Should your stuff be happier than you are?

Should your stuff be happier than you are?
We’ve lived in the same house for 35 years. That means 35 Christmas trees, 35 years of vibrant springs, 35 years of sitting by the fire, 35 years looking out the windows at the birds in our backyard, and 35 years of fun.
But it also means 35 years of clutter!
Fortunately, my husband designed our easy-to-live-in house and he thought ahead about the clutter that would accumulate. He designed cupboards, closets, drawers, and shelves galore.
Unfortunately, all of them are now full. Every shelf and every closet is organized. But, still, they’re full.
And that isn’t all. We own a beautiful red barn four blocks away where we store our overflow—a stationary bike that hasn’t been used for years, a desk that was too large to take downstairs, and crutches our daughter used when she broke her leg.
When we built our house in 1970, according to the U.S. National Association of Home Builders, the average new house was 1,500 square feet in size. Compare that to 963 square feet in 1950 and today’s average of 2,400.
At the same time that houses were growing, family size was shrinking. So with all that extra floor space, we should have no trouble storing our accumulation of “stuff.” Yet, the self-storage industry is thriving.
The industry brings in $17 billion (U.S.) a year—exceeding the annual revenues of Hollywood. And one in 11 American households rents storage units for their overflow.
We store mementos we hate to get rid of, clothes that may come back in style, books we may want to read someday. Simply put, we store “stuff.”
“Your stuff will be happy here,” promises one advertiser. Yes, your stuff will be happy, but what about you?
Our stuff weighs us down and takes our time. We have to dust it, sort it, organize it, move it around, and store it. Then, why is it so hard to give up our things—even when we long for simplicity?
Janet Luhrs, author of “The Simple Living Guide,” offers insight. When Luhrs first got involved with voluntary simplicity, she was so enamored that she signed up for a class on how to build log houses.
Her dream was that her family would live simply in a log cabin in the woods.
She got that dream from the Henry David Thoreau quote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
That dream never came true, but much later she caught on that the key word was not “woods” but “deliberately.” Says Luhrs, “That one word, in my opinion, is the hallmark of a simple life.”
She stresses that living simply is not about being frugal or living on a modest income. Rather, living simply is being fully aware of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. She says, “Simple living is about designing our lives to coincide with our ideals.”
And nobody has a goal of having more clutter. So why not begin de-cluttering your storage spaces today. After all, why should your stuff be happier than you are?
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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