not a hoarder, but I do have pack-rat tendencies with a
books. For example, in third grade, my teacher pulled 18
library books out of my tiny school desk. Books still
send out a siren song, and I usually canít resist
buying at least one when Iím at a store.
husband, on the other hand, bragged when we were dating
in our 20s that he could fit all of his possessions into
a Chevette. That was a bit of an exaggeration, but when
we got married, we had to (still do, to some extent)
navigate between loving our possessions and not drowning
Marsden, assistant professor of human services and
psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla., says
this is an issue in the broader U.S. culture: We buy
what we love, but it can eventually become too much, and
our possessions start to own us.
definitely do develop emotional attachments to stuff.
Once weíve started developing that emotional
attachment, itís much harder to let things go,"
can lead to tension in the home, said Aida Vazin, a
marriage and family therapist in private practice in
Newport Beach, Calif., who recently worked with a couple
on this topic.
husband and I are pretty good at reducing clutter with
some things, such as tossing broken stuff and donating
old and little-used clothing, but we could ó OK, I
could ó do better.
said individuals who have difficulty paring down need to
recognize they have an emotional attachment to an object
and then ask themselves why. Was it something from a
deceased grandparent, a memento from a special trip?
Next ask, will letting go of the object really matter?
yourself, if I didnít have this, would I forget my
grandmother, or would I forget that special trip that I
had? And if the answer is no, which usually it is, you
can detach yourself from it," she said, adding that
the detachment is critical.
said a personís view toward possessions usually points
to a deeper need. For the stuff person, it can be a need
for protection and safety, or a fear of scarcity. The
minimalist may feel entrapped by too much stuff.
Marsden and Vazin said itís important for couples who
argue about clutter to talk about attachment to things
in an honest, nonjudgmental way. The person who objects
to the clutter should propose a solution that works for
both people, Marsden said.
sides need to give a little, with the pack rat realizing
that, in the U.S., goods are easily accessible, and the
minimalist accepting products if theyíre organized.
Organization goes a long way toward harmony, whether
that means keeping a collection tamed or dumping the
junk drawer from time to time, they said.
discussing the couple she treated, Vazin said they came
to realize that the person who was bringing in the stuff
did it because she loved variety and objects that were
aesthetically pleasing. Vazinís solution was that the
shopper needed to get rid of purchases after six months
to a year to make room for new things. She targeted
goods she no longer wore or that didnít fit in her
lifestyle. That way she could part with them more
fact that her need wasnít taken away from her was
really helpful. It helped her partner who was a
minimalist, because clutter wasnít building up in the
home," she said.
Vazinís suggestion, to tackle my book habit, I looked
at what books signified to me, which is the love of
stories. Plus, having a book collection says something
about me. By paring down my collection, I can keep the
books that mean the most to me but also make space for
not like, ĎI canít have my book collection ever
again,í" she says. "Itís, ĎI get to have
something new and fresh and different.í It makes it
exciting to get rid of something to open up space for