When Things Build Up

We buy, collect, and save stuff for different reasons, but it’s rarely about the things we acquire.

As you are simplifying your life, and even when things get really simple, things can still build up. When I finally got rid of my books, I got into a great habit of reading one book at a time. I only had one book when I traveled, and there was only one book on my nightstand.

Lately that has changed. I didn’t intentionally start reading more than one book at a time, but because I wasn’t paying attention, things built up and I was reading 3 books, with a handful waiting in the wings.

Books aren’t the only things that build up. It might be …

  • email/voicemail
  • clothing
  • blogs in your blog reader
  • shoes
  • debt
  • holiday items
  • commitments and items on your to-do list
  • apps on your phone

When things like my new book collection build up, I know that there is something else going on. I’ve had more than usual going on with work projects lately and as a result, I’ve let other things slide. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to read or have several books, but for me, one at a time is enough. Instead of addressing my issues and simplifying …

I’ve been building my book collection.

  • Milk Eggs Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found. I checked this book out of the library. It’s a hysterical collection of real grocery lists. Really funny stuff. While I was looking forward to the comedic relief, I haven’t opened it since I borrowed it a few weeks ago.

On the Kindle …

Those are the books I’ve collected over the past 3 months and haven’t finished. While I thought I bought or borrowed them with the intention of reading them, I think the real reason I have them is because something else isn’t going right. I love my micro-business, but I haven’t made time for the one thing I really want to work on.

When things build up, it’s not usually a consumption issue, but something else. The stuff is just a by-product of another problem. This is what overeating, compulsive shopping, and other disorders look like too. While I don’t classify my 7 books as compulsive, I can see that they are a sign of unrest in another area of my life or work.

We buy, collect, and save stuff for different reasons, but it’s rarely about the things we acquire.

If things are building up in your life, commit to unbuilding the stuff that doesn’t matter, so you have time to build up the things that do.

1. Identify the build-up and what’s behind it.
From books to kitchen utensils, gym clothes, or fancy shoes, we all have our areas of weakness. It could be something you’ve had for a long time, but can’t part with or something new that you’ve been collecting. Once you recognize the build up, figure out why it’s there. What’s bugging you?

2. Use it or lose it.
Handle the physical part of the problem first. For me and my new book collection, I’m going back to reading one at a time, and committing to no new reading material until I finish what I have.

I’ll wrap up The Happiness of Pursuit today and return the library book. Next, I’m going to finish Brooke Berman’s 9 Juicy Weeks to a Wonderfully Imperfect First Draft for extra inspiration for my book project. As other books come up that I want to read, I’ll put them on a list in Evernote.

Look at your build up. If you can’t use it, sell it to pay down debt, give it away to someone who will use and appreciate it, or simply hit ‘delete’.

3. Ease your pain.
What can you change to prevent another build up? Is it something simple like permanently removing something from your to-do list, or a more involved change like looking for a new job, changing your morning routine, or dealing with an issue you’ve ignored for too long?

If you need help, ask for it.

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Like my books, the things that build up for you aren’t bad or wrong individually, but as a collection that keeps attracting more collecting, it’s likely distracting you from the things that bother you the most, and/or from the things you want the most.

Don’t ignore the little signs or wait for a tiny book collection to become a home full of stuff you don’t care about.