Overcoming "Stuff Processing Disorder"
For the past two years, I've been on a decluttering mission. A mission to lighten my load, so to speak. I've been overwhelmed by too much stuff- and not even valuable stuff. Just stuff that comes in and doesn't get dealt with properly, and accumulates exponentially.
I was sharing something that was a small victory for me the other day in a decluttering group on Facebook. I threw away a catalog that came in the mail- the same day it arrived in my mailbox. It's a catalog of products that I use, and really like, but I realized I can find information about all of those products online. I don't need this catalog as a reference. I don't have a designated place to store catalogs in my home (who does?) So I tossed it. It was in that moment that I realized I am overcoming what I now refer to as "stuff processing disorder."
In the group, I joked that in the past, I would've held onto that catalog for six years. That's not much of an exaggeration. Many times, I've thought as I've come across things in my decluttering journey, "why do I still have this?"
I have a long history of dealing with stuff processing disorder. When I worked on staff at my church, I seem to remember my office being (semi) jokingly referred to as "the black hole". Stuff would go in, but it rarely made it out (at least not without much outside pressure). Come to think of it, my childhood bedroom was sort of the same way. My desk at school and my backpack were like this too. This is not a new thing for me.
You can imagine that living with this "disorder" adds to the level of chaos in my life. I'm not a hoarder- at least not to the point that I could appear on one of those reality shows. But I can easily see how I could have gotten to that point.
I've heard the expression, "big doors swing on little hinges" and I think it's important to recognize some of those "little hinges" or mental shifts it has taken for me to overcome stuff processing disorder.
I'm not a reservoir
Not every single item is meant to take up permanent residence with me and my family! Some items are meant to be used and passed on or discarded. Baby gear is a great example. With my fourth baby, we bought a swing second hand. We used it until she outgrew it and was ready for the Exersaucer, and then we passed it quickly to a relative.
Early on in my parenting journey, I thought I was wise for hanging onto everything. "Once this child outgrows it, I can use it for the next one," I'd say. Well, what happens in the mean time? Do I have space for this item until the next child is ready for it? If not, then it's time to re-evaluate. It's helpful to view our possessions as fluid- easily received and easily given again based on their usefulness to us at the time.
Items can be replaced
Our family might be complete with four children, but I know that I can get another baby swing if I need it in the future (I've been wrong about being done before- just saying). I can get one rather inexpensively too (or even free).
Most things are easily replaceable, and God has a way of providing- especially when we have open hands to give to others who need something that we have. Having extra space and order in the home is much better than hanging on to an item "just in case."
I only have so much space
This may not be something everyone deals with immediately, but for us, living in a small apartment, it came to my attention rather quickly! Children seem to acquire things at an alarming rate. With four of them in your family, that means four birthdays per year, Christmas gifts for four, Easter goodies, and every single kid-centric event ever (we all know that goody bags are a "requirement" of children's events), changing out seasonal clothing (again, twice a year times four little ones- and even more often for the baby), and you quickly realize that your walls are made of bricks- not elastic!
Too much stuff gets overwhelming
Not dealing with things promptly leads to an overwhelmed, stressed out me. Other people in my home are affected by this. One of my goals as a wife and mom is to create an atmosphere of peace. I've learned that part of my problem is spending too much time and effort on keeping things cleaned, put away, and tidy. I'm not the type of person who likes to clean (gasp!) When I learned that I need to be proactive about evaluating an item's role in our lives, I realized that I had the power to keep things from becoming overwhelming. It is so much more peaceful to maintain fewer items than it is to try to maintain many items!