STUFF – and Nonsense!

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Content in the stuff series has been excerpted from the upcoming book: Stuff – and Nonsense: an organizing miracle cure that doesn’t start by making you throw out your stuff!
 Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, All rights reserved.

From Chapter 1


Nobody NEEDS all the stuff we collect.

IF they were brave enough to be perfectly honest, not even those who can barely walk through their houses because the sheer volume of all their stuff makes it tricky to maneuver would argue about that one.

HOWEVER, professional organizers and organizing systems that work from the premise of usefulness and need miss the point entirely.

Stuff is not about need, it’s about CHOICE.
And personal preference.  

Just because a large majority of professional organizers agree that life runs best from a base camp that looks to me like a vacant room in a Motel Six, that doesn’t make their paradigm, ipso facto, The Gold Standard for A Life Worth Living.

“If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it’s still a foolish thing.”
~Anatole France

DISTINCTION: Preference vs. Policy

While those who prefer the stuff-less lifestyle would never believe it, those of us who are what they might call “stuff junkies” find it just as difficult to function in their “stuff-free” environments as they claim is true for them whenever the house doesn’t echo.  (And they think we’re the weird ones?!)

We like our stuff

We find it cozy to be surrounded by our stuff. Homey. We decorate with stuff because we like to SEE our stuff.  And we think they are bug-nutty to tell us to throw out perfectly good stuff that we know we’re going to have to spend time and money replacing when we need it later.

The only things we don’t like about our stuff are:

  • Hunting for it when we need it
  • Tripping over it when we don’t
  • Listening to complaints about it the rest of the time, and
  • Trying to come up with logical reasons why we won’t throw it away!!


Good!  Because, seriously, we still have to talk.

Somewhere between the black and white divide separating “so much stuff nobody can breathe for the clutter” and “throw out your stuff” is a nice, functional, gray zone that I promise you will like better. Hang with me here.

There IS a better way

I KNOW that deep in your heart you DON’T want help that’s nothing more than somebody telling you to GET RID of your STUFF! You want help ORGANIZING your stuff.

I GET IT. I’m the same way.  Take a deep breath and keep reading.

  • You don’t have to make a case that would impress the Supreme Court to keep your treasures.
  • You don’t have to throw a single item in the trash simply because you can’t come up with a logical reason to keep it.
  • You don’t have to pass along anything “to someone who could really use it,” either.

No tricks here. It’s your stuff. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am the last person who would ever be so sanctimonious as to make fun of you or shame you about whatever it is you wanna’ hang on to.  I promise. (If you don’t believe me, take a gander at The Top Ten Useless Things I will never get rid of )

But, really, you DO have to find a better way.  (This is not news, is it?)

  • You DO have to find a way to keep your stuff from tripping you up
    (in some cases literally) if life is ever to become anything more than
    chronic clutter management.
  • You DO have to find a way to keep your stuff from making those you
    live with miserable, if only to get them off your back about it.

Isn’t that what you clicked on this article hoping to find out how to do?  So let’s do it!

Let’s start by renaming the game: you do NOT have “a stuff problem.” 

  • The stuff is not the problem.
  • The fact that you don’t have immediate access to your stuff is the problem.
  • The fact that you don’t have immediate access to your floor is a symptom
    of the same problem.

YOU have a problem with the homeless.

The Heartbreak of Homelessness

Expecting the homeless to move along and stop cluttering the landscape
is utter nonsense unless they have someplace to go

Building homes for people and creating homes for stuff are actually quite similar in approach: both take time and forethought, and the amount of time and forethought increases with the magnitude of the problem. A single homeless person is one thing; a homeless community is quite another.

We know which one represents the size of your homeless population, don’t we? So, relax and go with the flow – this is not going to be a quick fix.  Rome wasn’t burned in a day.

Temporary Shelters

Despite the insistence of some organizational experts, there nothing wrong with the “put this here for now” approach. Until suitable homes can be created, temporary shelters are essential. Any number of incremental moves make sense, too, even though they might seem to be a waste of overall time and effort to your average organizational guru and his publicist.

Temporary Shelter: Immediate Relief

In the aftermath of a tornado people sleep on gymnasium floors, for heaven’s sake, sometimes for as long as a week or more.  Nobody plans to stay there forever.  Even if it were perfectly fine with the homeless themselves, the school would eventually need the gymnasium for an assembly or a home game.  Then what?

Well, some of the newly homeless will find shelter with friends or family, some will move into trailers, some will rent space in a neighboring town.  None of them expect that they’ve found a permanent solution, but things are incrementally better than sharing the cluttered floor of a gymnasium, wall-to-wall with homelessness.

Back up, Jack – that’s a key concept.  Read that last paragraph again.

Note that no one moves on to some other school’s gym simply because that particular school has an away game the weekend they need to move on!

ANY empty space won’t do.

So how do they decide where to go next?

Well, they take a quick gander as the worst of what’s wrong with the current situation and make a move that improves upon that toleration, at the very least.

  • If the floor is the biggest problem, they’ll be looking for someplace with a bed.
  • If lack of privacy is the biggest problem, an unfurnished apartment will look like a huge improvement, even if they’re still forced to sleep on the floor.
  • If they are craving nothing so much as a bath to call their own  . . . well, you get the idea!

Nobody moves on simply to get out of the way, and everybody focuses on moving one step closer to a decent solution. So it must also be with stuff.

Like homeless people, homeless stuff may be forced to relocate a number of times before suitable homes can be found or built to house them.  Shuffling off to some other space simply because it happens to be vacant currently won’t solve a thing.  What happens tomorrow?

Turning the homeless into gypsies makes it very tough to find them when an appropriate vacancy pops up.

Disaster recovery begins with a plan.

Even though the immediate goal may be to get the homeless out of the weather, in the wake of disaster we sometimes have to sort through more than a little bit of rubble to clear a path wide enough to allow us to move everybody to shelter.

Otherwise we are merely moving the debris around to accommodate the passage of each individual who must be moved, possibly right in the way of a path we will shortly need for others.

It’s also important to locate and keep a close eye on the kids –  in this case, those items that you might need before there has been sufficient time for your particular disaster to recover.  They’d better be someplace you can find them when you need them.  Otherwise, you’ve prolonged the entire process considerably, having to send out a search and rescue party AGAIN.

THAT is where we will begin: metaphorically, clearing a path wide enough for you to work, using a system that will enable you to find what you need meanwhile – without turning everything into a tossed salad where you can’t locate the tomatoes for the lettuce!

Stay tuned!  Much more to come in this series.

As always, if you want notification of new articles (in this particular Series or any new posts on this blog), give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help (one-on-one,couples or group) with anything that came up while you were reading this article, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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BY THE WAY: Since is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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  10. andy wolmer says:

    I am real about stuff


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