Excess of Abundance

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

At the height of my cluttery mess, a friend and I went to the home of one of her friends. There was not an inch of surface uncovered; the toy bins were bursting; there was stuff on the ground. I was appalled. After we left, I said to my friend, “Tell me my house is not that messy.” There was a long pause before she answered, “They’re about the same.” Ouch!

Fast forward to a month ago. I took my eldest daughter to a pediatric eye doctor. Apparently Dr. Nice was very concerned that patients feel completely at ease because I had never seen so many toys in one place. I had to slide past the four play kitchens and over the rocking cow to sit down. In the exam room, there were stuffed animals, hanging gee-gaws, and toys on the exam table. There were even toys and kid junk mixed in with the patient files in the receptionist’s area. Without a doubt, the office could have outfitted two day care centers. I was uncomfortable surrounded by so much excess.

I was very moved by Small Notebook’s recent blog on this topic. (I highly recommend you read the whole post here.) She wrote that when she and her friends were young adults and making their plans for their lives:

No one of us ever said, “I hope I have a big house full of things that I bought just because they were on sale.”

We never talked about our intentions to own so much stuff that we would spend our free time trying to organize it all.

No one said, “I hope my future kids have so many toys that they can’t pick them up because it’s just so hard.”

The problems of clutter and overconsumption are so widespread. We just have so much. So much too much. I’ve decluttered more than 1600 things, and believe me, no one would call my house minimalist. Sadly, the problem of excess is frequently seen as a problem of insufficient storage, rather than as a problem of an overabundance of things. Why does buying more seem to be the first solution to every problem? The only way to declutter your home and keep it decluttered is to 1) remove excess items and 2) not replace them.

That’s such an important ingredient to success, I’m going to say it again: The only way to declutter your home and keep it decluttered is to 1) remove excess items and 2) not replace them.

In the land of plenty, it’s easy to have plenty too much.

Today’s Declutter Item

All of the items that make up todays declutter effort come from my bathroom cabinet. They were either out of date, never used or rusty. these items all went in the trash as they were not suitable for recycling or rehousing.

Things that made me happy, made me laugh, made me feel grateful, fascinated me or I thought were just plain awesome.

  • I am glad that I am married to a good man who is neither physically or mentally abusive. Some women aren’t that fortunate.
  • Bruschetta ~ You gotta love the Italians for their contribution to great cuisine.
  • The workmen have finally come back to finish the job they started on our balcony.
  • Making plans to host a morning-tea for the neighbours.
  • Finding just the right thing to say at the right moment. Especially if it is funny.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.



Continue reading with these posts:

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  • Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom – Does Your Garden Need Decluttering? Cindy's Weekly Wisdom It's almost "second winter" here in Texas, where the weather is so hot, and typically so dry, that nothing grows any more. It just tries to hold on through the hot […]

Comments

  1. wonderful post – thank you! I have a challenge with my husband in that when I complain we have too much stuff he disagrees and offers to build me more storage. Aaaaaaargh. (but I do love him for his myriad of fine qualities 😉 )
    Off to read the post you recommend and I totally agree: The only way to declutter your home and keep it decluttered is to 1) remove excess items and 2) not replace them.

    Amen to that!

    • You’ve said before that your husband likes “to have and to hold.” At least he’s making shelves, rather than buying them. (I guess!)

  2. That’s it in a nutshell: remove excess, don’t replace. Or, rinse, don’t repeat.

    • Funny Willow. I always wondered why it was “rinse and repeat.” I guess the shampoo manufacturers are just trying to help us with a “use it up” challenge. Ha!

  3. That was a great post from Small Notebook, wasn’t it?

    Awkward moment at the beginning of your journey but kudos to your friend for being honest, and to you for listening. It’s easy to overlook our clutter when we are used to seeing it (ahem, guilty here).

    I used to think that maybe it was easier to declutter as we get older and our storage gets maxed out and we start thinking we don’t want our kids to have to go through our stuff like we’ve had to go through our parents’ stuff – or like we’ve seen OUR parents go through THEIR parents’ stuff!. But seeing all the different ages of people in this online community and their reasons for simplifying – it makes me realize there are many different paths to the same conclusion.

    Good post, and you’re right, it can’t be repeated too often. It’s the simple, uncluttered version of the declutter message!

    • Jo, I think the Small Notebook post was absolutely brilliant.

      You’re right that all sorts of people are drawn to a less cluttery life for all sorts of reasons. It’s certainly not age or a lifetime spent accummulating. Instead, we’re all moving to a new mindset like deciding to eat healthy, investigate religion, or explore a new hobby. Anybody at any age can be motivated to do it.

  4. A comment from my husband: And the corollary is: “In with the new, out with the old.” Even useful things get replaced eventually. So, recognize immediately that most things become “excess items” when the new item is purchased.

  5. All I can think about are the germs on all those toys in the doctors office. Yikes! Well that, and a Rubbermaid commercial that ran several years ago in which the family packs all their things into large containers and then exclaims, “We need more stuff!” I didn’t even entertain the word minimalist then, but even so that commercial made me cringe.

    • Hi Erin,
      that is just very irresponsible of Rubbermaid to produce such a commercial. I have never seen it but am cringing just knowing it was ever out there.

    • “We need more stuff”??? Doesn’t happen often, but I am speechless.

  6. I agree, Ouch! The upside is that you know you have a good friend when they feel confident to answer you honestly. Be grateful for that. Sometimes we need a little nudge in the right direction and even if we resent hearing it in the first place it can help propel us onto a better path.

    • I was very embarrassed, but obviously not completely stunned at her answer. After all, I did ask.

  7. Bruschetta is delicious! I was once in Italy (okay, twice) and LOVED their food. I don’t mind living there. 😀

    I think I would run out of that room at the docter’s. Less is more, I say.

    • We won’t be going back to that office. Dr. Nice really was good with Clara and clearly knew a lot about diabetes and eye care, but the whole vibe of the place was just too weirdly cluttered.

    • Hi Nurchamiel,
      I only wish people would pronounce bruschetta properly here. I will risk sounding stupid and say it properly when I order it because it annoys me not to.

  8. Great post! It’s really true that all the decluttering in the world won’t save you if you keep buying buying buying. I have instituted Stephanie Culp’s In/Out Inventory rule for several categories of items, like shoes. The rule is that if I buy a new item, I must part with an old item in that category. Really cuts down on impulse buying because I have to ask myself whether I want to part with anything I already have in order to get the new thing. Most times the answer is no.

  9. That’s a great system, Laura. I also keep things in check by refusing to mess up my organization just to add something that’s not a must-have. For example, my books are well organized: health and language books on the bottom shelf, native plant and animal books on the next shelf, etc. I wanted to add another health book, and I spent a long minute figuring out which book was going out because the new one wouldn’t fit, and there was no way that I was messing up my organization by spilling onto the next shelf. There’s simply no reason for those books not to fit in their assigned homes, because most of them just sit on the shelf most of the time.

  10. Sometimes the hardest lessons to learn and the simplest. I know in the past I have cleaned out and then replaced with other junk. This time is different. I have no desire to bring anything new into the house as I love the empty spaces. I get excited about empty shelves in cupboards, sad I know.

    Cindy you are lucky to have a friend that can be so honest with you.

  11. Cindy, THANK YOU, you are so right on point! ‘Get rid of stuff, don’t replace it’.

    In theory, I love this concept. In reality, I’m quite GUILTY of NOT ‘following’ this concept! It is MUCH easier said than done. It’s not so much ‘replacing it’; it’s more so ‘buying’. It is a constant internal personal struggle. For me, it is just so much fun to cruise thrift stores and bazaar’s and street vendors and etc. Sometimes it is too much ‘noise’ (visually, crowded, noisey – I’m not in the mood, so I leave); sometimes it is just wonderful to see all the stuff and tell myself how much I love that I don’t have to buy anything! I trip myself up with the ‘oh, but what if I never see something like that again’. Then I internally say to myself, ‘if I buy that, I’ll end up just decluttering it someday’; ‘it looks pretty all displayed together here, it won’t look the same sitting at my house’; ‘if it is meant to be, someday I’ll run into that item/thing again’; then there is the ‘what the heck am I doing here? I could be spending time doing (enter something productive here)’. I could go on, enough said!

    Knowing this is my internal issue, I”m getting better (not actually going to those places as much as I used to). One day at a time! 🙂

    • Hi Annabelle,
      good for you, every little bit of progress is good progress. Lead us not into temptation is my motto ~ if you find things hard to resist it is best to stay away from temptation. That fact that you are having these internal conversations is a good sign that you are conscious of this problem and are giving yourself the chance to resist. If you are looking for something to fill your day try doing some volunteer work, it can be very rewarding.

    • Annabelle, I agree with Colleen that it’s best if you stay away from places where you know you’re easily tempted. If you were trying to lose weight, you wouldn’t plan your trip to the grocery store around the cookies and the ice cream.

      Here’s the technique I use when tempted by an impulse item: I leave it there and tell myself that if I keep thinking about the item, keep wishing for it, keep wanting to make time to get back to that store, then I can go ahead and buy it. 99% of the time, though, I forget before I get home. In fact, I know this method is a good one for me because I’ve gotten home and thought, “There was something I wanted. What was it?” Ha! Shows you how “important” that item really was.

      There are few items so unique that this is your ONE AND ONLY chance to purchase it, even if you’re shopping at a thrift store. There’s always more; there’s always another sale; and anything hand made and truly unique can likely be purchased from the artist on another occasion. Collect the artist’s card and leave the impulse item behind.

      • Cindy, I do that too! I think, if I’m still dreaming about this item tomorrow, I’ll come back and get it…and I *never* have!

        • Recently I regretted not buying a t-shirt at the thrift store, and I did go back, but it was gone. “Oh well,” I say!

          • Hi Cindy,
            maybe the big guy was looking out for you and knew you really didn’t need any more t-shirts. He’s good like that. 😉

  12. You said it sister…

    XO
    B

  13. I love this post! Going right now to clean out a drawer. I’ll be back tomorrow to read you again!

    • Hi Susan,
      the excess of abundance is the easy place to start ~ The items that you know you just have too much of are easy to get rid of ~ it is when you get down to the nitty gritty sentimental, guilt and obligation clutter that the hard part begins. By the time you get there though you can be on such a roll and actually excited about living with less that even that stage is easy. Trust me I know from experience.

  14. Thank you for the suggestions (stay away! lead us not into temptation!!!) and this wonderful blog! Bobbi is right in saying ‘you said it sister!’

    Yes, volunteer work is wonderful!!! The current volunteer work I do is extremely rewarding.

    • Hi Annabelle,
      I think the jobs I have done in my life that I didn’t get paid for were far more rewarding that the one’s that paid.

      Cindy, well said. I like the method you use and it is one I learned from my mother. Her words were, if I was meant to have it it will be there when I come back. Most likely one never goes back looking for it again.

  15. This is such an awesome post Cindy. This is my first time around here. 🙂

    We’re in the process of decluttering our home right now also — and it’s downright shameful at times how much excess we have. I’m also surprised at how often people in my area buy bigger houses to make space for all of their excess crap. That’s just not for me. We don’t need more space, we need less stuff!

    I’m glad I found you and I’m looking forward to hearing more from you.

    • Welcome Jenny! I hope your decluttering is going well. If you need inspiration, every Monday (Sunday in the US), Colleen assigns a mini-mission, one for every day, to keep you motivated and searching out clutter.

      Thanks for joining in our conversation, and I look forward to hearing from you more.

      • Hi Jenny,
        I second what Cindy said. Welcome to 365lessthings and thank you for stopping by to leave a comment. I am with you about the big homes, less stuff is the answer to this problem and I plan on moving into only smaller homes in the future.
        I will spend some time now checking out your blog. Have a great day.

  16. I love the simplicity of your approach. It probably works for just about everything we don’t absolutely need, and I definitely notice how much easier it is to keep things tidy when I don’t have as much of it. It is so strange to me that our culture makes it far easier to have too much than too little — while plenty of other people around the world don’t have even the basics they need to get by. I’ve been finding that doing stuff makes me happier than acquiring stuff — walking, baking, writing, pottery — and those things leave me with little time to shop. I’m edging out shopping; now it’s time to deal with the things I’ve previously bought!

    • Hi Jennifer,
      I think I can honestly say that I have edged out shopping. It is amazing how quickly I changed my mindset on that. The desire to stay true to the decluttering began to override any shopping desire almost from the very first day. It becomes second nature after a while. While out with a friend at the mall yesterday she said to me while paying for her purchase “As usual I am doing all the buying, I guest that’s why you can afford to to travel.” I could do nothing but agree. I had only gone to have a coffee with her.

  17. If there’s a downside to living in Italy (other than riposo), it’s the food. Not the eating it, but the being spoiled so that whenever we do return to America, we (okay me mostly) won’t be able to eat Olive Garden or some of the others….I know the difference and can make a few of the dishes. My favorite snack (sometimes lunch) is cantaloupe with prosciutto. The sweetness of the melon blended with the saltyness of the bacon…YUM!!! Another is caprese…yum yum. 😛 lol
    I too learned how to say some of the foods…should be interesting if I ever order any outside of Italy.

    • Hi Gen,
      I am slowly teaching other Aussies to pronounce bruschetta properly. My daughter’s boyfriend was funny though pronouncing it Brush Cutter just to get a rise our of me. Cheeky devil he is.

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