Tag: stuff

Frolics in the World of Form

Over the past few years, at the same time as I was studying organisation, disorganisation, and our relationship with stuff, I was also exploring different approaches to spirituality. I took an Alice in Wonderland approach to both, wandering about seeing what attracted my attention, lingering at points of interest, then moving on when the time was right. At some point in this process, the two interests began to converge, until they became inextricably linked. Just as physical objects require space in which to be and move, a sense of the mystery of life adds richness to how we handle the details.

In a secular society our personal spiritual or religious beliefs are generally kept separate from our professional work. There is good reason for this, as it allows people to meet on common ground, and carries with it a inherent respect for the differences between us. One limitation of this approach is that the safe common ground is often perceived to be the more material aspects of life. Things, money, behaviours and concrete provable facts are regarded as the neutral territory on which we can meet. Lacking a common language for the less tangible aspects of life they can be difficult to discuss, so we leave them out of the conversation. However in doing so we may be missing out on some key pieces to the puzzle, and ignoring a fundamental aspect of our common humanity.

New age thinkers talk about spiritual beings having a physical experience. Buddhists recognise the interbeing of all things. Eckhart Tolle describes the relationship between the form and the formless. Jesus tells us of a heaven where our true treasures are stored. Beyond specific belief systems, many individuals have a deep sense of the wonder and mystery of life. Although expressed differently, many of these traditions point to aspects of our experience that incorporate both tangible physical elements, and a more spiritual dimension, which is viewed as our true home. We may not have a common language that ties together the different forms that wisdom takes, but perhaps we are coming closer to understanding each other, borrowing from each others vocabulary, and recognising shared truths shining through when we see them.

We tend to take the concerns in the material world very seriously, drawing our identities from what we have, own, think of feel. However if we have a sense of residing in a deeper place, our efforts to make sense of the world and our place in it take on a different perspective. Are we each aspects of consciousness attempting to negotiate the physical world?  Are our lives essentially frolics in the world of form?

I don’t have all the answers, but a funny thing happens when I think this way. Physical objects and how they are organised begin to matter less in the scheme of things.  The essential qualities of the people I encounter matter more. Having a sense that we each have a true home that doesn’t depend on how we organise our stuff brings a playful compassion to the story.  Although it may not be spoken out loud, a sense of connectedness that extends beyond practical, material considerations brings a deeper dimension to what we are doing. How we organise ourselves in the world of form still matters, but it takes place in a wider context, which ultimately matters more.

When Clutter Matters

Recently I read an article about people who collect things from the roadside to recycle and sell. The collection process was ahead of the recycling process and they were accumulating a large volume of stuff. They were happy and in tune with each other. The work was obviously meaningful to them. Yet there was some speculation as to whether these people were in the recycling business, or “hoarders”.

It might surprise you, but I don’t mind if you have a garage full of stuff, a storage shed full of this and that, or an attic full of treasures. After all, this is what these storage spaces are for. Up to a certain point, whether you choose to live with a lot of belongings or very few is a matter of personal preference. Collecting and recycling are a lifestyle choice that many people find rewarding and its important to respect that. A cluttered storage space is not sufficient information to label a person as a hoarder.

There is a point however, where collecting, acquiring and hoarding go to far, and at that point clutter matters. Clutter matters when it puts your safety at risk. Clutter matters when your living environment has become so contaminated that it poses a health threat. It matters when you can’t perform the normal tasks of living such as sleeping in a bed, showering in the shower stall, or cooking in the kitchen.

Clutter matters a lot when the people you live with feel overwhelmed and despairing because of the lack of space, and having no control over their living environment. Clutter matters when you feel like it is controlling you, and you are powerless to do anything about it. When collecting and keeping stuff has become a compulsion, then its no longer a lifestyle choice.

Sometimes it can seem like people who don’t have an issue with managing their stuff are judging those who tend to collect or hoard. It can feel like non-hoarders want to tidy up the world so that its neat and organised and manageable. But thats missing the point. The point is not whether you are neat enough, or organised enough to meet other peoples expectations. The point is whether you and everyone who lives in your home are safe and healthy and happy in their living environment. If excessive clutter is compromising your safety and quality of life, that’s when clutter matters.

It can be difficult to change habits of a lifetime, however your safety, health and happiness are good reasons to get motivated. Help is available through counselling programs that address the reasons for compulsive hoarding and acquiring. Professional Organisers can help restore the home to a safer and more comfortable condition. If you are feeling shy about asking for help, you could take a look at a wonderful book called Buried in Treasures, which tackles the reasons for compulsive hoarding and acquiring and how to start restoring the balance.

The links to the book are affiliate links with Australian online store Booktopia.  A small percentage of the purchase price is paid to Live Light if you buy the book through this link.

Taking Your Time With Decluttering

Its not unusual for people to find making decisions about their belongings, and acting on those decisions, very difficult. There are plenty of examples on TV where expert organisers come in and do a makeover on a cluttered home that leaves the owner amazed and bewildered. Does this solve the problem?

People can develop very strong attachments to their things, and feel a sense of security from being surrounded by their belongings. Imposing organising solutions that people are not ready for emotionally is not the answer. In these scenarios, there is a big risk that old habits will resurface, clutter will return, and discouragement will set in.

Its OK to take your time and do things at a comfortable pace. Its not about getting the most done in the least time. Its about gradually shifting the cluttering mindset, and developing confidence and skills so change takes place gradually, and the home continues to feel like a safe and comfortable place throughout the process.