Knowing When You Have Too Much Stuff

A guest post from Jenny Young
Jenny works at Uncle Bob’s Storage. Despite my efforts to avoid storage, I acknowledge that there are some times when it is unavoidable. Here is her perspective on “stuff.”

How do you know when you have too much stuff? It’s usually after you actually have too much stuff.

You don’t realize it at first.  You can’t.  There isn’t a singular moment.  It comes after a time, gradually, and often it goes unnoticed by you.  Others may take notice and hesitate to say anything.  When it gets to the point that they do speak up, you’re probably in pretty deep.

Having too much stuff has been sensationalized by various television programs in recent years and, as a result, it’s entered the public’s collective consciousness with considerable force.  It’s not really surprising we have so much stuff given the commercialistic and consumer-driven aspects of our society (or overly commercialistic, if you prefer).

It can be challenging to know when you have too much.  It’s all relative, subjective, and it’s something easy to be in denial about.  Plus, there are certain items that tend to accumulate more than others.  Some things seem natural to have in excess because everybody seemingly has so much of that particular thing (think of magazines, for example).  Since there isn’t a straightforward way to know when you’ve reached the “point,” where can you begin?  It usually takes a conscious decision and genuine effort to accept that you have too much stuff.

Also, keep in mind having too much isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  As I said, it’s all relative.  If stuff overload becomes a burden to the point your friends and family no longer want to visit or you’ve literally run out of room for more stuff (or both), then it’s transformed into something negative.  Most cases are much less extreme.  There’s a subtlety to it.

Once a conscious decision has been made to foster awareness, it’s time to take an audit of your stuff.  This isn’t something you want to do all at once, since it can lead to feeling downright overwhelmed – especially if you have a lot of stuff.  Start with a room-by-room audit.  Look at what you have, what you use, and what you don’t.  If you have a lot of stuff you simply don’t use, you can get rid of it.

Now, you might argue (with yourself) that you have a lot of things you don’t use, and probably won’t use, that have genuine sentimental value.  It happens.  But if you are absolutely unwilling to budge on one thing like this, it opens doors to other things and, eventually, you’ve made no progress.  In other words, you haven’t made a real effort. It can take considerable determination to make those first steps. It may take a few sacrifices, but focus on the end result, not the process.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the excess.  A yard sale is a great way to get organized and make some money while you’re at it.  Alternately, you can consider donating your stuff, recycling it (or even upcycling it).  Putting your stuff into storage is another option.  It can be useful when you have quite a bit to sort through, but are short on time or space.  Lastly, there’s always the option to throw it out.  This is generally the last option and usually reserved for things that can’t go anywhere else.

Of course, one of the best ways to cut down on stuff is to not buy or keep it in the first place.  Many of us are guilty of buying something (or multiple somethings) simply because it’s marked “on sale” regardless of whether or not we actually want it.  Or we buy it because we’re convinced we’ll need it later.  It can be a number of things that factor into having too much, but ultimately only you know the reality of your “stuff” situation.

Jenny Young is a blogger who loves to be immersed with organizing and decluttering projects.  When not writing, she can be found beautifying her home, or a friend’s home, if they’ll let her in.