses during the 23-year marriage.

What is my time worth? I’m a freelance writer, and the hours I spend trying to sell Iditarod posters or kitschy Alaska watercolors are hours that I don’t spend writing. And more to the point, what is the value of having this junk out of my life?

So we carted it all away last Sunday. There is a lot more room in my life as well as in my apartment.

Now my goal is to keep from re-filling that space. I want to hold on only to what matters. The rest is just habit.

Readers: Do you struggle with Stuff Creep? How do you deal with it? And what if your significant other resists even partial solutions?

More stories from Donna Freedman:

Stacy Johnson

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