It never ceases to amaze me at how much ‘stuff’ we humans accumulate over our lifetime. But the most astounding thing is how much of that ‘stuff’ sits in storage never to be seen. We emotionally attach ourselves to things that symbolise a memory, experience or feeling yet that ‘thing’ could be a piece of degrading torn paper that’s no longer legible!
We know this yet we continue to ‘need’ bigger homes with more storage and more space. We pack, unpack and move from place to place with boxes of ‘stuff’ but how much of that do we really ‘need’?
If you’re anything like me, I have to be in the mood to declutter. Some days I feel too emotionally driven to part with things yet other days, I’m ruthless about it! Sometimes a major life event forces us to reset and cleanse so we can move forward.
I clearly remember how I felt this one particular day leading up to my move. I’d been holding onto my large framed wedding portrait for sixteen years after my divorce (no idea why??!) yet when it came time to move and I was forced to down size, I didn’t think twice when I took to it with a stanley knife! haha.. it was such a cathartic experience. I was in the zone and determined to reduce the ‘stuff’ I had attached myself to so I could fit into my gorgeous new place. In fact, once I felt that feeling I went nuts filling my bins and even the neighbours.
In my case, I was focussed on my end goal – my new apartment. Each time I thought about it, I wanted it more and couldn’t wait to just get there. Remember the end goal isn’t to reduce clutter, it’s something of meaningful value that brings you joy (we’ll define in Step 1). Whether it’s living a simpler life, to be happy and healthy or to reduce the noise in your life, the end goal should bring you joy. Whenever you get stuck, return focus back to your goal.
Clutter increases our cortisol levels (stress hormones!) Clutter has the effect of distracting us and even causing chronic restlessness. Reducing the noise around you allows you to focus more on creating a life. The first steps might be hard so start small. The euphoria you feel after removing that unnecessary weight will motivate you to keep going.
So if you’re ready to detach and want to claim back some breathing space (and storage space!) read on..
1. Start somewhere
What’s your end goal? Set a goal for how you want your life to be. Happier, healthier, simpler, clutter free etc. Picture yourself in that end state. Think about something you want to do which brings you joy that you have no time for.
2. Use it or lose it
Have a rule in place before you start. If you haven’t seen it or used it in 12 months, chances are you won’t miss it! Out it goes.
3. Buy one throw one
Let go of things to make room for things that matter. For everything you bring into the home, commit to removing two things (or more!).
Personally I do this with my wardrobe. I have a set number of coat hangers and when I have no spares, I know it’s time to stop shopping or start culling! Seriously though, how much clothes do we need? I don’t wear half of mine – it just sits there.. just in case.
4. Does it spark joy?
How do you feel when you hold it? Hold your item and make sure you touch it as this will connect you emotionally. If it sparks joy, then keep it and if not, then out it goes!
5. Sort by category – not room
According to the popular ‘KonMari’ decluttering method, we should work by category – not by room – because we have the same category items scattered throughout rooms.
This story aligns perfectly with one of my completed projects. Client contacted me and said her home ‘felt too chaotic’ and she wanted it to feel ‘calming and relaxing’. I didn’t source a lot of new products – only enough to create one consistent theme – as she had plenty of things I could use, so I did. The aim here was to SIMPLIFY. Just because you have it, doesn’t mean you have to use it. It’s ok to rotate your things around (from storage to display) to refresh the look but the key is to keep it simple. Clutter causes chaos and your possessions reflect your state of mind.
There’s a reason we hold onto things. It’s either a fear of the future or to preserve a feeling or the past but in the interest of mindfulness and appreciating the present moment, mementos don’t allow us to celebrate the now. Reclaim control over your possessions, don’t let them control you.
So don’t wait for new years resolutions. Next time the weather’s looking ordinary or you have some free time (ha!) that’s your perfect opportunity to declutter.
Reference: [Book] The life changing principles of tidying up, Marie Kondo