When I coach clients on how to handle their stuff, I talk a lot about how stuff isnt really the problem, at least not in the ways they think it is.
How you think about, feel about and interact with your stuff is what determines whether you stay organized or are dealing with the kind of messes that require outside intervention or some serious muscle on your part.
Because stuff isnt complicatedits simple.
Stuff is just inanimate objects that lie where they fall, or where we place them.
The complicating factor is us.
So are you the bigger stuff problem and you dont even know it?
Here are 10 questions to help you find out.
1: HAVE YOU EVER BEEN LATE BECAUSE YOU COULDNT FIND SOMETHING?
If youve ever run late for an appointment or even a casual gathering simply because you couldnt find [insert thing here], thats about you not paying attention when you set the thing down in the first place. If you have a system for your stuff, you know where everything isAND you know exactly how long it will take you to get somewhereso lateness is a huge sign that your system needs fixing or is non-existent.
2: HAVE YOU MISSED A PAYMENT BECAUSE THE BILL DISAPPEARED?
I hear this one all the time from my clients: Im not the kind of person who pays bills late. I just couldnt find the bill!
Im sorry to tell you this, but if you pay a bill late, youve joined the club of people who pay bills late.
Watch out for your 200 daily lies. Did the bill really get lost . Or is it the state of your household that makes it easy to lose track of your bills?
3: DO YOU BRING HOME MORE STUFF THAN YOU NEED?
One of the pillars of The Organizational Triangle is Something In, Something Out.
Now, Id never tell you how much stuff you should have. Only you know exactly what stuff equilibrium looks like for you. If you have space for a dozen black shirts, and if you wear every single one of those dozen shirts, great.
But the thirteenth shirt should only come into your closet if another shirt is going out. We get out of whack when we fill our space and continue to bring in more and more stuff without getting rid of anything.
4: DO YOU OVERSTOCK YOUR SHELVES?
Youve already got 5 bottles of Dawn dish soap at homebut Walmart has them on sale, so you buy 5 more. Thats what your basement is for, right?
Toilet paper was famously missing from store shelves for weeks after the pandemic hit, and even though things are starting to return to normal, there are still things that cant be found.
I can only imagine how many basements and hall closets are filled to the brim with paper supplies, Lysol, and hand sanitizer.
And look, I get it. Having a few extra of some things is a good idea. That way, when you run out, theres no need to dash to the store urgently. But if youre storing more than you actually needmore than you could even use in the next 6 months, for instanceyoure probably going overboard.
5: HAVE YOU MISSED AN EVENT (CONCERT, PLAY, ETC.) BECAUSE YOU COULDNT FIND THE TICKETS?
This one tends to hit people right where it hurts: in the wallet. It sucks to spend good money on tickets for something you want to doa sporting event, a concert, a play, a museum exhibition, etc.and then have to skip it simply because you cant find the damn ticket.
E-tickets have helped a lot with this problem, but they arent always available. And stuff can drown in an inbox, too. So if youve ever missed out on an experience because a ticket got misplaced, youre the problem dont blame the ticket.
6: ARE YOUR CORNERS TURNING INTO CLOSETS?
You know the story. You set something down because youre not sure exactly where you want to put it. Or, youll just put it away later.
But then you DONT put it away later. And, in fact, that thing ends up with other things stacked on top of it or next to it. Those other things might be in the same category (books, mementos, laundry ) or you might end up with piles of miscellaneous.
Either way, if weeks have gone by and your piles have only grown, thats a huge sign that your stuff is owning you.
7: ARE ALL OF YOUR CLOTHES IN EITHER THE LAUNDRY BASKET OR THE CLOSET/DRESSER?
Clothes should only ever be in one of three places: on your body, in their proper homes (a closet or a dresser drawer), or being laundered. If theyre on the floor, on your bed, or in that chair in the corner of the room, theyre in the wrong place.
8: ARE YOU UNABLE TO THROW AWAY ANY ITEM WITH A MEMORY ATTACHED?
Mementos really run the whole gamut, from priceless family heirlooms that have been handed down over generations and are rich with genuine meaning, to a shopping list that a grandparent wrote on a scrap of paper that you just cant bear to throw away.When everything is important nothing is important. Click To Tweet
If you cant curate the things that have meaning for you and that you choose to keep, youve got a problem. And that problem is you, not your stuff.
9: DOES EVERYONE HAVE A HOME FOR THEIR KEYS, PHONE, AND WALLET?
One of the three key pillars of my Organizational Triangle is one home for everything. Thats because the average person wastes a YEAR of their life searching for missing stuff!
So ask yourself: how much time does each person in your home spend every day, week, month, etc. searching for the basics: their keys, phone, or wallet? If the answer is more than 30 secondsquite frankly, youre doing it wrong.
10: IS ONE PERSON IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD THE FIND-IT PERSON?
How many times in the last month have you had to ask your partner where your stuff is, because you have no idea where you put it? The reverse might also be true. Do your partner or kids always ask you where to find things, because no one can really keep track?
By now, you know where this is going.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Virtually every household in America has at least some degree of stuff discordance. Well climb into this in Part 2 and 3 of this series where we look at living with people who have a different relationship with stuff than you do.
For now, if any of the above accurately described youdont worry. Youre in good company.
I want to make one thing clearstuff isnt bad. Theres nothing inherently wrong with having things even a lot of things as long as they serve you and have a clearly defined home inside YOUR home.
The problem is when your stuff gets in the way of your LIFE.
Priorities end up backwards and upside-down.
And at the end of the day, its not the fault of your stuff. Its just stuffinanimate objects that stay exactly where you put them down.
The problem isnt your stuff. Its YOU.
What can you do about it? Stay tuned. Well tackle that in Parts 2 and 3 of my Stuff Discordance series.
So, howd you score? If 5 or more of these things described you, you need some help. And if theres any tension at home as a result of yours or someone elses clutter, were offering a Master Class this fall for The Stuff Discordant Family. Join us to get YOUR relationships AND your home back on track.