This is a post I originally wrote for my 52 Weeks of Organizing series that ran in 2011. To see all the posts in that series you can catch up here! Season Two of the Canadian TV show Consumed just started a couple of weeks ago (note: this show is no longer on TV) which made me think of this post I’d written and I felt the need to rerun it for those that might have missed it the first time around. There are many lessons to be learned in this one hour program and I just found out that you can watch most of Season One on You Tube now. Here is the first episode and then if you look in their sidebar on the right hand side you can catch all the other episodes if you want. If you feel like you are consumed by stuff in your life you may want to watch the show to see if you can identify with the habits of the participants and learn from how they overcame them. Watch for the a-ha moments. It’s fascinating.
About the Show
Consumed returns for a second season with de-cluttering guru Jill Pollack who sets out to cure Canadian families of their clutter. Jill challenges families to an extreme home experiment – they must live in their home for two weeks with only essential items (i.e. a few personal items and 10 things to share). In season two, Jill identifies the family’s biggest clutter issue on day one. Then the family must clear out the entire home themselves. This technique forces the family to touch everything they own and literally get a “feel” for the problem. In the midst of the experiment, Jill confronts the family with their deeper emotional issues and challenges them to face “their stuff” in order to move forward. In the end, the goal is for each family to see their material possessions, homes, and each other in a completely different light. While Jill deals with the family’s emotional clutter, resident handyman, Darren Doyle, transforms the physical space in the house to be more functional.
When Stuff Consumes Us
I’ve been watching a fairly new show in Canada on HGTV called Consumed, an organizing show that a lot more people can identify with than the extreme show Hoarders. The premise of the show is this. A chosen disorganized family consumed by stuff is asked to pack up ALL their STUFF leaving them with only bare essentials for 30 days (it looks like it’s only for 2 weeks now in Season Two). Their stuff is emptied into a large warehouse and at the end of 30 days they are brought to the warehouse to sort and purge through it all. Of course there are mini challenges throughout the 30 days as well.
It really fascinates me because most people seem so instantly relieved when the stuff just “magically” disappears. You can literally see the weight being lifted off their shoulders as it goes out the door. However the month isn’t all skittles and roses…homeowners go through a bit of a rough ride when they no longer have their stuff to hide behind. For many it is part of their identity and when it’s gone they don’t know who they are anymore. They’ve been hanging onto their stuff for so long and there are many emotions tied to it. What is most ultimately determined though through this 30 day experiment is that there is freedom in less stuff and chaos. It’s not until these homeowners get a taste of this freedom that they realize how much all their stuff was holding them back from truly living life. Health problems improved (in some cases drastically) and it’s amazing what putting people over stuff will do for a relationship.
The other thing that continually fascinates me is the “hide the clutter and hope no one notices” technique that most of these homeowners on the show used. Almost always you’ll find piles of stuff stashed behind their couches for instance. Not stuff being used regularly either, nope this is just stuff without any sort of purpose at all. And here’s the kicker, when homeowners want to “hide” it further they put a sheet over it. People if you are having to hide your clutter with a sheet you know there is a problem. You may be fooling a few guests but you are not fooling yourself. You still know its all there (even if it’s just subconsciously) and you still carry the burden. That’s a huge weight to be carrying around day after day. It makes me sad it really does.
It comes down to this. Decisions….making them. Making the decision to put people over stuff, to put your health over stuff, to clear out the clutter and chaos so you can make living life not consumed by stuff priority #1.
Remember to ask yourself these questions when assessing what to keep and toss:
1. Can I afford, in terms of space, to keep this item?
2. Could the space that this item takes up be put to better use?
3. What am I saying NO to in order to say YES to this item?
4. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen if I get rid of this item?
No we don’t live in TV land and a crew isn’t about to descend to take away all your stuff for you. Only YOU can decide to make the changes needed. You can either choose to make it hard on yourself by defending your stuff and why you want to keep it or you can stop being a stumbling block for yourself and start letting go. What’s it going to be?