012: When “Stuff” Becomes Stressful
012: When “Stuff” Becomes Stressful

Micah musing

When we have emotional needs, we often try to fill the void with stuff.

Micah musing

When we have emotional needs, we often try to fill the void with stuff.

Highlights From Post:

Our extended body, or our surroundings, profoundly impacts our physical and emotional health.

Each day we are in constant contact with the environment around us. From the knick-nacks that fill our home to the piles of paper in our office and the email inbox filled with unread messages, whether we realize it or not, in addition to impacting our well-being, our surroundings subconsciously also influence how we behave and interact. The spaces we put ourselves in can foster peace of mind, healthy living, and life satisfaction. They can also create life dissatisfaction. If you are stressed and overwhelmed or at the opposite end of the spectrum where you lack energy and get up and go, following the principles of Ayurveda and streamlining a few things in your environment can have some impressive and quick results.

We take our environment in through our senses- sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Today I’d like to talk predominately about sight. What we visually see around us and how it makes us feel. We’ll also look at what makes most of us clutter magnets.

Originally Published On: March 1, 2023
Published By: Micah Hill

Hi friends! I want to tell you how pumped I am about today’s podcast because it is near and dear to my heart. Having been in the garbage business for most of my career, I have a fond appreciation for getting rid of or recycling what no longer serves you.

There is something about clearing out the stuff you no longer use, putting it at the curb, or taking it to a local donation center and never having it take up mental space or having to “tend to it again” that is so satisfying.

Over the last few years, our homes have really been safe havens. I don’t know if it’s because the weather has been getting nice or I’m just following my own advice again, but I’ve been doing some major cleanouts. If you are in The Clarity Club, you know my story about the downsizing we did to a 24×24 guest house, a.k.a. the cat house, during our home renovation. I did a major cleanout, and it felt oh-so-good.

Well, between COVID shutdowns and this winter, spending so much time at home, things started to accumulate again, and not in a good way. Sometimes it’s not all about adding new stuff; it can be having stuff that no longer serves you or just plain too much. Either way, I had noticed several things started to outgrow their homes, and a purge was in order.

Have you noticed additional anxiety when things feel out of place? Like maybe your life tends to model the chaos in your environment? Or, could it be the other way around – the chaos in your environment models the chaos in your mind? Whichever came first, the chicken or the egg, the fact that you are noticing your environment is impacting your mood is a great first start.


Clutter Or Organized Chaos

I recently read an article titled Cluttercore. As soon as I saw the headline, I was like, what is that? Apparently, it’s where sentimentality and organized chaos meet, and according to tags on Instagram, it’s a trend. Cluttercore uses curated collections to create a highly personal cozy space that tells a story and brings joy. Think about organizing meaningful souvenirs, childhood mementos, trinkets, and figurines and putting them on full display. Chaos and Clutter don’t necessarily have to bring up thoughts of an episode of Hoarders.

As I started looking into cluttercore, the pictures were inspiring. Obviously, well done for the photo opp. Not too visually overwhelming. There were lots of layers and places for the eyes to rest. But I got to thinking about the time I tried to do a photo wall collage and how it didn’t quite turn out like the inspiration picture. Has anyone else ever done that? Especially on the angle of a staircase. I guess all staircases are angled, LOL. It takes talent, is all I can say😊

So, how do you distinguish between clutter and cozy? Like they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is clutter. What’s cozy to one is clutter to another. LOL

So many people have collections. I remember a friend telling me about a collection of figurines and how it was a pain to dust around. Given that comment, I don’t think she’d subscribe to the cluttercore movement. My nephew is into Legos big time. He spends so much time building each creation; they all hold a special place in his heart. I tried to move one, and a part fell off. You’d have thought I took it back to box basics. My sister has devoted the entire loft of their house to his builds- because – well, what do you do when your son has finished his 50th Lego creation, and you can’t have your living room looking like the Lego Store display case 😊 Do you or a family member have a collection of sentimental objects or artwork? How do you see it as cozy fun memories or as chaotic clutter? Better yet, what do you do when the people around you don’t have the same idea of chaos?

Studies have shown that when we perceive our environment as cluttered, it exacerbates the feeling of overwhelm, leading to stress. When our living and working spaces are filled with an overabundance of things, the chaos and disorder cause our bodies to release the stress hormone cortisol. Interestingly, researchers from DePaul University in Chicago published a study in Current Psychology that found that volunteers indicating their homes were cluttered had a higher tendency to procrastinate because either they want to avoid unpleasant tasks or it’s too time-consuming to complete the task because of the additional sorting required.  Ultimately, clutter problems were associated with life dissatisfaction. I can attest to that.

Before my cleanout, I can’t tell you how many times I’d look at my to-do list, and it would have: sort the closet by the garage door, organize the pantry, get rid of clothes that don’t fit. I’d start the day stressed, thinking about the mini projects, and I’d come home stressed, thinking I didn’t have the energy to tackle it today. Literally, each of the tasks would take less than an hour of focused attention a piece, but they stayed on my to-do list because the task seemed daunting. I knew there were things I didn’t want to get rid of, and I didn’t have the mental capacity to think of where they could be rehomed. Each day I’d beat myself up over having yet to cross off the list until one day, I decided enough was enough.

I decided to do some thought work around my procrastinating on the projects. I realized that I was the one stressing myself out. I remembered how the weight lifted off me after the last cleanout and when I gave myself the time to get out of the overwhelm and see the situation for what it was, it was like one of those cartoons where they light the fuse, and the character is rushing to do something before the bomb detonates. As soon as I came to the realization and witnessed what I was doing to myself instead of being the victim of a long to-do list, I became the person who couldn’t get those three items accomplished quickly enough. And just as suspected. A wave of relief!


Over Attachment

The Buddha, a pretty intelligent guy by most accounts, says the root of suffering is attachment. In Chopra Perfect Health certification, we learn that attachment.  Attachment comes in many forms. It can be attachment to a person, which is why we grieve when they are no longer with us. It can be attachment to thoughts, a job, or material possessions. Anything you desire or feel like you can’t live without. When you don’t have it, or you lose it, it can put your life in a tailspin. Right?

What is clutter? Clutter is an overattachment to our personal items. We find it difficult to part with them, and so they stay. The piles grow. The spaces around us become more constricted over time until it gets to a point where we can’t think properly.

Don’t believe me? How many pairs of jeans do you have? Shoes? You know on IG how they do celebrity house tours. They show closets of with everything neatly lined up in their own place or the line of tops that looks like it’s from a high-end department store, all arranged by color and length? How many days in the week are there? Yes, there are different styles and fits, but really and truly, how many things do we need? You can only Marie Kondo so much before it is just too much. How much time and mental capacity do you spend figuring out what you’ll wear? And if our closets look like the IG reels, how long do they stay like that when “real” life happens?

So, attachment to stuff is super real. And that’s one argument for making a conscious effort to acquire less. But have you ever thought about the beginning of the story? Why did you have the desire for the items in the first place? Assuming they weren’t all gifts, you had to purchase or procure them, to begin with.


Emotions & Clutter

So, let’s address when our wants become needs. What was the causative factor behind the jean or the shoe collection? What void was being filled?

I think about that John Mayer song Why Georgia, where he talks about how he “fills the spaces with wood in places to make it feel like home, but all I feel is alone. Might be a quarter-life crisis or just a stirring in my soul.” Wow. Powerful.

Those lyrics totally hit home for me. When we have emotional needs, we often try to fill the void with stuff.

Do you remember your first place? If it was like mine, it was pretty simple. Like basic bare essentials. Bed, nightstand, lamp. The living room had a sofa, table, tv, and the obligatory plan to make it feel lived in. Everything could and did fit into a single Uhaul van. Times were a lot simpler then. So how do we go from living in a dorm to having a simple first place, to overflowing at the gills, and we need to rent a storage unit to corral all our stuff? What needs aren’t being met that we feel like acquiring things will make it better?

I think about college orientation and the RA asking if there was a fire, what would you take? How often do we assess our lives and see what is really important to us? Is it the material things that we are reluctant to let go of? Because the reality is you can’t take it with you when you go, right?

That’s why it ultimately comes down to being comfortable with yourself and the simple things in life. Having the clarity to realize it isn’t the stuff that makes you happy.

Just like money can’t buy you, love, stuff can’t buy you happiness. So, take a good look around. What is important to you? How are the other things just getting in the way? What steps do you want to take to streamline your environment to bring you more peace of mind?

This is Micah, signing out wishing you find a way to create a restful and restorative environment and a mind of clarity.

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