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Do you have squatters? In spite of our best efforts, most people have squatters dwelling in their space. No, I don’t mean human beings – hopefully we would be aware of people living in our midst. Instead, I’m talking about objects who are “living” in our space without our permission or knowledge.

Generally speaking, we think we know what we have. After all, there aren’t fairies coming into our spaces while we sleep and slipping items into our homes. However, it has been my experience that when people take the time to cull through their belongings, they typically come across some surprises. Most people have a “squatter” or two. Here are a few ways to recognize them.
We have no idea where they came from. • “I don’t remember buying this”
• “Was this a gift?”
• "Whose is this?”
“Did this belong to the previous owner/tenant?”
• “How did this get here?”
• “I have no memory of this item at all.”
• “I have no idea what this is.”
We can’t recall how long they’ve been around. • “How long has this been here?”
• “This doesn’t go with anything anymore.”
• “How old is this?”
• “I didn’t even know we still had this!”
• “I thought we got rid of these ages ago.” They have been living in our space undetected. • “I had no idea this was here.”
• “I’ve been looking for this forever.”
• “I have no idea what’s in that pile, it’s been there for a long time.”
• “Who knows what is in that room, we just keep tossing stuff in there.”
They are dirtying our space. • “Whoa, this is covered in dust.”
• “Mice have been living in this.”
• “Clearly the bugs have enjoyed this.”
• “I actually haven’t cleaned there for a long time because I can’t get to it.”
They aren’t “earning their keep.” • “I haven’t used this in years.”
• “We’ve never even used it.”
• “It still has the tags on it.”
• “That doesn’t work with the one we have now.”
• “I actually hate that color.”
• “I never use it because it is hard to use.”
• “I don’t like this one, it’s uncomfortable.” They are spreading out and taking up more and more space. • “I didn’t realize we had so many of these.”
• “I can’t even get into that room anymore.”
• “The junk has just taken over that closet.”
• “We’ve surrendered the garage.”
• “I’d like to use that (closet/drawer/room) but it is full of stuff.”

The reality is that items are always coming into our space. Just as a landlord needs to sweep out and maintain order in a building, so we need to guard against letting items that we don’t want pile up and take over.

I tell clients that all of their belongings– especially those we didn’t intentionally acquire– need to justify the space they are taking up.
The free earbuds from the airplane are not worthy of space in your top desk drawer. The hot dog cooker you got for Christmas that you never use doesn’t deserve room in your convenient cabinet. The bag of hand-me-down clothing that a friend dropped off for your daughter but that that your daughter won’t wear doesn’t warrant space in her closet (or yours!). The book you were given by a colleague, started to read, but quit after two chapters because you didn’t really enjoy it, shouldn’t be stashed back on your bookshelf. The jar of chutney that arrived tucked into a gift basket and that you will never eat shouldn’t be living in your pantry. The “free” photo duplicates, complimentary holiday cards, promotional t-shirts, charity sheets of return address labels, happy meal toys, unflattering “gift” lipstick, stockpile of chopsticks, etc. are more marketing and offloading by companies than they are pieces you should save. The decorative piece of art from your mother-in-law that you never liked shouldn’t be kept in the attic, but instead donated to someone who will appreciate it.
Anytime we come across a squatter, we should chase it out of our space like the unwanted visitor that it is.

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Do you have squatters? Can you think of one to share?


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