Organizing is Not Enough

Organizing is a multi-million dollar industry. Dozens of blogs are dedicated to methods and tools for organizing your home. Pinterest and Instagram are filled with images of “worst case scenario” before photos paired with orderly collections of boxes and bins in pantries, garages, and closet. From Marie Kondo to The Container Store, it seems everyone is talking about de-cluttering. But who is actually doing it?

A New York Times article reported on a study that drew a correlation between clutter and stress. The study drew a substantial link between procrastination and clutter problems. If you have procrastinated in tidying up, you are not alone. I struggled for nearly two decades before a dramatic life change forced me to face reality.

…a cluttered home, researchers are learning, can be a stressful home…

No one who visited our home would have suggested it was unorganized or cluttered. Everything had its place. I had invested quite a bit of money buying containers. And containers for containers. The “Great Purge of 2018,” however, demonstrated just how much stuff was packed into our tidy home.

What I realized was that having an organized home can also be stressful, but it’s more insidious. The burden and weight of all that stuff may be tucked way into labeled containers, but it’s still there, beckoning attention, taking up both physical and mental space.

I was astonished at how many empty bins and containers I had as a result of The Great Purge. I realized then that simply organizing your stuff was not sufficient. Removing them from my space was therapeutic and eye-opening. The remainder of our belongings are mostly in a storage facility. While it is all out of sight, it’s still there. A weight tied to a monthly expense of keeping it until we figure out “what’s next.”

As we were preparing to undergo this adventure, a friend named Alessandra smirked at me as I lamented not wanting to give up what was left. On her way home from our place in SF she texted me this poem from the late Mary Oliver. Less than a year later, Alessandra passed away at age 42. I hadn’t known she was ill, but she knew. Now I realize how silly I sounded in the context of her frame. I think of her often — how she lived her life — and will let her spirit guide me as I figure out “what’s next.”

Storage (by Mary Oliver)

When I moved from one house to another

there were many things I had no room

for. What does one do? I rented a storage

space. And filled it. Years passed.

Occasionally I went there and looked in,

but nothing happened, not a single

twinge of the heart.

As I grew older the things I cared

about grew fewer, but were more

important. So one day I undid the lock

and called the trash man. He took


I felt like the little donkey when

his burden is finally lifted. Things!

Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful

fire! More room in your heart for love,

for the trees! For the birds who own

nothing-the reason they can fly.




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