Surprisingly, as I've traveled across the United States helping people declutter and get organized, I have come to see that the problem is one that affects far more families than I could have imagined. Every single person I have met tells me not only about their own clutter problem, but the clutter problems of a family member, or those of a friend. Nobody seems immune. The stories are not dissimilar—papers and magazines run amok, garages overflow with unopened boxes, kids' toys fill rooms, and closets are so stuffed that it looks like the clothing department of a major retailer is having a fire sale. The epidemic of clutter, the seeming inability to get organized, and the sense that "the stuff" is taking over affects us all.
We are at the center of an orgy of consumption, and many are now seeing that this need to own so much comes with a heavy price: Kids so overstimulated by the sheer volume of stuff in their home that they lose the ability to concentrate and focus. Financial strain caused by misplaced bills or overpurchasing. Constant fighting because neither partner is prepared to let go of their possessions. The embarrassment of living in a house that long ago became more of a storage facility than a home.
This clutter doesn't just come in the form of the physical items that crowd our homes. We are bombarded every day with dire predictions of disaster and face many uncertainties—some real and many manufactured. Think about the perils that we've been warned about in the last decade alone—killer bees, Y2K, SARS, anthrax, mad cow disease, avian flu, flesh-eating bacteria... the list goes on and on. We are also faced daily with reports of war, an unstable economy, and global terrorism coming very close to home. Surprisingly, this endless barrage (its own kind of clutter) inspires many of the families with whom I work to finally take control of their own clutter. In an unpredictable, dangerous world that is out of their control, they look to their homes for stability—to get some degree of organization back into their closets, their garages, their home offices, their lives. This quest for organization is a deeply personal response to the feeling that the rest of the world is out of control.