Can Abundance Become a Burden?

Many struggling to carry heavy weight of boxes.

Abundance is a wonderful word, evoking feelings of plenty and prosperity. We picture lush floral gardens, tables overflowing with delicious foods, and lavishly decorated homes overlooking stunning vistas. For much of history, humans have diligently pursued abundance because of an underlying belief that life can be improved by having “more.”

Certainly, there is a sufficiency threshold, below which life can be very difficult. If we lack needed food, clothing, shelter, medication, security, etc., we will naturally long for access to these things. When life’s necessities are scarce, a desire for abundance is rational.

At the same time, once we have as much as we need, the influx of more can actually turn into a burden. For example, some rain helps the crops to grow, but too much makes them rot. Or, a bit of snow at Christmas feels festive, but a blizzard snarls traffic and knocks out power.

Most of us can relate to the idea of “too much of a good thing,” such as…

  • When you have so many friends that you can’t invest the time you would like with any individual person.
  • When you are traveling and a restaurant serves you far more than you can eat, but you can’t take it home because you are staying in a hotel with no refrigeration.
  • When you suddenly you have more clients than you can handle and feel like you are letting everyone down.
  • When a blog post goes viral and crashes your site.
  • When a suitor heaps on so much flattery it feels disingenuous.
  • When we want to paint the house white, but it turns out there are 100 colors considered “white.”
  • When you have more clothing than can fit in your drawers or closet, so you stash it in piles where it gets wrinkled and forgotten.
  • When you finally retire but then suddenly have too much free time and experience a loss of purpose or direction.
Celebrating simple abundance

Abundance, therefore, is a sweet spot where we have more than the bare minimum, but not so much as to be overwhelmed. Admittedly, this can be a tricky balance to strike, and at any given moment, we will probably find ourselves leaning too far in one direction or the other.

However, we can be on the lookout for indicators that our lives have gotten too crowded, such as:

  • When our credit cards are maxed out.
  • When a day’s schedule has to happen exactly as planned in order to work out.
  • When we feel guilty about possessions we think we should deal with.
  • When our space is so cluttered that we stop inviting people over.
  • When we find ourselves wasting time trying to find items we know we own.
  • When we have layers of items hung on a refrigerator, wall, or bulletin board.
  • When the closet is packed with clothing that we hardly ever wear.
  • When a room cannot be used for its intended purpose because it has become a dumping ground.
  • When items we genuinely like get damaged because we haven’t been able to properly store them.
  • When we have no space in which to enjoy our hobbies.
  • When we are spending large amounts of money to store items offsite and we can’t remember what we are keeping there.
  • When we cannot clean because our surfaces are covered with belongings.
  • When family members complain about the state of the home.
  • When we feel overwhelmed.

*     *     *     *     *

When it comes to an abundant life, it isn’t how much we own that matters, but the ability to enjoy what we own that matters.

Is there an area of your life that could use some pruning?

24 thoughts on “Can Abundance Become a Burden?”

  1. I am sure there are some areas that could indeed use some pruning, especially my closet as I have indeed added some new clothes recently. I have been meaning to clean it out and also try to sell some stuff on Poshmark. Maybe now that I am back from Disney I can get to working on that here 🙂

    1. I’m about to work a client on closet… nothing feels better than a clean and well organized closet. Hope you make a lot on Poshmark!

  2. This is great, Seana! I love the way you describe the manner in which having an abundance gets in the way. I like to ask clients the question; ‘How much is enough?’ I think when you can define what enough means to you then abundance doesn’t become a burden.

    1. And the definition of enough is different for each of us, and I think also varies by life stage. I used to need more items “on hand” than I do now. It is a good question to keep asking, right?

  3. Love your quote “Too much of anything is hard to enjoy”. So true. Some people have a hard time knowing when they have reach abundance, thus clutter. Great post. Lots of insight.

    1. I remember reading a book to my children called, “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation.” I thought it was pretty insightful at the time, as even something fun like a vacation can become too much!

    1. Wow, and what a great charity to donate to. I bet they were thrilled, and that makes you feel even better about letting go. I have a bunch of those too. I will keep my school in mind as a possible recipient when I’m ready to purge!

  4. Oh my goodness that hits home. Especially the layers. And looking for things you know you own.
    I think a lot about abundance. I know it seems strange but we’ve gone from deeply struggling to being comfortable while married. And there’s a part of me that still didn’t get the memo and thinks we’re on WIC. The other part of me buys a lot of shoes. Mostly the frugal part wins out but I think a lot about people who are super wealthy and have their own burdens to manage. I’m grateful for what we have and I’m looking to make it not be a burden.

    1. I totally relate. I have a bunch of clients who manage multiple properties. Yes, there are wonderful advantages, but there is no doubt that this can also become a burden. It’s so important to find the balance that brings each of us joy without becoming too much!

  5. Great examples and food for thought! I don’t think I have too much of anything in particular, but maybe I don’t have all the right things. I realized this yesterday when I was getting ready to go out with friends. I have clothes to wear when I’m working at home and others to wear if I’m getting dressed up but not much in between, which is a real challenge!
    Janet Barclay recently posted…The best blogging schedule for your businessMy Profile

    1. I’ve had that happen as well, Janet. Sort of like I just never bought the right kind of clothes for a whole category of life experience. Each year I tell myself I’m going to invest in spring sweaters, because it looks like spring but is still cold. And then it warms up and I forget to follow through!

  6. This past weekend I was having a conversation about this with my friends. We talked about the stress and burden of maintaining a particular lifestyle, which included too many unimportant things and the cost (actual and emotional). We continued the conversation about simplifying to enjoy the time we do have more fully. We agreed that time is our most precious commodity and not money or things.

    I agree that abundance has positive connotations, but when that turns into excess, which looks different for each of us, it can become overwhelming and burdensome. I remember reading a fascinating study many years ago that measured happiness and the quality of life. Once the basics of living were satisfied (enough food, clothing, shelter,) the additional money people had didn’t increase their happiness.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…Ask the Expert: Felice Cohen & Thoughts About ClutterMy Profile

    1. I think I recall that study as well, Linda. The definition of “enough” definitely varies by individual. I got to thinking about this as I was working with a client who was involved in many activities. I got to thinking how in the past, many had a staff to help you manage all the paraphernalia that goes along with a busy lifestyle… a la Downton Abbey. Today, most of us handle all of this on our own. There is a point at which “more” just isn’t enriching our quality of life, and when we reach that point, it behooves us to cut back.

  7. Too much of a good thing! That’s a quote my parents would use from time to time. We all have a different “feeling” about too much and how it affects us. I love that we can explore just what’s enough for each of us.

    1. Exactly, Ellen! We will all have our own definition of enough, and it may also morph and change as go through life. Things that were important to me when I was rearing small children no longer matter. I’m seeing how my needs for things and activities is changing as I work my way through life:)

  8. Cleaning the closet is my nemesis. I get rid of some things but never enough. I am improving however. I definitely have more clothes than I need or wear. Part of my problem is growing up with a mother who lived through the depression. She often told me that she never got rid of anything in that period because it couldn’t be replaced. That is no longer true but I harbor some of those feelings still that were instilled in me when I was growing up. I have come a long way however.

    1. I think this is very common, Dianne. We all hear the mantra, “Waste not, want not” in our heads. I suggest people prioritize their closet space for the items they are currently wearing. It is probably less than you think! We tend to wear only about 20% of the clothing we own. It’s great to hear that you see the progress you are making toward getting your closet the way you want it to be – that feels terrific!

  9. Very insightful article, Seana! I agree that abundance can become a burden. I love your examples of indicators that our lives have gotten too crowded. I often see those indicators with my organizing clients, and sometimes in my own life. Asking ourselves “how much is enough” in each stage of our lives is very important.

    1. It is funny how our answer to the “enough” question changes during a life span. I can see how my needs and even desires have changed over time, so I can see that is worth asking this question repeatedly!

    1. Worked with a client in her mudroom today. She told me I am helping her to, “rediscover her true self” that has been gotten lost in the midst of her struggle to keep her family and four children afloat. It feels good to clear out and have some freshness!

  10. Compared to other families of my age and income, we don’t own a lot. But I’ve reached a point in my life where I am ready to shed the responsibility for any items I can. Now I just need my college and early 20’s children to take their stuff into their much too small city apartments. Sigh. Some day.

    1. I’m in the same situation. We (or should I say my husband) still has a lot. But I do shed things regularly, and I know I could run an auction if we needed to downsize and I wouldn’t feel attached to most of it. The children are another story. My oldest lives in a tiny apartment as well, and my youngest is still moving about, about to go to graduate school far away. So, for the time being, we are the repository:)

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