I used to be obsessed with organizing solutions. However, I think I mostly just rearranged my clutter. I finally found relief from the perpetual problem by getting rid of stuff, thinking carefully about what we bring into our home, and finding the best place for items. However, we still have piles that develop, and after a day or so, I can grow weary just looking at the state of our house (not to mention panic at the thought of hospitality).
In a recent Real Simple interview, organizer Andrew Mellen linked clutter to entitlement, and it has changed my daily habits (and my home’s overall look and feel!).
Answering a reader’s question about the piles around the house, Mellen explains that we create piles by refusing to make a decision about where to put something. He says, “Then the next decision that you didn’t make landed on top of that and so on, until you ended up with a stack of indecision that you haven’t found the time to address.”
Several things prevent me from making a decision including the fact that I haven’t found a place for something. I read that and thought, “I will just work on being more decisive and clear about where things go.” However, Mellen thinks it may be deeper than that.
He goes on to say,
“A pile habit is partly about entitlement: We have a conversation in our head about how tired and overworked we are, so we feel justified in going for the short-term fix–drop object in pile–rather than the real solution. But which of these is the better deal for you: the two-minute inconvenience of putting something away or the multiple times you’ll feel that slow burn of disappointment every time you walk by the dining table and see the item lying there?” (emphasis mine)
Wow. That seemed at bit intense at first. But as I looked at my own life (past and present), I notice this entitlement. I do have this conversation in my head often about my difficult life or my exhaustion. Yes, my life can be difficult. Yes, the sleep deprivation of child-raising is real. But Mellen is right: the disappointment of looking at something out of place–and even worse, the way it attracts more somethings–is much worse than taking two minutes to put it up.
I’ve started asking myself, “Why not now?” when I have something to put away or notice something out of order. Most of the time, my answer doesn’t satisfy me, so I stop and tackle whatever task it is.
This internal dialogue of entitlement extends beyond clutter. It makes me waste time online when the time could be better spent doing something that actually energizes me (like reading a book or taking a walk). I notice how the entitlement comes out in sighs and complaints. I notice how it shows up in my home’s orderliness (or lack thereof). I notice how it ultimately enslaves me to mope around like I deserve a break rather than intentionally asking for one or taking one when I need it.
Putting something away immediately isn’t always possible, but I am trying to notice this attitude and catch it before it infiltrates more areas of my life, leading me to self-pity and a little bit of self-loathing.
What about you? Can you see the link between clutter and entitlement in your life?
Quote from May 2014 Real Simple (p. 92).