Is your stuff valuable to you? Or do you have so much stuff that it’s actually providing negative value, by hindering access to the stuff you actually want at any given time?
John Odalen, a professional organizer, has written a book on how to manage the dilemma of an overabundance of possessions. His book, “Real Value: New Ways to Think About Your Time, Your Space & Your Stuff” launches next month. Odalen will appear at a book launch party Sunday, April 3, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Fedora Cafe at 2633 Main Street in Lawrence. For more information, visit www.RealValueTheBook.com.
Odalen is the owner of Organize and Maintain, a Lawrence-based business that helps people declutter, often in preparation for moving (U.S. 1, November 18, 2015). Odalen, who previously worked as an IT project manager and quality assurance director, is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers.
In the book, Odalen says that many people feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff they have, but offers a plan for digging out:
We live in a materialistic, disposable society which values possessions. I have worked with clients in one bedroom apartments and five bedroom homes, and I find they all have the same complaint: there is not enough storage. We fill the space we have, no matter how big or small. In other words, no matter how much space you have to fill, you will fill it. In most cases, though, we are not effectively using our spaces.
We bring things into our homes on a regular basis, but we rarely take the time to look at what we have and remove the unneeded items. We lead busy lives, moving quickly from one activity to the next. We schedule our lives twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There is never enough time to do all that we want to do, or deal with all that we have. We barely have time to relax and enjoy life-so where would we find time to get organized?
To get organized and stay organized, we need to change how we think about our stuff and what is important in our lives, and realize an upfront investment of time and energy will pay off tenfold in the long run.
To be blunt, we stay disorganized because it is easy: easy to do nothing and keep the status quo. By not organizing we don’t need to make an effort or make hard decisions. Sometimes we use excuses to justify our decisions to stay disorganized.
“I like my mess.” I hear that often from my clients, or from client’s spouses who are resistant to change. Fine, you like your mess. But wouldn’t you like an organized space better? You know that needed piece of paper is somewhere on your desk, but how much time would you save if the paper was in a specific folder or basket?
“I know where everything is.” That is another reason I often hear people give for not getting organized. It may be true. Knowing where it is and finding it quickly and easily can be two different things. Isn’t there a better way?
You may be thinking getting organized will be a lot of work and isn’t worth the effort. That depends on what value you place on saving time and money. Or increasing productivity. Nothing in life is free. Benefits do have a cost. You know you could be better organized, but don’t really see the benefit.
Ask yourself these questions:
Can you park your car in your garage?
Do you have a cabinet or closet that is so full you cannot really add or remove anything?
Are you paying for an off-site, external storage unit?
How much time do you waste searching for a specific item? Have you ever not paid a bill because you misplaced it? Did you incur a late fee?
Think about your current home and all of your possessions — not only in the living spaces, but everything in the closets, basement, attic, and garage. What if you had to move? Does the thought of packing up all of your belongings overwhelm you? What if you needed to sell your home before you move? Is your home in a condition to show to potential buyers?
In business time is money, and taking too much time can mean lost business. The business lead that is lost in a pile of papers, the customer you forgot to call back, the time-sensitive promotion that expired-little things, such as these, lead to lost business and lost money.
Very often we are hesitant to get rid of something because we paid good money for it, whether or not we use the item. It’s as if keeping the item justifies the purchase or will somehow get our money back. A good example of this is a story a friend told me. She was helping her cousin clean out her kitchen when they came across a hot dog cooker in a dusty box. It was obvious the cooker had not been used in years, if ever at all. When my friend suggested to her cousin to discard the cooker, the response was “Oh no, I can’t get rid of that, it was a bargain, I got it on sale for $5.” Not to get too philosophical, but how much is something you never use really worth? My friend’s cousin would feel she had wasted that $5 if she tossed the hot dog cooker. But how much is she wasting by keeping the cooker? How much is that space worth?
Some of my clients tell me they want to keep certain items because they like having them. When I hear that, I have to dig deeper. What is the underlying reason for keeping that particular object? What feeling does having the item give the person? How would they feel if they gave up the item?
In many cases, our items hold sentimental value. They bring back memories of good times, or friends and family. We feel giving up the item would mean giving up the memory. Or we feel the person that gifted us the item would be upset if we gave it away. People hold on to things to make them feel happy. Or successful. Or safe. Someone may be financially stable now, but will hold on to excess just in case the situation changes in the future. “If times get tough, at least I’ll have these to use to get by.”
All of these reasons speak to how we think about our stuff. If we change our thinking, we will have a different perspective and it becomes easier to let go of things we really don’t need or no longer want.