I recently read an article in the April issue of Real Simple about the causes of clutter and how to overcome them. While there were some smart ideas and plenty of words of wisdom, what struck me most was a quote from one of the organizers who contributed to the story.
What has guided her in both her professional and personal life, this organizer said, was something she'd heard long ago from her grandfather: "Every possession is a responsibility."
These few words say so much, and they help explain why surrounding ourselves with things--a practice that might seem like it will bring us fulfillment and calm--so often causes stress, worry, and discord. Each item in our lives requires some degree of thought, energy, effort, and time; the more stuff we have, the more of each of these vital resources we need to devote to our possessions and the less of each we have available for the people, hobbies, and pursuits that are important to us.
Putting these words to use
The next time you consider allowing a new object into your life, or consider holding onto something you might not use, want, or need, ask yourself whether you're really willing to take responsibility for that item. If the item isn't worth the thought, energy, effort, and time it requires of you, or if taking responsibility for it means adding more stress to your life, let it go.
Every possession is a responsibility. Items that don't reciprocate by being beautiful, useful, or truly enjoyable to you will only take up space, physical and mental. Let them go.
Items that cause discomfort, strain, sadness, shame, or any other negative feeling almost certainly don't deserve a spot in your home or your life. Let them go.
Things that require so much of your time and attention that it's difficult to focus on the truly important and enjoyable responsibilities in your life--family, friends, community, hobbies, meaningful work--aren't serving you well. Let them go.
Every possession is a responsibility, and you alone have the power to decide which of these responsibilities you want in your life.