Clarity versus clutter. The battle for clean spaces has been fought in wardrobes and houses around the world for decades, usually with clutter claiming the spoils. Not anymore.
Today, the Japanese art of decluttering – in essence, the war against junk – has gained mainstream momentum in the fight against excessive consumption.
For years we have been told by cunning marketers that happiness can be found in the accumulation of material possessions. But more possessions bring more problems, and more problems bring more unhappiness.
This is why decluttering is so much more than an interior décor craze: it has become a philosophy of living. This philosophy is appealing: the stuff we accumulate can have a physical and mental impact on our lives, whereas getting rid of stuff brings peace of mind.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I hoard too many possessions?
- Do I buy accessories that I don't really need?
- Do I sometimes fall victim to the rulings of fashion?
If the answers are yes, then perhaps you’re ready for a declutter. These eight creative steps should help you to get started:
1. Make quality your quest
Once you’ve gauged which goods you want to keep in your life, you can apply the same rationale to how you shop. The quest for quality is all about carefully choosing objects that you will cherish.
You can do this by selecting superior objects that have been made by hand, which have provenance for their materials, which are functional, and which eschew passing trends.
2. Buy objects that last a lifetime
Owning yet more mass-produced products will, in time, bring about greater inconvenience and stress. Well-wrought handcrafted goods that use the finest quality of materials will see a lifetime of use, and are more likely to spark that ‘inner joy’ which sits at the heart of the decluttering philosophy.
3. Declutter one item a day
Don’t get overwhelmed about decluttering – getting rid of one item per day is a good way to start. Choose items carefully to gauge how much happiness (or lack thereof) they bring you. Also, if you haven’t used something in over a year, perhaps it should go.
Decluttering guru Marie Kondo suggests re-examining your connection to certain goods to see if they still give you pleasure. If not, then say goodbye. Take them to a recycling bank, a charity shop or a homeless shelter. Just make sure they aren’t left lurking at home.
4. Process the past
The ‘psychology of stuff’ is a powerful motivator. We are sentimentally attached to the possessions we keep, and this only gets stronger the longer we keep them. Personal possessions can trigger our memories, hopes and fears.
But keeping something that provokes feelings of uneasiness isn’t good for our mental wellbeing. As Kondo says, “by handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past.”
5. Embrace clarity
Philosopher of everyday life Alain de Botton explains the chief misunderstanding about the decluttering method: “The more turbulent someone’s inner life is, the more tidiness appeals. It isn’t tidy minds that go for tidy exteriors. It’s chaotic minds.”
Once your outer world is tidy, you have more time to address your inner world, that is, your lucidity of thought. There are also fewer items to clean, more energy for things that matter, and more money in your pocket.
6. Reorganise the workspace
A survey on the effects of sitting at your desk by professor Ulf Ekelund from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences shows that sedentary lifestyles are slowly killing us. But it’s not just more physical exercise we need at the office; decluttering your work space is equally important.
Don’t just tidy your desk, tidy the cables catching your feet. And do a digital decluttering too. Clean your desktop, delete your spam, and bin your old bookmarks. While you’re at it, uninstall all of those smartphone apps you never use.
7. Shun excessive gadgetry
The main culprits here are ‘things’ in the kitchen, bathroom, and living room. From the juicer gathering sticky dust to the facial steamer you tried once and never dared brave again, give them all the push.
The same goes for outdated gadgets, gizmos and dog-eared magazines. Choose quality, not quantity, in your decoration and allow your home to breathe.
8. Follow your inner path
Once people have decluttered their lives, they often experience a heightened mental focus. No longer are they mired in the day-to-day racket of consumerism. Instead, they see a clear path ahead, and it’s usually the path they’ve always wanted to take.