Have you seen the late George Carlin's riff on "stuff"? If you haven't, it is brilliant and hilarious, and it exemplifies so much of what I believe about the over-filled, over-scheduled, over-thought, and over-wrought experiences that we now call life in 21st-century America. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of it. There is just too much stuff in our lives and our world and it is making us exhausted, sick, unhappy, and crazy.
Look at your life:
- Schedule: Too many activities and appointments
- Garage/storage: Too many boxes filled with stuff that you will never use again
- Closets: Too many clothes, equipment, tchotchkes, and just plain junk that will never see the light of day
- Purse or wallet: Too many credit cards, membership cards, and receipts
- Toys: Too many for children and adults
- Refrigerator: Too much food
Stuff -- of the cultural, technological, spatial, temporal, psychological, and social varieties -- does so much more harm than good in our lives. It makes us stressed, claustrophobic, overloaded, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, and lonely.
Let's take a closer look at all of the clutter that we fill our lives with.
The clutter starts in our popular culture which is replete with far too much content that fills, yet doesn't satisfy -- for example, reality TV, celebrity magazines, blockbuster movies, and video games. Popular culture in small doses can offer great entertainment. But in the large quantities most typical of how it is now consumed, popular culture acts simply to distract, assuage, placate, and otherwise anesthetize us from our real lives.
This clutter is also found in our technology that includes too many gadgets, hundreds of television stations, almost uninterrupted access to the Internet, a seemingly limitless universe of websites, more information than we could possibly use, inescapable mobile phone access, email, text, and voicemail messages, apps, and addictive social media.
Our world is cluttered, with too many houses squeezed into too small spaces, massive malls, shopping centers with big-box stores, seas of parking lots, and too much traffic. People everywhere!
Our homes are stuffed with so much junk, there is no longer room in our garages for what they were built for. And do you have a storage unit because you no longer have enough room in your house for all of your junk? Stuff everywhere!
Time is now perhaps the most cluttered aspect of our lives. Early mornings, long work hours, deadlines, commuting, late nights, too many commitments, activities, and appointments, not enough time to sleep, eat well, or exercise.
Then there are our minds, filled with too much information, too many choices, too high aspirations, too much societal pressure, not to mention doubt, worry, and fear.
Our social lives have become busier yet less satisfying as we spend more time trying to keep up with our "friends," "followers," and "likes" rather than with our actual friends and family.
We put too much stuff in our bodies because there is too much stuff to buy in our supermarkets and eat in restaurants too cheaply, not to mention the fat, sugar, artificial ingredients, preservations, and other junk we put in our bodies from the unhealthy foods and beverages that are too readily available to us.
The only things that seems empty these days are our souls, the one thing we want to have filled. But all of the clutter in our lives prevents us from having the time and space necessary to fill our souls with love, joy, inspiration, compassion, and contentment.
Why would we put ourselves in such an uncomfortable and unhealthy state? Clutter may, in an odd way, make us feel safe because we surround ourselves with high walls (of stuff) that protect us from threats -- real, imagined, and existential -- that we feel every day. Unfortunately, those walls also imprison us and prevent us from experiencing life openly and freely.
We also clutter our lives because everyone else does; we feel like we have to "keep up with the Joneses." That is not a very good reason, in my view. I think our goal should be to make the Joneses jealous. While they are overburdened, stressed out, rushing around, feeling completely hemmed in, and miserable, we're feeling calm, relaxed, unhurried, free, and happy.
Here's what you should do. De-clutter your life!:
- Popular culture: Watch, play, and listen less; don't buy stuff you don't need; don't believe anything it tells you; don't care too much about it
- Technology: Opt out, delete, uninstall, don't update, don't click, don't save, don't friend, follow, or like, disconnect, unplug
- Your world: Throw out, empty, clear, sell, donate, give away, reuse, recycle, reduce
- Time: Un-schedule, don't plan, don't over-commit, say no, do nothing, slow down, take off your watch, be spontaneous
- Your social life: Be selective, choose quality over quantity, spend time alone
- Your mind: Clarify, prioritize, simplify, tune in, zone out, read, meditate
- Your body: Eat nutritiously and in small portions, exercise frequently, go outside, relax often, nap regularly, go to sleep early
Ah, your life uncluttered. Enjoy!
For more by Dr. Jim Taylor, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.