I know to some of you that probably sounds like just about the worst job in the world, ranking just above dog-food taster and toenail clipper to the stars. But the thing is, I love my job. And it's not because I'm a freak for cleaning, but because I love helping people figure out what they want out of their lives and how they can go about getting it. I love showing people that buried under all the clutter in their homes is a better life waiting to be uncovered. I've been a professional organizer for more than a decade. I had a show on the TLC network called Clean Sweep, in which I helped people declutter their lives. I regularly appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show and have a regular program on Oprah Radio. I'm a New York Times bestselling author, and I have written four organizational books in addition to the one you're reading right now, as well as a decluttering workbook. But I'm not telling you these things to brag. I'm telling you these things so that you believe me when I say that I have had a lot, I mean a lot, of decluttering experience. I have gone into houses where there were tons, literally tons (as in many thousands of pounds), of extra crap cluttering the place up. And by the time I left, 100 percent of the junk (which equaled 90 percent of everything that was in the house!) had been removed. So no matter how overwhelming your own personal clutter might be, trust me that I've seen worse.
How did it get so bad? Why are so many people so cluttered? Well, a lot of reasons really. Some of which are complicated and one of which is awfully simple: Right now here in America we are all suffering from a terrible case of over-stuff-itization. To put it another way, we are all obsessed with stuff.
Wanting stuff, buying stuff, getting stuff, having stuff, keeping stuff.
But the thing is, we're so used to being obsessed with stuff, and so used to our friends, parents, and neighbors being obsessed with stuff too, that it's just become a way of life. And unless we stop and slow down and look very, very closely, it doesn't seem like an obsession at all. We don't even think about it or question it. It just seems normal, and we can't imagine it being any other way.
Think about it: When you're driving, walking, or riding the bus through your town, you pass a million different stores. And what are those stores selling? They're selling stuff. Then maybe you go over to a friend's house, and you open up a magazine. And what's in between articles? Ads for stuff! And maybe after that you and your friend sign onto the Internet, and hey, what's that banner flashing there at the top of the screen? Oh, wait, it's a little message telling us about more stuff we need. Then when you get home, you might turn on the TV, and at every commercial break people come onto the TV screen and tell you about all the amazing new products that you're missing out on and that you must go out and buy. Act now! Act fast! Before it's too late!