Image of basket of books and coffee for the "Keeping it Simple: Managing the Stress of Stuff" blog post

Keeping it Simple: Managing the Stress of Stuff

It took me a long time to realize that I am an organizer, not a cleaner. This is an important difference that needs to be recognized. A cleaner spends energy removing dirt, dust, and grime from floors and surfaces. An organizer spends energy putting things in their proper place, including paperwork, kitchen gadgets, tools, and even the couch pillows before going to bed!

An organizer may not want to clean because by the time everything is organized and in its proper place, their time and energy to clean are depleted. A cleaner may not want to organize for the same reason. Fortunately, some people do both of these well!

We are all faced with the ongoing need to manage the stuff of life, whatever stage of life we are in. Infants and young children? We manage strollers, toys, small bikes and swimming pools. School-age children? Sports equipment, hobby supplies, shoes, larger bikes, and more shoes. Teens? Bigger sports equipment, cars, work clothes, school and hobby supplies. You get the picture. It seems there is always something new that needs a space at home.

As a mom, I was prone to accumulate more than we had space for, especially as our children grew. For instance, when our teenage children wanted to have friends over, I felt compelled to provide sources of entertainment. So, with no basement, a ping-pong table permanently resided in the garage. This seemed like a good idea at first. But our cars had to remain outside, and then we began using the ping pong table to store stuff on until it could be put away! Eventually our ping pong table found a new home.

I was also prone to collecting too many kitchen gadgets. My kitchen is small and cupboard space is at a premium. But if I saw a great wok on sale, why not get it? After all, stir fry foods are easy and healthy, right? And somehow I would find a place for it, as inconvenient as that was.

After struggling to find balance in managing our things, I finally came up with a simple motto that provided the clarity I needed: Space Dictates Stuff. I had been operating on the premise that “stuff dictates space.” In other words, if I needed more space for kitchen gadgets, my solution was to create more space, not get rid of anything. So I was constantly looking for another shelf, cupboard, or closet organizer for storing my stuff.

When I changed my thinking and let our “space” dictate our “stuff”, life began to get simpler. Too many books? Instead of searching for another bookshelf for a corner of our home, our current bookshelf space now dictates the quantity of books we own.

Too many shoes? Don’t buy another shoe organizer. Clear out shoes until your shoes fit the space you have. Too many toys? Donate some until everything fits in the designated closet or bin. When your space dictates your stuff, your home becomes a less stressful place because you can manage it just the way it is. And that’s a win-win for everyone!

If you discover creative ways to make your “space dictate stuff” in your home, send me an email at I would love to hear your ideas and maybe even include them in a future newsletter!

Debbie Ashley

Hello! I’m Debbie — Lover of Jesus, Pastor’s Wife, Mom, Encourager, Hobby Gardener and passionate about the simple pleasures of life.

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