How to Increase Your Living Space Without Spending a Dollar

By decluttering of course.

Jane E. Brody reviews a new book by Robin Zasio titled “The Hoarder in You: How To Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life.” Brody says it’s the best self-help work she’s read in her 46 years as a health and science writer. That should help sales.

After that endorsement, I was disappointed by Zasio’s advice, which I’d describe as decluttering orthodoxy based on Brody’s highlights.

Here’s the gist of it. If you’re familiar with the decluttering literature skip ahead a paragraph. 1A) Tackle just one project at a time—a closet, garage, room, dresser drawer, file cabinet—and stick with it until it’s done. 1B) To create positive momentum, work from the easiest project to the most challenging. 2) Schedule time for decluttering—an hour a weekday or weekend day for example—until done. 3A) Use three containers labelled “Keep,” “Donate,” and “Discard”. 3B) Brody adds her own advice here. To force yourself to decide among the three, be careful not to add a fourth “Undecided” container.

Simple, huh? So why do I predict, six months after finishing Zasio’s book, that the majority of her readers will still live clutter-riddled lives? Because no matter how faithfully one implements that logical plan, there’s still a cultural, even spiritual element to our tendency to buy far more than we need.

Every day, all day, we’re subjected to a one-two punch of extremely sophisticated and ubiquitous advertising that plays on our insecurities and to what sociologists refer to as “relative deprivation” or wanting what others wealthier (or more in debt) than us have. Regardless of whether we have the three containers labelled correctly, we want what we see advertised and and we want what our next-door neighbors have. Until we figure out how to resist those two things, our “stuff” will continue to overwhelm us.

I’m not immune to the one-two punch. I owned a Porsche once, an incredible machine, but I sold it (at a loss of course) because I felt self-conscious in it. Weird, I know. Most Porsche owners want you looking at them at the light or getting out of it at the restaurant. I was the opposite. I didn’t like pulling into the church or school parking lot. Insufficient swagger I guess. But then after reading Irvine, and getting fired up about Stoicism, I learned Stoics aren’t supposed to care about what others think of them. There’s something to work on. With that in mind, maybe I should give it another shot. The new 2012 911 looks damn nice. An exercise in applied Stoicism?

Xmas 12?