Clutter and Cat Gak

I was reading a post about clutter and why we rely on it so much (on Zen Habits) and, as always, it got me to thinking…

I’ve taken some of the topics from that post and elaborated on them here.

You may not have an issue with clutter – but I collect things (a lot of artists do) mostly for aesthetic reasons (its great inspiration for art making) so I find the topic interesting and am always looking for new ways to sort through stuff.  No pun intended.

So what does clutter mean to you? 

It can mean:

Security.  When we have lots of stuff around us, we feel more secure.  It gives us the feeling we could survive an apocalyptic winter, earthquake or economic recession.

So…what should we do about it?  Learn to combat these fears with information instead.  What’s the worst-case scenario?  What could you do in that case even without the items around you?  Could you call someone that you rely on for help instead?  Is there really a reason to keep all of that extra stuff? Or maybe learn a skill that would be helpful in the situation instead.

Self-image and Self-worth.  Clothes and jewelry and shoes and handbags (Oh, My!) make women feel pretty, feel attractive, feel good about themselves as women.  Men rely on clothes (somewhat), gadgets, hats, other accessories, tools, and/or sometimes weaponry to feel better about themselves.

So…Learn that you don’t need external objects to feel attractive or good enough.  Learn to accept the person you are now; get to know that person.  We seem to be obsessed with self-improvement; which means we aren’t satisfied with the way we are now.

Forget the idea that others are judging you (they have other things to do!).

Memories and Holding on to the Past.  Photo albums, mementos, gifts from loved ones, yearbooks, school memorabilia, souvenirs, trophies, old clothes…these objects hold emotions and memories from the past.  They represent good times, perhaps better times.  But this is living in the past.  While the past is important, it isn’t your life.  And besides, if these items are stored away, how are they really reminding you of pleasant memories?  Think about that.

So…Consider recycling these items or donating them to someone who could benefit from them now before they go to waste completely.  Or (here’s an idea) what about turning them into something useful?  An antique quilt that is threadbare could be turned into a throw pillow; the emotional reminder is still there – but now it is serving a useful purpose and getting the special treatment it deserves.

Possibilities for Improvement.

This one really hit the mark for me.

Self-improvement books or literature on our shelves we haven’t read, tools for building or making something (i.e. craft/artist supplies) – Lee, are you listening?, exercise equipment, Lee, you hearing this??, yoga clothes, gardening tools, baking equipment, bikes, running shoes…Lee?, you still there? … I could go on and on.

And here’s the clincher.

These are things we don’t actually use but INTEND to someday.  Holding on to them ‘represents’ the possibility, sometime in the future, that we will be better.  We will improve.  We hope, and as long as we hold on to those objects, that hope is alive.

How sad is that?!

Now, it’s not like I didn’t know this already.  I just needed to see it in print.  It brought it out from the shadowy recesses of my subconscious and put it right square in the middle of the table.

So…what are we gonna do about it? 

“We’re” going to live in the present, not in the future, do things RIGHT NOW that make us happy, and stop holding on to these objects as placeholders for some perfect future that WILL NEVER COME.

I know that sounds kinda harsh – but by ‘will never come’ I mean, we will NEVER think its the perfect time, we will NEVER think its the perfect place, we will NEVER think the perfect future is even possible – NEVER.  And how sad to hold on to something for a ‘better’ time – only to realize we’d let it get away waiting for it to show up!!

Am I making any sense??

And what better time than a new year to make a clean break! Pun intended!!


When we’re feeling lonely or depressed or stressed or frustrated, we often turn to shopping. (Uh, oh…this is starting to sound like one of those interventions!)

According to ‘the post’, we buy objects because (the objects) won’t judge us – they will comfort us like a security blanket; they don’t require wooing or coddling in order to be in our life – just a credit card.  But this doesn’t solve any of our problems, and in fact, can add to the clutter problem (among other problems!).  No need to explain that one!

How should we deal with this?  Deal with the problems.  If they seem tough, tackle the small problems first and gradually build your strength to overcome the larger ones.  Just like starting a weight training program – slowly you increase the weights until you’re a mean, lean fighting machine!

Loneliness means we need to connect with other humans not objects.    Stress can be relieved by simplifying your life, not cluttering it up. Frustration is best dealt with by eliminating things or working out better ways of doing things that haven’t worked for us so far.

Procrastination.  Sometimes we don’t need things but we leave them in huge piles because we don’t want to deal with them.  Clutter is procrastination, because it’s easier to leave it and let it pile up than to deal with it – just like it’s easier to avoid dealing with problems.  Deal with it later …I don’t have time right now.  You dread the clutter but putting it off only makes it worse and the stress of putting it off builds up inside of us, deteriorating the quality of our lives.

As a kid, I grew up in a house where the clutter was something out of my control. It affected every aspect of my life.  Sometimes I had the feeling of hopelessness and the frustration was overwhelming at times.  Things as simple as our living environment can play a huge role in our attitudes and behaviors.  And we don’t necessarily shake these feelings when we start our own lives.  They can follow us anywhere!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take ONE piece, one thing and deal with it NOW.  Not tomorrow.  NOW.  Open up a trash bag and fill it up.  Immediately proceed to the nearest Goodwill or donation center.  It will only take a few minutes of your time.  There’s one near you – I’m certain of it.  Or, if you can’t find a donation center near you, and you’re afraid you’ll lose your nerve by waiting until tomorrow or another day…take it to the dump and SLOWLY get it out of your car and SLOWLY proceed towards the dumpster with the said object in clear sight, so that the person next to you will see it and immediately ask if they can have it.  Don’t laugh.  It could happen.

It happened to us just the other day.

A perfectly good desk chair with cat gak stains all over it…YUK.  Who would want a chair with someone else’s cat gak all over it?!

Apparently the man in the car next to us.

He was going to remove the wheels, and put it in a deer stand (hunting is huge in this part of the world).  He didn’t care about the cat gak at all!

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

So, now you can feel good about donating your stuff (surely your stuff beats my cat gak!) and enjoy the fact that you’re making progress!  You’re on a roll!  Keep going!


Camping or mountain climbing or skiing or surfing or biking gear (remember my other post…) can represent excitement in the future.  Lots of other objects might also represent future excitement – computers, clothes, jewelry, tools, luggage, etc., etc., somehow just having these items in our lives means we might someday have more fun.  See also ‘Possibilities for Improvement’ above.

Realize you don’t need objects for excitement or fun.  You can have fun with nothing.  By yourself.  Or with a friend.  With new friends.  Right now, not in the future. One of the things I enjoy doing the most is sitting in a comfortable, quiet place and reading.  It’s the perfect thing when you need to re-charge or relax – it’s your choice!

Who would’ve thought clutter could mean so many different things and affect us in so many different ways?

The important thing to remember is – if it is affecting us in a negative way – we can do something about it!  It doesn’t have to control us!