Recently, I have been dealing with the consequences of keeping too much electronic “stuff” that I was sure would help me with various projects. Components, systems, equipment, books, and tools have given me a house painfully filled with too much stuff.
In those rare times when some component I had previously saved helps me complete a project or a repair, that event reinforces my bad thinking that saving all of this stuff was somehow a good thing. Human nature seems to help me forget all of the time I wasted searching through multiple boxes trying to find that one component I later only vaguely remember having.
Yes, I could get super-organized: sorting, labeling, and categorizing all of that stuff. That would probably mean I would need to acquire new storage containers and put in many hours identifying and cataloging stuff I will never use. In other words, buying more stuff to hold the old (probably useless) stuff.
The mental strain of having too much stuff sitting around generates unhappiness too. Pretty soon I don’t have enough space to work with the stuff that I really did need and want. Starting a new project means clearing enough space.
My friend Andy sent me a link to this article about Swedish Death Cleaning. Andy advocates a 20-20 rule: if you can purchase an item for less than $20 within 20 minutes (a short walk or short drive) it might not be worth storing that item; especially if it takes up valuable space. He is practical and applies common sense to this rule; it’s really more of a guideline.
Jason, my oldest son, has also tried several times to help me with my stuff problem. He has made (and keeps making) a big difference.
In my (probably twisted) brain, there is one exception to all of these rules for getting rid of stuff: tools. I am convinced that a well-stocked toolbox allows me to accomplish projects (new tasks or repairs) that I would not even consider if I did not have those essential tools. Yet even here, I am finding that it is easy to cross the line into having too much. How many #2 Philips screwdrivers of the same length do I really need?
Books are another weakness for me. I should be much better at getting rid of old books that I will never re-read and only keep the ones that I frequently reference for information or entertainment. The web sometimes creates the illusion that all information is at our fingertips. Yet I constantly find that old links die out; and some old information is not easily recovered, no matter how deep of a Google search you use. The same careful selections about what to keep and what to discard apply to our digital lives as well.
Psychologists could probably fill several volumes with analysis of the emotional side to keeping stuff. Sometimes I pull out a component or gizmo and think, “Ah yes! I was going to build a device-X with this thingy.” Or maybe I simply become wistful remembering how much money I had spent a long time ago to acquire this object. The effort and time help me assign far too much value to a device that might be nearly worthless today.
Do you have any funny or revealing stories about keeping too much stuff? Please share. I could use some extra encouragement these days.