When Too Much Stuff Is Stressing You Out

We have a tendency to judge our success by three primary factors: our job title, our income, and the things we can afford to buy. In today’s society, consumption and materialism are promoted everywhere you look. Social media profits off of relentless advertising that makes us feel discontent with who we are and what we have. But buying more stuff might not be the solution you think it is. 

A Rush and a Crash 

Retail therapy isn’t technically therapy! I’ll be the first to admit that coming home with an armful of shopping bags provides a certain kind of high. In the throes of the pandemic, online shopping became a panacea for many, a link to the world outside of isolation. Too much spending and shopping, though, has diminishing returns. The buzz starts to fade faster. The boxes on your doorstep are less exciting. You might start to find those trips to the mall deflating and depressing, lacking the thrill you used to get when you swiped your credit card. 

Beyond that, what is consumerism costing your mental health? Wracking up credit card debt is a huge driver of financial stress, especially when you have to work overtime to pay the bills and have nothing left over at the end of the month. At the same time, the sheer amount of stuff in your home can become overwhelming. Where do you store it? Do you even use it? If you don’t need it, why do you have it? 

Put simply: having too much stuff can increase our stress levels and, in extreme cases, be bad for our health. Learning how to live with less can help alleviate stress, elevate happiness, and improve your life. (Click here to learn more about the science-backed benefits of living with less.) 

Living With Less

It’s true what they say. Sometimes, “less is more”! And there’s research to back up this claim. An article in the Journal of Positive Psychology indicates, “a consistent positive relationship was found between voluntary simplicity and well-being.” If you want more joy, more peace, and more time to focus on what matters, then try these 6 tips to see how good it feels to live with less.

#1 – Visualize Your Goal: Before you get started, it’s helpful to establish your goal and ultimate vision for doing this work. It might be what your home will look like by the time you are done. How will you feel in a newly decluttered space? Having a clear motivation and end goal for your journey will keep you on track. Write your thoughts down or go one step further and make a visual representation using a mood board or sketchpad.

#2 – Categorize the Clutter: Make quick work of minimizing the stuff that’s taking up space by organizing it into three distinct categories: 1. Keep 2. Donate 3. Trash.  Keep only things that you need, use, or love. Then donate anything in good condition that you no longer want to keep. Finally, toss everything else into the trash. You can use the tried and true 12-month rule: If you haven’t used or worn something for a full year, you clearly don’t need it. Pass it along to someone who does or throw it away if it no longer has value.

“Maybe the life you’ve always wanted is buried under the things you own.” – Joshua Becker

#3 – Eliminate the Obvious: The easiest place to start is with anything that is no longer relevant. This includes things that are broken, clothes that are stained, damaged, or no longer fit, and anything you simply do not use anymore. Getting rid of the obvious allows you to quickly remove or reduce items, gets you into the decluttering mindset, and gives you a boost of positive energy to propel you forward. 

#4 – Start Small: It can feel intimidating to start looking through everything you own all at once. And that’s especially true if you tend to get emotionally attached to various items. If that’s the case, break it down into simple steps. Pick one cupboard, closet, or drawer, and set a timer for 15 minutes to go through it. Take a break, walk away, then come back for another 15 until the job is done. Once you start to get in the swing of things, you’ll probably be ready to clear an afternoon to clean out an entire room!

 “All big things come from small beginnings.” – James Clear

#5 – Wait Before Buying New Items Once you have decluttered, the real challenge is to stop yourself from stockpiling stuff again and filling up those empty spaces. One way to prevent the buildup is to establish a waiting period between when you see it and when you buy it. 24 hours is a good length of time to give yourself some perspective, allowing you to distinguish between a need and a want. Make impulse buying a thing of the past!  Another guideline you can use to keep clutter to a minimum is the 1:1 rule.

  • Anytime you buy a new item, you donate or throw away a different one. That effectively prevents all that stuff from creeping back up on you.
The Stuff That Matters

 Too much stuff can be a real source of stress for many people. Often, we don’t even realize the extent of it until we clear it out and breathe a sigh of relief. Make sure that you are the one controlling your environment, giving yourself a safe haven where you can destress at the end of a long day. Keep it clean and you’ll keep yourself calm!

 Resetting your mindset about consumption will transform the way we respond to the “stuff” we think will make us happy – but in reality, just cost us money and takes up space. Living with less will make room for more of what really matters.

Lisa L. Baker - Certified Personal, Career, Success and Life Coach

Lisa L. Baker is a professional life coach, career strategist, and keynote speaker. Lisa is the founder of Ascentim – a Maryland-based coaching practice that utilizes a unique G.R.O.W. process to help clients gain clarity, realize new possibilities, overcome obstacles, and win at life. Lisa shows high-performing professionals how to Level Up and Live the Life of Their Dreams.

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