Have you ever asked yourself how many pairs of shoes you think you own? Then think about it, before you go and check. My guess is you likely own twice more than you think and thrice more than you need.
Let’s face it, we’re drowning in clutter. We have so much stuff in our homes that more and more people resort to storing their excess outside of their homes, in self-storage boxes. The self-storage industry in Singapore has grown from 1 facility in 2003 to almost 100 in recent years! In the US, it is estimated that 1 out of 10 households owns a storage unit.
And this situation doesn’t touch only wealthy people, in fact, even low-income families are faced with clutter in their homes.
I’ve been working as a professional organiser since 2013 and here are my views on how we breed clutter.
These are realities beyond our control that typically breed clutter.
Limited space to store our stuff
Unlike the US where the average home size has been increasing over the last few decades, where it’s very common to have 2 if not 3 garages, a walking wardrobe, and even a walking pantry, in Singapore, the average home size has shrunk over the last decade. According to Property Guru, “the average size of condo units in suburban areas has fallen from 116 sqm in 2007 to 71 sqm in 2020”.
This is obviously a constraint on how much stuff our homes can accommodate. Stuff that can’t fit into a cabinet, cupboard, or drawer will end up on the floor, on the countertop, or a desk or table, very soon leading to piles of random stuff that will breed clutter.
Limited time to deal with the stuff
Today’s busy lifestyles tend to place more demands on us than we can possibly meet. Spouses, children, work, friends, exercise, finances, household chores, etc, all these areas vie for our attention. The thing is, the more stuff we have, the more time we need to take care of it, whether it is organising it, cleaning it, repairing it, searching for it, or even replacing it. When you fail to take care of your stuff, it will eventually turn into clutter.
Some life events put pressure on our systems and routines, resulting in temporary, or not, disorganisation that can easily breed clutter too. Think about those situations and how they might have affected you:
- Getting married, or divorced
- Having a baby
- Losing a loved one
- Having a physical or mental illness, or dealing with that of a loved one
- Working From Home
- Making a career change
- Undergoing a course.
But many of our behaviours and beliefs also breed clutter.
We buy excessively!
It’s so easy today to make a purchase without giving it much thought, even without leaving our homes. Some reports indicate we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago. Clothes alone, five times as many.
We shop because…
… we are influenced by advertising, much more than we think
… we can’t resist the idea of getting a good deal – ha, the “buy two, get one free”!
… we want to impress people with our importance which is often measured based on our wealth
… we compare ourselves to others and want “to keep up with The Joneses”
… we think it will us make happy, especially when we had a tough day at work or an argument with our partner, or when we feel lonely
… we think it will make us the person we aspire to be
Of course, we need to shop. But we shop so much more than we really need that a lot of this stuff will eventually turn into clutter.
We also accumulate unnecessarily!
According to a study conducted by professional organiser Barbara Hemphill, 80% of what we own we never use. Yet we find valid reasons not to let it go.
We don’t let go because…
… we feel it would be throwing money away, looking at how much we paid for it, without considering the cost of keeping it
… we would lose the memory of the person who passed it to us or of the occasion in which we acquired it or used it, while it’s currently buried at the back of a cupboard or in a carton box that is never opened
… we think we might use it again, or we might fit in it again, instead of focusing on our present and the reality of our lifestyle and body shape
… we worry it might end up in the landfill, without necessarily searching for environment-friendly recycling options.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t keep any sentimental items or that we should let go of all our dreams, but I believe we need to make do with the space we can afford and be more intentional about what we bring and keep in our lives.
Because whether we realise it or not, there’s a huge price to pay for having clutter in our life. That’s a topic for a separate blog. Stay tuned by subscribing to my mailing list!