By July 28, 2016 2 Comments

We live in an abundant society. We have larger homes and more stuff. Stuff and more stuff creates clutter and more clutter!  Since 1950, the average home size has gone from 983 sq. ft. to 2349 sq. ft., according to the National Association of Home Builders website. It continues to be extremely easy to acquire things and to keep things. In fact, self-storage industry statistics report that about 9.5% of American households are willing to pay to have a self-storage unit; the ironic thing is that they may never use the stuff again.

So what can you do when you have too much stuff?

Judith Kolberg, in her classic book Conquering Chronic Disorganization, provides an excellent strategy that engages our emotions to enable us to sort, decide, and discard items. She refers to it as the “Friends, Acquaintances, and Strangers” game.  I had the pleasure of meeting her at the NAPO conference in Atlanta. Her genuine concern and compassion for  clients who are overwhelmed by too much stuff was clearly evident as she spoke to the convention attendees. Her clever, yet simple method, makes sense and is easy to implement.

The first step is to collect together one category of items. It could be plastic containers, coffee mugs, music CDs, shoes, or T-shirts. Gather them all in one place.

The next step is to pick out the “Friends.” These would be the items you really want to keep. They are the best! They are special in some way. You want to have them around. You need them. You enjoy  them on a regular basis. Just like your people friends!

The next step is to quickly pick out the ones you definitely do not want in your house—the “Strangers.” They may be broken, cracked, torn, or just plain ugly! These items are not welcome to stay in your home. You can decide your own criterion, but the bottom line is that they are leaving!

That should leave one final group—the “Acquaintances.” These items are not part of your everyday life. They just seem to show up occasionally. You do not have a strong attachment to them. These items are still usable, but you do not need them anymore. What works best is to think of some charity or community group that needs these items more than you do! Then you can feel very good about passing them along because you know they will be used and appreciated.

Playing this game over and over again with different categories of items will enable you to identify the treasures of your life and eliminate the rest. It enables you to establish limits and respect the available space in your home. It relieves you of the burden of simply having too much stuff.

Another advantage of this exercise is that it makes you more aware of how much you actually have. Collecting all the toys or books or music CDs in one place can be rather shocking! You often discover duplicates or obsolete items. You might finally realize—“I really don’t need all this stuff!”

Then you are more likely to stop the flow of things coming in. You realize that you want to do more with your life than simply play musical clutter every weekend. It really can be a game-changer!

So I just have one more question for you—

“Who’s hanging out at your house?”


Check out my resources list for great community organizations who are in need of your “acquaintances”!


References used:



National Association of Home Builders/ www.NAHB.org

conquering chronic disorganization
Conquering Chronic Disorganization by Judith Kolberg

Olive Wagar

Author Olive Wagar

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Cary Prince says:

    Great post, Olive — and very timely, too! We’re diving into the recesses of our garage and sorting through lots of old stuff. Not sure about the Friends, but the Acquaintances and Strangers have overstayed their welcome!

  • Olive Wagar says:

    Thanks, Cary! It is just crazy the way we allow things we don’t even like or use to take up space & use up our energy!! Time to do some evicting. And once you get started, it is actually quite fun to see the results. I spent about 2 hours in my garage this weekend & now I smile every time I walk through that space knowing that I finally got rid of some strangers!!

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