The *Filled to All Available* Syndrome

grab bag, misc, tips

Over some coffee this afternoon, I contemplated what I have now coined the “Filled to All Available” or “FTAA” syndrome.  Here’s what it means, basically.  As humans, we tend towards and often feel more comfortable within defined boundaries.  Ambiguities and uncertain limits force us to think, to apply sometimes-risky judgement calls, and in our rushed and often bureaucratic society, that can be stressful.  So, we thrive in a FTAA environment; we fill up our desks, our closets, our schedules to capacity.  If we get larger desks, bigger closets, or unexpected free time, somehow we find a way to fill or fritter away the excess space.  At an all-you-can-eat buffet, we tend to think of “getting our money’s worth” and—you guessed it—filling up rather than lightly sampling.  We eat until we are not just satisfied, but stuffed.  We store junk until our apartments are bursting at the seams.  We live a life that is “Filled to All Available.”

What does this actually mean?  Well, for starters, it suggests that making more money, getting a bigger house, and buying bigger boxes of chocolates at Costco will not necessarily make us happier, healthier, or more productive.  On the flip side, it suggests that there are key advantages to thinking and doing Less in order to simplify and de-clutter our lives.

One way to go about doing this is to increase the proportion of shared or borrowed resources in our life and decrease the amount of things “owned.”  This can be electronic (renting music, a la Yahoo Music Unlimited instead of “owning” [sic] music via iTunes), small-scale physical (borrowing books instead of buying them), and large-scale physical (car-sharing instead of owning a car).

Beyond this, there are mental changes that can be made as well… primarily pushing oneself away from a college-era mentality of hoarding and scarcity.  Dividing up a large chocolate bar into smaller pieces and storing or giving away the majority.  Visiting only two cities (for longer) instead of five, despite having an unlimited Eurail pass.  Resisting the temptation to check Deals Web sites five times a day to buy stuff we don’t need with rebates we’ll forget to file.

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The lesson at the end of the day:  Think not what you have the resources to get or do.  Think instead of what you need.  Then think again.  Avoid the “Filled to All Available” syndrome by decluttering your life, minimizing excess, and regaining focus.

Easier said than done, but very, very worthwhile.

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What are ways in which you’ve found your life “Filled to All Available”?  What have you done to combat this?

3 comments… add one
  • Graham Jan 31, 2006

    This is something I’m trying to focus on right now, what with packing up to move to a new apartment. I will have much more space there than in my tiny room here, and I will certainly need to accumulate a number of things that I don’t yet have. But I want to make sure I’m careful with what I get, and make sure that I truly need and/or care for it. No random stuff just to fill space. (Knock on wood.) And I’d like to really just enjoy the extra *empty* space for a while, since I’ve gotten a bit cramped where I am (and where FTAA is fully in effect).

  • Mitzi Feb 4, 2006

    Aren’t you just the self-help guru.  😛

  • James Apr 3, 2008

    I take coffee in every 2 hours when i am working on particular project.

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