March 13, 2015

March of Trash, Day 13

I can’t write about clutter on Friday the 13th without mentioning tradition and bad luck. The habits we have about what to keep and what to throw away are created mostly out of tradition, and it’s our bad luck to be living in a time when items we would traditionally expect to keep last two times as long and come to us numbers 25 times as great as they did in the periods when these traditions were formed. As I like to say, clutter is a problem your grandma probably doesn’t have the answer for because clutter as we know it today didn’t exist in the twentieth century.

Think about it: in 1980, U.S. houses were half as large and had more occupants on average, yet they were mercifully clutter-free by today’s standards. Our collective stuff must have gotten at least three times as large just in the last 35 years for that to be possible. This is why we lean on modern gimmicks like March of Trash, rather than age-old wisdom, to come to grips with the challenge of so much stuff.

Pioneering work is always harder. Being among the first people to face a problem, or even being the first on your block, means you can’t just follow the examples of people around you. You have to figure things out logically. You have to accept that you will make some mistakes. So go ahead and figure things out, and make the mistakes that will seem so obvious later. The advantage of being the first is that you get to gloat ever so gently when everyone else looks at you to try to figure out how you did it. Of course, in the case of clutter, you get an early start on the productivity boost, the improved lifestyle, and the feeling of luxury that come from defeating clutter — and who wouldn’t want that?

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