The Trillion Tote Bag Problem

The Trillion Tote Bag Problem


How did we get this way? 

The-too-much-stuff problem. The clutter problem. The trillion tote bag problem. The six pairs of jeans and only one fits problem. The every family member over the age of 60 living in various stages of hoarding problem. The wasted food problem.

I read the book The Story of Stuff  by Annie Leonard and felt a new level of awareness, but also, a deep dismay at how powerless I feel about the whole subject of the environment. I highly recommend it because it's a major eye opener for both the individual and society.

When I launched Tame Space last year, I believed I could help people organize their living and working spaces. I had a vision of the person who had simply accumulated too much and needed help with setting up a system, a new way of operating in their world that would leave more time to do the things they love or just love coming home everyday. 

Our ability to decide what is necessary and and what is not has eroded. My role would be to help people restart their ability to make quick decisions about the things they owned. Begin to live life instead of frittering precious time away managing messes. 

The finishing touch would be to teach them to consider their habits as integral to who they are and to accept this routine as a part of self care as important as dental care or annual physicals. They would understand that their environment was not only representative of themselves but could also act as a support system.

How can a space support you? When you can define a room's purpose and remove the irrelevant objects it will make you efficient there. By design, your design, you will contribute to a better daily life.

So far, all of the intentions I set for myself as an organizer have been achievable and most of the time I during even the shortest session I can get my talking points in.  


...the troubling part for all of us is that our culture has made it so that when we walk out the door we are besieged with opportunities to shop, accept freebies and take it all home in a promotional tote. All media, from TV to internet surfing to print to toilet stall walls in retail stores is suffused with advertisements. We read the labels on the products we buy, like shampoo, and are told we need to buy the matching conditioner to get best results. Things we buy come in lovely packaging we can't bear to throw away (Apple and Tiffany & Co., I'm looking at you).

So what will happen to client's streamlined home when I leave?  They've paid for a professional organizer. Their homes or offices are set up exactly the way they wanted and the unnecessary was moved out to make room for... life! Making work. Visual serenity. Being able to find what they need. New goals and intentions.

But what I worry about is what might happen once I'm gone.

Exactly the same thing that happened before.

That is, they live life but they also bring things home. We are all Modern Major Generals when it comes to Consuming. Everywhere you see evidence of our generation's gusto for showing off our buying power. And the thrifty among us can justify it by shopping multitudes of buy one get one free sales so that they feel savvy and cheap emptying their wallets. 

They'll get a new phone but won't get rid of the old one. Receipts pile up. Birthdays, holidays, summer trips and each time the stuff accumulates. They buy a new computer but don't know how to recycle electronics so they stuff the old laptop in a drawer. Harried mothers buy stuff to solve the problems, they are perhaps the most desperate because buying in your child's name is seen as virtuous whereas buying a new lipstick for yourself is absurd when you have small children.

In order to prevent having to call me up again, I always recommend that they make a weekly ritual of what we did together. It may be as simple as cleaning out bags and backpacks, putting away brochures and recipes from the newspaper, clearing out email and tidying up all the "dumping grounds". Even peeking at the junk drawer. If they have kids, they can institute an hour on a Sunday for everyone to clear off desks, dining tables, art tables and lunch box deep cleans. 

Weekly organizing is different from house cleaning. It requires solid vision of how things are supposed to look and function and clear thought about the week ahead, the mornings and the evening obligations looming. You can't really zone out the way you can when washing dishes or folding laundry. 

I'm not sure how tenable this advice is since we all have busy periods in life. But if they've learned from our time together, then I like to think it's likely they'll remember how and when to keep things under control. 

Be Productive and Happy. Or Just Plain Happy

Be Productive and Happy. Or Just Plain Happy

The Hardest Things to Give Away

The Hardest Things to Give Away