One of the many paradoxes of clutter is that we often tend to be more attached to things we haven’t been using than to things we have. There is this sense of vast untapped potential in the object. As soon as the time is right, as soon as the right mood sets in, we can pull out this fabulous thing and it will somehow demonstrate its amazing powers.
Saving things for later has long been a problem of mine. On several occasions, I have bought myself something as a treat, only to take it home and put it aside, still in its original packaging, and wind up giving it to someone else as a gift. Likewise, on more than one occasion, I have received a box of fancy chocolates and put them in the freezer, where at least some of them were still there six months later.
More common is the stockpiling of books and tools and supplies related to an interest that is not being lived. One of my first clients had at least two dozen blank books, each one representing a renewed but unfulfilled intention to start journaling. In the photo is my own stack of blank sketchbooks. I bought myself a ukulele and left it in my closet for five years before starting to learn to play it. Musical instruments in general probably spend more time gathering dust than being played. Art supplies, foreign language workbooks, cookbooks, and fitness equipment are other examples of intentions being saved for later.
My thought on this tendency is that usually we let the objects stand in for the desire. Buying the pedometer is the same as finishing the 5k. Buying the paints is the same as learning to paint. Sometimes, though, that untapped desire can build up to a certain level of pressure, and we finally take action. Booking those tickets, signing up for that class, picking up that pen, making the decision to be lousy at something for a while because it’s worth working past the beginner level.
What is interesting about breaking through the threshold of planning to action is that the need for the accumulated supplies and tools and books tends to drop off. I had over 100 cookbooks at the point that I realized my own recipes were often better than someone else’s. Developing competence at a skill, then working toward mastery, often leads to the urge to pass beginner materials on to other beginners. It can be just as much fun to mentor someone in an art or skill as it is to practice it oneself. Most importantly, letting go of accumulated supplies makes room for the practice they were meant to support.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.