Dear Readers,

Not too long ago, we moved. Cardboard boxes are still strewn around my home, waiting to be opened and for their contents to find a permanent place.

Before I moved, I came face to face with all the STUFF I own—and all the STUFF that I really didn’t need.

I had a mound of office supplies in case one day I would desperately need a folder (or a dozen!). There was the almost-empty cartridge of printing toner, just in case I ran out and desperately needed to print something immediately (even if it will come out blurry!). And, of course, there’s all the old clothes I haven’t worn in years but am hoping will fit again, or the special sentimental wedding gown I wore to my child’s wedding that I couldn’t part with, even though I know I won’t wear it again.

Endless amounts of books, photos, furniture, dishes or toys that we really didn’t need. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, Americans collectively waste nine million hours a day searching for misplaced items.

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule claims that roughly 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the causes. Look into your closet, and you’ll notice that you probably wear 20 percent of your clothes about 80 percent of the time. Kids play with about 20 percent of their toys 80 percent of the time.

What this means is that we’re keeping 80 percent of our stuff on the chance that it will be used occasionally, and we can likely do away with most of it.

But here’s the thing about having so much unnecessary stuff. It’s not just about finding where to store it and remembering where you put it. Having things we don’t need takes away from what we do need by diluting our focus.

It’s like eating junk food. When we fill our stomachs with empty caloric food, we may feel full, but we’re really not. We’re missing out on the healthy nutritious food that our bodies would be craving, but are too full to even realize it.

Or it’s like our daily schedule. When we fill our day with things that just numb our mind, passing the time, we may feel like our days are full because our moments are occupied and our minds not restless, but that isn’t the case. Those spiritual or meaningful pursuits that our soul craves are suppressed by the many busy activities filling our day.

We are about to begin the final month of the year before the Jewish New Year. The month of Elul is a time of introspection, a time of looking back at what we have accomplished and considering new directions. Now’s the time to take stock of our things, our time, our consumption and our priorities.

Now’s the time to re-evaluate our schedules and consider which 20 percent we should be focusing on that truly makes a difference.

Chana Weisberg,

Editor, TJW