I've mentioned before that our brains are hardwired to create order out of whatever we encounter, so it would be reasonable to assume that the less work our brains have to do to figure it out, the faster we'll get to a mental state we find comfortable. If we constantly assault our brains with chaos, we'll become stressed, exhausted, perhaps numb. We won't be able to function at our peak, nor will will we be able to fully enjoy ourselves because our poor old brains will be preoccupied trying to make sense of things. This is why empty beaches at sunset are relaxing -- and why uncluttered homes are less stressful.
We can use this information to help us get inspired to organize our possessions. What if we tried looking at beautiful images in which "stuff" is organized and displayed in such an appealing way that it becomes art? Once you've pared down your clutter to a manageable amount, it's helpful to change the way you look at what you're keeping. If you think of it as art and think of yourself as the curator of your own personal museum, you'll approach organizing it in a different way.
Check out "A Collection A Day, 2010," a blog by artist/illustrator Lisa Congdon in which she uses photographs to beautifully document her many collections.
Then go to Things Organized Neatly, a blog featuring photographs submitted by its readers, with each photo representing things that are well-organized. [Hat tip to Dina at Discardia for this link.]
So, how many things should you keep and organize? That's up to you. But you might want to take a look at one of my favorite books to get some perspective about how many possessions people have in other parts of the world. Material World by Peter Menzel, Charles C. Mann, and Paul Kennedy features photographs of families from all over the globe, standing outside their homes, surrounded by their possessions -- many or very few. It will help you decide that maybe your personal museum doesn't have to be quite as large as the Met!
© 2011 Cynthia FriedlobImage credit: Gavin Mills at stock.xchng