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Possessed: Does Your Stuff Own You?

Take a moment to watch this short film, called “Possessed,” which

enters the complicated worlds of four hoarders; people whose lives are dominated by their relationship to possessions. The film questions whether hoarding is a symptom of mental illness or a revolt against the material recklessness of consumerism. When does collecting become hoarding and why do possessions exert such an influence on our lives?

POSSESSED from Martin Hampton on Vimeo

It is no news to regular readers of this blog that I have been making changes in my life over the past year. I think that one of the biggest changes that has taken place in my life is the way I handle money. Rob and I have struggled for years with my bad spending habits, but I finally feel like I have them under control.

The next big change we are working on is my hoarding, and that video inspired me to share my story. Mine is not anything close to as dramatic as those in the film, but it’s my story. It has always been quite apparent to me since later in high school that I like to save things. Every little thing. Programs from events in high school and college. News clippings of interesting articles (usually recipes or funny comics) from magazines or newspapers. Ticket stubs. Unique bottles.

I started getting it under control sometime during college—having to move in August and May and August again during the first two years of college dorm life and then once a year for the next two years—made me realize that I had too much junk. That’s when I began getting rid of it, but not seriously. Then two things happened that started to help me fix this problem and the pretty much cured it.

The first thing was simple. I was using StumbleUpon and I came across LifeOrganizers.com. I read a few articles the first day, then a few more the second and third days. And then I just started leaving the site up and reading a little more every day. Then I wanted to start trying out some of the things I read about. Within one month, I had decluttered our files at home (I had cell phone bills still from a company I was no longer contractually obligated to and almost every single bank statement—some of which were 8 to 10 pages long—I had ever received. I found a great shredder on sale ($50 for $30, gotta love Wal-mart) and taken care of all those extra papers I had hoarded away. I saved a few important ones, but I significantly reduced our clutter in one little area.

It was catching. Next, I tackled my office at school. It was disorganized and messy. However, I had been jealously eyeing Sarah’s perfectly organized files every time she opened her drawer, so I asked her for some advice, then sat down between the recycle bin and a stack of new hanging file folders and tabs and a plan to make sure everything was uniform. I finally had a well-organized system.

At home, I was slowly organizing little parts of our home. Then I got this job and suddenly we had six weeks to pack up our entire life and move to Germany. If there is one thing that will cure a cluttered home, it’s making an international move in 42 quick days. That move was the second thing that jump-started my organizing.

I know how hard it is to throw stuff away. I seriously couldn’t have done it without Rob’s griping encouragement. And Bethany‘s help. Nothing helps you realize all the crap you save and for what stupid reason than cleaning out that crap in front of a friend. All the excuses that make sense in your brain and in front of your husband no longer work.

So where are you at? Are you suffering under too much Stuff? What’s your strategy for getting out from the pressure? Or are you like me and find yourself on the upswing? Share your success story in the comments or on your own blog and then leave a comment letting us know about it!

Related Websites

Life Organizers: Short, easily digested articles for organizing all parts of your life: home, office, time, education and more!
The Positivity Blog: To change your life and habits, you must change your mind.
Unclutter: How to get and stay organized, but truly about living a “simply, remarkable life”
Zen Habits: despite its new age-y sound, this blog gives great advice for achieving your organization, productivity, health, and money goals, plus many other areas of your life.
Dumb Little Man: Not every post here is about organization, but they’re all great.

4 thoughts on “Possessed: Does Your Stuff Own You?

  1. Pingback: Quote Week, Day 1: Happiness | Linden's Pensieve

  2. Linden

    21 Apr on 2008 at 12:50

    @sarah jo: What a cleaning frenzy! And it sounds like you made some serious headway, too.

    @davinian: What better inspires a cleaning frenzy than moving into a smaller house?! I think part of it is exactly what you said: The act of packing all that accumulated stuff really makes you realize how much you never even used.

  3. davinian

    19 Apr on 2008 at 9:20

    I recently downsized my life – I still have way to many books – but moving into a smaller house forced a major spring-clean. Several car boot sales later, trips to charity shops and ultimately the dump made me realise I didn’t need so much stuff – especially when I never used any of it – I didn’t know I had half of it, which was stupid.

  4. Sarah Jo

    19 Apr on 2008 at 1:08

    I hadn’t cleaned out any of our personal files since we’d been married, so after graduation, I went on this house cleaning spree. I shredded a contractor trash bag full of paper and then some! I really need to go through my memorabilia from high school and college…so much to do!