Yours, Mine & Ours: The Problem with “Stuff”


If there is one thing the pandemic and close quarters has engrained into my brain this past year, it is that “stuff” is a problem. Where does this need for stuff come from? What drives our need to accumulate more and more stuff? Lastly, why don’t people pick up their stuff?

As I walk from room to room, I realize the stuff we’ve accumulated has been primarily things we need to run both the household and the property. Aside from ridiculous amounts of mail, which is mostly junk mail, it’s nothing extravagant; it’s mostly normal stuff. Since I’m certainly not one to just buy things for the sake of shopping, the stuff we have in our home right now is primarily need based. Yet, it still feels like there is an overabundance of stuff, which affects everyone in our household.

Physical Stuff
So, how about picking up our stuff? We’re big about using systems in our house. We have systems in place to keep things simple and diminish wasted time. Does it work? Not really. It seems that compliance is the general issue. The other three individuals in my house have brains that work differently than mine; they don’t think about putting things back where they got them. In fact, they rationalize that if they’re going outside again in 30 minutes, then why should they take off their shoes, put their tools and gloves away, or do a general clean up? Now, I can get on their level and see their point, but the majority of the time, they get sidetracked. So, things get left lying around, right where they weren’t supposed to be in the first place. UGH! Because of this, I have taken things to the extreme level by delving into some serious organization.

You might say that I am a bit of an organization junkie (but it hasn’t always been this way). I label things like crazy! I use clear totes, so I can write standard operating procedures on each one. I feel like I need to take it to this serious level in order to achieve the results I want. Does it work? Well, maybe for a little while.

I’ve tried many unsuccessful methods to assist with picking up the stuff (i.e. daily pick up before bed, taking the items left out and making them work to get it back, taking away items for a period of time – or permanently, throwing things away, piling up the stuff in one big mess, putting it in peoples’ personal bins, freezing the stuff in the freezer, tossing the stuff outside, pleading, and at times, crying). I have even tried telling them how I feel when all the stuff is left for me to pick up and put away. Most of these methods are ones I’m not trying again. They were desperate measures over the years (before I became a health and life coach). Yet, if I can offer you some sound advice . . . avoid the vindictive, passive aggressive behaviors . . . THEY DON’T WORK!

Mental Stuff
Now, let’s talk about mental stuff. The mental stuff that clutters our brains, hearts, and mouths. When I’m faced with physical stuff being left all over the house, then my mental stuff hits my mouth! My brain kicks into overdrive with the mental ranting of, “I’ve talked about this! Why can’t they just pick up their stuff? Why do they leave it for me to pick up? Why am I dealing with this situation AGAIN?” Then, my heart kicks in. I feel unappreciated, unloved, and definitely not respected. This causes my mouth to kick in, and the end result is that everyone, but mostly me, feels horrible.

What’s happened is that I’ve made a mountain out of a mole hill in my own physical being about their physical stuff. If I’m in a loving mood, it’s not that bad. However, if I’m tired, emotionally depleted, and I feel as though I’ve had no space to nurture myself, then it becomes a toxic situation; my mouth takes control, and everyone around me hears about it. The unnecessary stress, frustration, and anger doesn’t benefit anyone. The meaning I’ve given to the situation doesn’t serve anyone well (and least of all – me). It has been proven time and time again that it doesn’t affect them, so something is NOT working. It’s time for a new method.

Clearing the Clutter
For handling the physical stuff in my own household, I’m leaning towards having my repeat offenders donate the item (or something of equal value), since it wasn’t important enough for them to pick up and put away. This would happen after two days of the item sitting where it clearly doesn’t belong. To me, this will not only reinforce the importance of putting things where they belong, but it will also help my family members realize the value of the items that they treat so poorly. If they won’t care for items properly, they can give someone else a chance to. It is as simple as that! This is how I am currently choosing to deal with physical stuff in my life. How are you dealing with yours? Or maybe the question should be, are you dealing with yours?

The truth is, it’s time to start dealing with our stuff on all levels (physical, mental, and emotional) because it’s not serving us well, or we would value and take care of it. As you begin to think about this concept, take a good, hard look into all of these areas of your life. Think of how you can begin to clear away the clutter and the “stuff.” If you try one method and it doesn’t work, don’t give up! Stay vigilant and keep refining the systems. Keep what works and move on from what doesn’t. Over this last year, I’ve moved on from putting meaning into the fact that they leave stuff lying around. I’ve minimized the mental rantings I carry with me, as well as the stuff that comes out of my mouth because of it. When I do this, I feel much calmer. If I find myself going back to getting irritated, angry, or overwhelmed, I take it as a sign to check in and nurture myself. Then, I calmly work with them to deal with the stuff.

I’m also working on leading by example. We’re collectively having bigger discussions about mental and emotional stuff. We’re taking opportunities to calmly (and lovingly) say to each other, “When you make a mess and leave it for others to clean up it makes us feel . . .” It is important to take it one day at a time. It’s a slow process, but I remind myself that it was also a gradual process to accumulate and hoard the emotions and thoughts surrounding our physical stuff. So, let’s keep unpacking, organizing, and getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t serve us any longer. We all deserve a life that isn’t cluttered!