A rational guide to decluttering
I grew up with parents who owned an antique shop. And I’ve spent most of my working life in stuffy, book-lined university offices. So until recently I regarded the decluttering movement with…disregard.
Actually, it was more than that.
The word ‘declutter’ evoked utter disdain in me. As far as I was concerned, it connoted the anal, structured, prescriptive and systematic; all evil stalwarts to creativity.
So I celebrated my mess.
As is often the case, it took an upheaval to change my views.
I found myself on one rainy night (yes — truly — it was raining) sitting on the floor, staring at the plethora of boxes I had just moved into my newly rented upstairs two bedroom apartment.
Until a few months before that moment, my home was spacious with a sizeable storage shed.
Now, newly separated from my husband, here was my new place: this teensy two-bedroom apartment (the only one I could afford). I’d be living here with my three kids at least for the next year while I finished my PhD.
I looked around the room at the furniture and boxes squeezed and piled onto the limited floor space. Beyond the necessities like beds, a few personal items and books – really – none of these objects was so important to me that I ever wanted to drag them up three flights of stairs again.
“ Sticking to the list helped me to override emotions associated with objects so I could whittle my belongings to what I needed. I didn’t need a TV, and because I didn’t need a TV, nor did I need the couch from which to watch TV. ”
My marriage was heavy and the objects accumulated within it felt like burdens.
So it seemed obvious that part of the reconstruction of my life would have to involve rejecting the material symbols of the past. Here are three ways I kickstarted my decluttering process:
1. Make a list of absolute necessaries
The list is a great way to quantify what is really necessary.
Decluttering is an emotional experience for many people. And it was for me too.
Certain items of furniture held memories: there were the dining chairs that seated guests for dinner parties; the crystal cabinet from my aunt who had since died, the couch where I breastfed my babies.
Sticking to the list helped me to override emotions associated with objects so I could whittle my belongings to what I needed. I didn’t need a TV, and because I didn’t need a TV, nor did I need the couch from which to watch TV.
2. Get a uniform
Quit dressing according to mood. Choose a uniform and stick to it. My uniform consists of black pants (shorts for summer) and a white, black or grey shirt. I have one jacket for winter. I can accessorise with scarves and jewelry to switch it up. Saves time in the mornings and packing’s a breeze.
3. List objects that give you pleasure
Make a second list of the objects that give you pleasure.
Because you are decluttering; not punishing yourself.
My list is very personal. It includes items like certain paintings, some keepsakes, jewellry and what I call ‘motivational’ items, like the package of goodies Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk once sent me.
As with the ‘necessaries’ list, the pleasure list helps you see on the page the difference between objects you keep emotional reasons, and objects that are a true source of pleasure.
Take away …
By using these three simple techniques, you can let go of 75% of your ‘stuff’.
Now there’s more room in your apartment.
And… more space to create.
By letting go of the clutter in your habitat, your headspace will clear. You’ll spend less time looking after stuff and more time on creative projects. Less distraction, less noise.
Letting go of objects liberates. And gives you mental space.
Be a maker, rather than someone who is made by the things she owns.