Yum! I like turkey stuffing, especially when it is aromatic, savory, and still light and fluffy. Overstuffing a turkey can create a dense unpalatable glob of goo that just isn’t appealing. Hidden household clutter can be the same way—an unpalatable glob of goo.

The overstuffed turkey may still look great, and the overstuffed home isn’t always visible to the casual glance. I know. I have gotten pretty skilled at eliminating surface clutter—you know, the stuff on counters, tables, floors, and other horizontal surfaces out in the open. I have even learned to pick up after myself. I return left out items to their designated containment spots, yet there is still a problem.

The real problem is the hidden clutter crammed in drawers, cupboards, cabinets, closets, under beds, on basement shelves, tucked away in boxes, out in the garage… My list goes on and on. I have hoarded, tucked away, and hung onto stuff "just in case" or "because I paid good money for it" for a long time. Many of us are blessed with this problem of suffering from too much good fortune.

Though an excess of material goods may initially feel comforting, all this hidden clutter weighs on my soul. You don’t see it when you come over to my house. You don’t know it is there, but I do. And it costs me—big time. It costs me money to buy all that stuff. It costs me time and energy as I work to pay for it. It costs me time and effort to find it, move it around, maintain it, clean it, and store it. Most important, it weighs heavily on my brain—hidden piles of unmade decisions hanging around waiting for me to deal with them “some day." Clutter may be easy, but it is rarely cheap. It is easy in our society to acquire clutter in the first place, but it is not cheap to own it, justify it, store it, and maintain it.

Should I buy a bigger home so my house isn’t so overstuffed? After all, a bigger turkey holds more stuffing. Sure! That’s what I need—a larger mortgage payment to contain even bigger piles of clutter. Maybe a bigger home would even have “extra” storage space to tempt me to do more shopping for additional stuff that I still don’t really need.

Think of household clutter like obesity. I read somewhere that over seventy percent of us could stand to lose at least some weight. I know from personal experience that it is no fun to drag extra weight around and stuff it in larger clothes. Weight doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t look good. It even makes me tired.

So, would more home be the answer? Or, could I reduce my clutter to fit my home? Could I somehow survive on less? Would I be happy? So far, the answer is yes! I have begun the weeding out process, and I am starting to discover the rewards. Less work to pay for extra stuff, and less time and energy to take care of extra stuff gives me more time for my personal priorities. Just like wearing smaller clothes, having less stuff feels better and looks better.

Interestingly enough, owning less stuff gives me greater enjoyment from the possessions that I keep. I can find, focus on, and appreciate the "toys" we already own. I enjoy the breathing room and the peace and order from having less. It is fun to open closets, drawers, and cupboards that are as calm on the inside as they are on the outside. I like having extra energy and extra space to embark on the little projects I have been meaning to get to "some day."

I am learning that lasting contentment can only come from within, not from another trip to the mall. I am not there yet. I may never get "there," but I am enjoying the process. Clutter clearing choices are part of a journey not a destination. I find more contentment when I focus my attention on the many things I already have rather than on all the things I sometimes think I want.

Is there a better time than Thanksgiving to think about gratitude and stuffing? As my home loses it’s stuffing, I get better at gratitude. I become more content with what I already have–material stuff and nonmaterial stuff like family and friends. Remember to be grateful, and don’t get overstuffed this Thanksgiving.

Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs.

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