Does Your Home Stress You Out? Why Less Is More

Don’t let your stuff define you. Embrace a new mind-set of consuming less and living with less, and you’ll find more peace and happiness at home, says expert organizer Peter Walsh in Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less.

IT STARTS WITH A VISION
If I had to give you one word that lies at the root of most people’s emotional pain and anguish today, you’d probably be surprised it’s not “money” (or the lack thereof). It’s “stuff.” Stuff keeps us from having the rich, full life we deserve. More stuff doesn’t equate to a better life. Stuff has a way of creeping into and overtaking our homes. It also has a way of defining us, when we should be defining ourselves from a much deeper, intangible perspective. And when our stuff begins to define who we are, we become incapable of defin­ing ourselves outside of what we own and what we can buy. This, as many of you may know by now, is a setup for utter unhappiness. One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Fight Club: “The things you own end up owning you.” It’s a great quote, one that I use often and one that’s really worth pondering. I can also extend that quote: “The things you own end up owning your identity.

It’s time to seriously examine ourselves and our relationships with the money, people, and things in our lives — and the lack thereof. No one should feel stressed out when she opens the door to her own home or buys staples for living. No one has to. No one should feel like he has “nothing” when he can count on his loved ones, even when there’s a lack of material possessions and money. Your home and your financial stability are within your control. Con­sider this: if your home is not providing you with a place of peace and calm, of focus and motivation; if your home is instead a major source of stress and anxiety in your life, then isn’t it obvious that things are seriously out of balance? If your own home does not offer you some measure of nourishment and calm, where are you finding that peace? Chances are, nowhere! Your home should be the place where you escape all negative forces in the world. How you live in that home — eat, breathe, sleep, play, and connect with loved ones — should be the antidote to stress, not the cause.

To get to the heart of our financial problems, we have to reframe how we view what we own, what we buy, how we pay, what we can af­ford, and what will help us create the life we want for ourselves. This is about living mindfully within our means and it begins with a new perspective and a new mind-set about consuming less, living with less, and being happy with less — a mind-set that embraces the idea that happiness doesn’t automatically come with more. This process must start with a clear vision of the life you want — not a debt num­ber or credit score. Just a vision — your vision — and a big one at that.

LESS IS MORE
Let’s be honest, the concept of less is far less attractive than the con­cept of more. Just that word “less” carries a boatload of negative con­notations. Less drums up thoughts of not having enough, being a few dollars short, getting the short end of the stick, not functioning at 100 percent, missing something, lacking something, and so on. It implies hardship, deprivation, destitution, and poverty. But does it have to be a negative term? What does less mean to you?

Complete the following statements:

With less, I am afraid that:

With less, I won’t be able to:

With less, my happiness is:

Think for a moment about what automatically comes to mind when you think of you with less. Are you afraid that life won’t be as plea­surable or rewarding? Does less mean you can’t be happy? Does the very idea of less threaten your happiness? Will having less and living on less income mean you won’t be living the life of your dreams? Why do you think this way? How is this so? What preconceived no­tions about “more” are clouding your definition of “less”?

Now let’s turn this table around. Our cynical relationship with this word “less” is completely arbitrary. What if we chose to look at it from a different perspective? What if, for example, we couch “less” in terms that relate to abundance? Having less doesn’t have to equate with being less, or missing anything. It can, in fact, result in the opposite effect of being more and having more — less of the things that cripple us or trip us up and more happiness, more simplicity, more relaxation, more satisfaction, more energy, more time, more joy, more order, more freedom, more flexibility, more opportunities, more of the things we truly value and need to live the life we want. This concept of “less” that will change our lives is less stress, less worry, less anxiety, less debt, less dissatisfaction, less frustration, less failure, less chaos, less dependence, less dysfunction in our relation­ships, and less feeling trapped in our financial instability and clutter-filled homes. When you look at it this way, less really can be more.

The shift from seeing less as a negative to less as a positive hap­pens when we embrace the concept of less as an opportunity to be re­sponsible and to be mindful consumers. It’s about filling our souls rather than our physical space. It’s about peace of mind rather than just more, more, more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Walsh
, author of Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less (Copyright © 2011 by Peter Walsh Design, Inc.), is a clutter expert and organizational consultant who characterizes himself as part contractor and part therapist. He is a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and hosts Enough Already! with Peter Walsh on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Peter holds a master’s degree with a specialty in educational psychology. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.

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The Surprising Cost of Clutter in Your Home

Not only does clutter burden you emotionally — it’s costing you financially. Expert organizer Peter Walsh shows you how to calculate the value of unused space in your home due to clutter. From Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less

That Clutter Is Costing Real Dollars
It’s easy to put a dollar figure on the cost of professionally stored clutter, but what about the clutter you keep at home? How much is that costing you? I’m not just referring to the financial cost. I’m also talking about what it’s costing you emotionally. The emotional cost may exceed the dollar cost.

Try going through one room and make a quick estimate of the cost of what you’re not using. For example, look in your bedroom and consider the cost of unworn clothes and shoes, unread books, unworn jewelry, or unused makeup. Consider the unused toys in your den or child’s bedroom. If any particular item you come across tugs at your heart or makes you emotional, then consider that an added cost. Add up the cost of the items — I’m guessing that some of those clothes still have the tags on them so it won’t be that hard — and write down the amount. Is it big? How much of that are you still paying off? This simple exercise should give you a rough estimate of the cost of the clutter in your home.

Another assessment you can do is to work out how much each square foot of your home is worth and then see how much of that space is unused due to clutter. Simply take the current value of your home (make a rough estimate; you’re not trying to come up with the exact selling figure for real estate purposes so just obtain the general ballpark figure), and determine how much each square foot is worth.

Value of your home ÷ Square footage of your home = Value of each square foot

____________ ÷ _______________ = ____________

So, if you live in a $250,000 home and it’s 2,500 square feet, then each square foot is worth $100.

The value of each square foot of my home is: ­­­­­­­­­­____________

Now let’s calculate how much of your home’s space is occupied by things you don’t use. Walk around your home and make a rough calculation of how many square feet are unusable because of the clutter. Don’t forget the basement, closets, and garage!

The number of square feet in my home that are occupied by things I don’t use: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­______________

Now let’s find out how much that wasted square footage is worth:

Value of square footage x Square feet occupied by things you don’t use = Value of unusable space

____________ x _______________ = ____________

Are you surprised at the value of the space you’re giving up to things you don’t use? Is it a big waste of space? A colossal waste of money for space that is lost to you and your family? Every month when you pay your mortgage company, a decent chunk of that money is paying for storage in your own home.

Now let’s do this once more but this time go through and write down what everything in each room is worth. Mark which items have been totally paid for. And then write down how much you still owe on the other items. For example, let’s say you have a big-screen TV that you bought for $2,000 when it first came out because you had to have it for the Super Bowl three years ago. Did you put it on your credit card? Have you paid the card off or are you carrying a balance every month? Think about it: if you are carrying a balance, some part of the balance you pay every month is that TV you bought three years ago. If that TV breaks, you are still paying it off even if you replace it. And then you’ll be paying for both the broken TV and its replace­ment! Really look around your house and figure out exactly what you own and what you still owe money on. Was anything worth the worry and stress of those monthly bills?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Walsh
, author of Lighten Up: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier with Less (Copyright © 2011 by Peter Walsh Design, Inc.), is a clutter expert and organizational consultant who characterizes himself as part contractor and part therapist. He is a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and hosts Enough Already! with Peter Walsh on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Peter holds a master’s degree with a specialty in educational psychology. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.

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