Coffee heat rising

Clutter as mental illness

junk2What possesses people? Just imagine having to dust all this stuff. And heaven help us, it’s all jammed into a condo! Some soul felt it was right and meet to live with enough junk to populate a boutique. A whole row of boutiques!

There probably are some nice items here. But for heaven’s sake. How many sets of dishes do you need to eat dinner? What do you do with scores of crystal pieces? How many times can you possibly use them? Once? twice? How many sets of sheets does it take to make a bed? How many hundred tchochkies do you need to take care of before you feel fulfilled?

junk3There must be something missing in my personality. As a confirmed cheapskate, I can’t understand why anyone would want to own stuff they can’t use in daily life or that occupies their time with needless dusting and cleaning. It escapes me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exactly dwelling in ancient Sparta here at the Funny Farm. I own nice dishes, good silverware, top of the line cookware. The walls are hung with artwork—some of it real—and the coffee table is punctuated with decorator items. What I don’t understand is the curio cabinet mentality: whole lighted cabinets full of collected junk that you never use except as objects to run a dustrag over. Mantels and hearths overflowing with collectibles. Plant shelves (what accursed developer first thought of those dust-catchers?) jammed with baskets, pots, “antiques,” and stuffed dolls. Windows barred with shelves bearing glass jars and trinkets.

junk4Think of the amount the woman (it’s clearly a woman’s home) spent on this stuff. What else might she have spent it on? There’s at least one trip to Paris invested inside that house. Dozens of season tickets to concerts, plays, and symphonies. A set of Thomas Moser furniture. Several pieces of fine art: a real painting by a real artist, a real sculpture… An endowment for a charity or a scholarship fund. A score or more of computers for a school in a poor neighborhood. A drugstore full of meds for Africa.

It’s not that you must live like an anchorite and devote your assets to altruism—though it might help make the world go round a little more smoothly. It’s that there’s something hideously wasteful about investing resources in useless junk. And something perverse about collecting it.

This morning’s Times runs a front-page story about the coming new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, discussing the soul-searching that psychiatrists and psychologists go through in their efforts to identify mental illness and distinguish it from those little quirks we all have. Stuff-squirreling definitely should go into the Manual. No question of it.

To my mind, it’s a manifestation of the demented consumerism that permeates our culture. We’re all made to feel we should have stuff. Buy stuff. Get stuff. Keep stuff. Store stuff. Display stuff. And by all means, please: purchase more stuff than we need. Preferably with some company’s logo on as much of it as possible.

Snap out of it, America!

The thrifty farmer owns no more than is needed. And of course, we’re all farmers: our lives and our jobs are our farms. Il faut cultiver notre jardin.The garden of life ultimately grows a lot greener when it’s not burdened with junk that blocks the sunlight and water.

Stuff Therapy

Buy: the best you can afford (don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish)
Buy: only what you need, reallyneed, in daily life
Don’t buy: anything you won’t use or wear this week or this month

? If all you do with it is dust it, get rid of it.
? If you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it.
? If you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it.
? If it doesn’t have real, genuine, personal meaning to you, get rid of it. Just because it was your grandmother’s doesn’t mean you have to store it for the duration of your time on earth.

Sell it on e-Bay or Craig’s List. Yard Sale it. Donate it. Then take all your savings from not buying junk and all your proceeds from selling unused stuff and buy yourself an experience: take a trip, go to a concert, go out to eat at the best restaurant in town. You deserve it.

You don’t deserve to live in a houseful of Stuff.

3 thoughts on “Clutter as mental illness”

  1. This person is not a compulsive hoarder yet, although she may be getting there. There are people so accumulate so much stuff they can’t walk in their own houses.

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