Many of us have “OPS” (“Other Peoples’ Stuff”) in our homes. And most of us have at least one gathering of family and friends happening this summer. How do we use our gatherings to deal with the OPS that’s cluttering our space?

First, we need to get our heads straight about why we need to get rid of OPS. Here are some good reasons to get you started:

  • Reclaim Your Personal Space. Having your own space is important for your personal well-being and state of mind. Letting other people store their junk in that space can mess with your frame of mind. 
  • Minimize Your Risks. If you’re storing other peoples’ stuff, you’re actually technically responsible for it while you have it. Aunt Edna’s priceless vase collection that you have boxed up in the storage room can turn into a big problem if one of those boxes falls over and all the vases shatter. Even accidentally-damaged stuff can damage relationships.
  • Become More Flexible. Storing OPS means that you can’t use your space for other things. And in extreme cases (a whole bedroom full of Mom & Dad’s stuff, for example), it might mean that you can’t allocate space for something more important, such as a home office, a workout area, or something else that would markedly improve your life.
  • Establish Useful Boundaries. If you have a whole room full of OPS, it’s a pretty good bet that you’re also missing functional boundaries in a number of your relationships. Asking people to take responsibility for their own stuff is a good way of beginning to establish those boundaries.

“That all sounds fine and good,” you say, “but how do I actually do that?”

It depends on how bad the problem is. There are two levels of OPS that you’re likely to be dealing with:

  • Boxable Belongings. This is where you have some clothes, a handful of knickknacks, some tools, or some other reasonably-small item. Anything you can load into a box (or maybe a couple boxes) of reasonable size and put into your car falls into this category.
  • Stationary Stuff. Some of this stuff may actually be in boxes, but let’s not kid ourselves – a room full of boxes is beyond “let me load this into the car” territory. This is the level where they’re going to have to come get it, and a moving vehicle might well need to get involved.

If you have “boxable belongings” that you can return to somebody else, just do it. Load up the boxes, take them to your summer gatherings, and be “friendly but firm.” “Hi Sally! I just realized I had this box of your sweaters. I know we don’t get to see each other as often anymore, and I knew you’d want them back – so I brought them for you.” If Sally doesn’t want her sweaters, it’s perfectly-fine to offer to drop the box off at the local thrift shop for her – but not for you to bring them back to your home. Walk up to her and physically hand her the box!

If you have “stationary stuff” that belongs to a friend or relative, that’s a whole different can of worms – and beyond a quick Internet article. But suffice it to say that their junk has become your problem, and you need to begin working with them to get it out of your home. Offer to box it up and transport it to their place if they have room for it. If not, ask if they’d be willing to rent a small storage unit and offer to move it there. Or if they don’t want it, you can call a junk removal company like us and we’ll ensure it’s disposed of in an environmentally-responsible way!

At the end of the day, this is all about you establishing functional boundaries and prioritizing your own emotional needs and well-being. Do what it takes to get OPS out of your house, and do what you can to make sure it doesn’t come back. You might even find that relationships get closer when there’s no longer a pile of OPS between you.

Oh….and if somebody else has been reading this article and walks up to you with a box of stuff this summer, be sure to accept it graciously and with a smile. Have a happy, healthy, clutter-free summer!

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