Friends, Acquaintances, and Strangers - What’s in Your House?

Written by Karen Jessee. Posted in Organizing.

For the last several months I’ve written about keeping Christmas and the rest of the year simple and light, finding alternatives to the holiday stress and frenzy, and giving yourself permission to say “enough” to keep debt at bay. It’s all a matter of making sensible but sometimes difficult choices.

Anyone who has ever planned a party knows that decisions and choices are basic beginning ingredients: what to serve, whom to invite. I’m revving up for a holiday gathering at my house; a brunch, followed by a trip to a small, local theatre.

Now I could have easily invited  50 people to this, but my house doesn’t hold fifty people.  If I count all the good people I know, I could have invited...a lot.  My house doesn’t hold a lot.  I had to make some judicious choices and narrow it down to 20 people.  Seating will still be challenging, but there are always the carpeted steps, and I usually end up there myself. It would be nice to have more space so I could invite more people, but I just don’t have it.   So, who is on the party list?  Who’s in my house?

The party is the perfect analogy in viewing the space in our homes and the things we bring into it. Judith Kolberg, Director of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization,  created Friends, Acquaintances and Strangers to help people make decisions about what to keep in their homes for the space that they have the same way we view the people at our party.

So, imagine the holiday party.  You take a minute to survey the scene...the decorations, the lights, the candles, the music. Everyone is loving the food.  You hear the laughter and the lively conversations.  And then you focus on the guests.  Ah...there’s that warm glow seeing the family members and good friends.  These are the people who call, who are dependable, and whose love is unwavering. You’ve known them for years, and they’re your greatest treasures.  

There are a few acquaintances among the crowd; they’re new people  or ones you don’t see often, but you like them and would like to know them better. You’re glad they’re here, and they’re honored to have been invited.  

Now wait a minute.  Who are those people across the room? Your brow furrows as your eyes settle on some folks you barely know any more. They don’t call, they don’t write, you have nothing in common with them these days.  You outgrew them years ago like bad fashion, but there they are guzzling your best liquor and hogging the shrimp platter. You don’t even remember inviting them. How did they get in?  The problem:  you invited them years ago...and they stayed.

So, if the party analogy works by helping you look at your space and things with a new perspective, the good friends are the outfits and objects you love, the kitchen appliances and tools you use. The acquaintances are the things and clothes you still have plans for  and need.  But the strangers at your party are no different than the things in your home that you don’t use, don’t wear, don’t like, don’t play with, and outgrew years ago.  But there they are, costing you money by  hogging up valuable space in your closets, drawers, shelves, garages, attics and basements leaving barely any room for you to find or use the things you do care about. And what’s worse, those strangers  taking up your time!   You have to slog through them or dance around them to find the friends.  At least the strangers at the real party had the sense to go home some time.  These strangers have overstayed their welcome by a few years.

If it’s humor you need to help you get through the emotional job of letting go, maybe thinking about the party scene will help.  Whether it’s the loud guy or the loud shirt from the past, you just don’t need those sleazy characters in your life anymore.  You’ve matured and made better choices in your friendships.  You don’t need a lot of strange people packed into your party any more than you need a lot of useless things cluttering up your house; you just need the people and the things that matter.  Next year, send those strangers packing. Maybe someone else would like to have them at their party...someone who doesn’t know how to make choices and lets just anyone walk in the front door... and stay.  


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