Too much stuff

During our COVID confinement we’ve all been staring at our excess “stuff,” wondering how that happened. In this occasional series, Martha Tobin will answer some of your organization and decluttering questions and provide some tips and tricks for making the process easier. Send your questions to (confidentiality guaranteed and no names mentioned).

Dear Martha,

My partner continues to order online or bring home more and more purchases but we have so much “stuff” that we now have piles everywhere because we have nowhere to put everything. The more stuff he brings home, the more stressed I feel. Any words of advice?

Ready for calm

Dear Ready for calm,

You are completely correct. An excess of stuff does cause stress. Here are three practices that may help, from Sarah Nettleton’s book, The Simple Home – The Luxury of Enough.

    1. Look around your home and celebrate the “good choices” that you have made when bringing something into your home (i.e. installing shelving in your garage or adding a few woven baskets on a shelf in your entry hall for keys, sunglasses and masks).
  1. Consider the elimination of non-essentials by reviewing each room’s contents (start with the surfaces) and determine for every item if it is practical or emotional. Practical items are kept because you need them while emotional items are kept because they are sentimental. If an item is neither, consider letting it go (donate, sell or trash).
  2. Celebrate restraint. If you do bring something new into your home, let something else go that you no longer need or want. Homes only have a finite amount of space so by applying a “one in, one out” rule, you will be respecting the equilibrium of your home.

Homes that nurture us are not fortresses of exclusion, but rather clearings in a busy world that help us to dream new ideas and to be creative in our own way. (Sarah Nettleton)

Dear Martha,

My home has too much stuff but how do I determine what to let go of and what to keep?


Dear Unsure,

Here are five questions you can ask yourself to determine if you should keep something.

  1. Do you love it?
  2. Do you use it regularly?
  3. Is the item in working order?
  4. Do you have space for it and does it have a logical place to live in your home?
  5. For items of clothing, does it still fit and does it still suit your current lifestyle?

Take a look around you and start with a junk drawer, your linen closet or your bathroom cupboard. Ask the above five questions about each item you come across and if the item is no longer serving you, let it go. A life well lived is about experiences, not things.

Removing clutter makes room for a life focused on the things that matter most. It opens up physical space in our home and mental space in our mind. (Clear the Clutter, Donna Smallin)

Martha Tobin is a Glebe resident who launched her new business, Room2Breathe – Organizing & Decluttering, when COVID forced a change in career. She can be reached at

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