7 Signs You Have Too Much Stuff

We all know (at least in our minds, if not our emotions) that those aspirational minimalist photos on Pinterest or TikTok aren't real.  They're spiffed up and styled for the photo shoot, and if you try to actually live that way you're going to be defeated.  After all, you're alive, which means that things are always in flux, entering and leaving your home.  It's important to let go of impossible standards.

But that doesn't mean you should let go of your desire for reasonably ordered rooms.  Accepting that there will sometimes be game pieces and snack plates on the coffee table, or that the laundry baskets will never stay empty for long, is a simple case of facing reality.  Giving up on a level of order that makes you happy is something else.

sewing project

Clutter clues

How can you tell the difference?  Is disorder caused by the fact that people actually live in your house, or by an underlying clutter problem?  Is it clutter, or is it simply life?  Here are the signs that your mess might be caused by too much stuff.

1.  Items are stored in places that don't make sense.

When items are stored in unusual spaces, it might mean that you own too much.  For example, platters and vases stored in the linen closet might indicate that you need to pare down your collections of serveware and flower containers.

2.  There are piles of paper on counters and tables.

Staying on top of paper clutter is a challenge for everyone, but if you can never seem to keep your surfaces clear, you need to improve your paper-handling systems.

  • Become more decisive about recycling junk mail before you set it down.
  • Add events to the family calendar immediately so you can toss paper reminders.
  • Sign permission slips and other school papers pronto, and help your child designate a "return" pocket in her backpack so the papers aren't "lost."
  • Pay bills as soon as they arrive, or keep an "action" basket on your desk which you deal with every payday.

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3.  Your clothes are always wrinkled.

This applies to things that hang in your closet as well as things you keep in drawers.  Clothing that's packed too tightly will either need more ironing or leave you looking rumpled.  It's probably time to thin your collection so items aren't squashed together.

4.  You know you have something, but can't find it.

This happens to all of us sometimes.  But if it's a regular feature of your life, one of two things (or both!) may be going on.

  • You haven't mastered the habit of putting things away after you've finished using them.
  • You have too much stuff to create permanent homes for all of your things.

5.  You procrastinate.

This could range from sewing on a button to doing your taxes.  If it's hard to gather the tools or find space to accomplish a task, it could mean you have a clutter problem.

6.  You have to play Jenga when you get things out or put them away.

Jenga game
If taking out a baking sheet requires removing the five things stacked on top of it, you're going to spend a lot of frustrating time in your kitchen.  If putting away clean towels means you have to remove stacks of other towels so the clean ones can go in behind, you're going to get very tired of emptying the cupboard every week.  And the likelihood that other family members are willing to play with your organizing system is very low, so drawers and closets are always going to be a mess.

Consider decluttering kitchen items so you have just what you truly need and use.  Perhaps you need only two sets of towels per person, instead of the six sets you currently keep.  Maybe toys, games, grooming products, or other possessions need to be pared down so the favorite, go-to items aren't hidden beneath or behind unused things.

I realize this can be challenging for people with limited storage space, but you owe it to yourself to learn what you value more – the extra possessions or constant easy access to everything you need.

7.  You get defensive or make excuses about your stuff.

If you live in a 300-square-foot tiny home and are currently sewing yourself a skirt, you probably have stuff related to that project filling at least one table.  There's no way around it.  But you'll finish the skirt, and the sewing machine and tools will be returned to their designated spot.  You won't have a huge fabric stash, because you buy what you need when you need it.

But if you have the typical American home of 2,000+ square feet plus a garage and a yard with a storage shed, the typical American family of 3 people, and you still "don't have enough storage space" and can't park your vehicle(s) in the garage, it's a fair bet you have too much stuff and/or too many vehicles.  If you have piles of stuff on counters and tables, and every drawer and closet is filled to capacity, and especially if you're also renting off-site storage space, you may not only have too much stuff, but also a shopping problem.

If you don't mind the clutter, that's your choice.  But if you feel stressed and frustrated at home, burdened and buried, or are struggling with debt, decluttering can bring freedom and peace.

My latest project is my new six-book series, Minimalist Basics, available on Amazon.  This series is about much more than tidying up.  It explores life with less clutter, busyness, debt, and stress, and arms you with practical strategies to help you identify and make room for the people, activities, and belongings that really matter to you.  

From a pocket-size decluttering guide, to books that help you explore the whys and hows of a minimalist life, to a look at how consumerism distracts us from meaning and joy and how minimalism helps us find it, Minimalist Basics has it all.  This series is the best I have to offer, created just for you.


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