What to do if you’re being ‘stuffocated’?

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What-to-do-if-you-are-being-stuffocated-postHave you heard about “stuffocation”? It’s a new buzz-word from a book by American social forecaster, James Wallman. He describes how many of us these days have worked hard to acquire all sorts of possessions but they don’t always bring us joy. All our belongings need to be stored and maintained and we just don’t have the space or the time to do it.

He proposes we will all be happier if we live more simply and value experiences above possessions. As an example, he points out that our relationship with books and CDs has changed as more and more of us get our music from our iPods and read on our Kindle.  He also points out that “memories last longer than things”.

And there’s the problem. I certainly buy fewer books these days as I’m an avid Kindle reader.  However, even although I will probably never read my copy of Jane Eyre again, I can’t bear to part with it. It reminds of the person I was when I read it and triggers memories of those days.

Some of the people in James Wallman’s book have disposed of most of their possessions, gone to live in remote places and learned to live more simply. Very interesting, but perhaps not what most of us yearn to do.

However, I think I know the solution to stuffocation. It’s not a new idea: the solution is decluttering.

Everyone knows what decluttering is:  organising your home or workspace, getting rid of the things you don’t need. It’s simple to describe, but hard to do.  We never have the time. And we can’t always be 100% rational about our possessions because of the emotional relationships that we have with them.

One of our Bright & Beautiful housekeepers recently spent a day helping a client to declutter her kitchen cupboards. She told me that the hardest task was persuading the client to dispose of a can of food which was “best before” 2004. It was just an out-of-date can of foreign sauce to us but the client had bought it on holiday with her late husband and it reminded her of happier times. After telling our housekeeper about it, she decided she could part with the can and would make time to frame some of the photos from that holiday.

What should we do to stop the clutter building up? I’ve learned a few tips along the way.

My 6 Golden Rules are:

  1. Make sure everything has a home
  2. Clear things away when you’re finished with them
  3. Keep surfaces as clear as possible
  4. Don’t leave a room empty-handed
  5. Rotate clothes and toys ruthlessly and regularly
  6. Only store things you will want to use again

Decluttering is not easy and it needs to be done regularly. I can’t always claim to practice what I preach but I do my best. So my final piece of advice would be to do enough to make you feel better and don’t become a perfectionist. Making memories with the people we love has got to be more important than having a perfectly organised wardrobe, hasn’t it? James Wallman didn’t get it completely wrong.

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