Japanese de-cluttering expert and author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo, believes that each of our belongings should bring us joy. Out with anything that we have not used for a year or more, and all that stays should be clean and harmonious.
The philosophy and practice has brought calm and positive feelings to those who have followed her advice. But why? What is it about living in an uncluttered space that appeals to us, and is it possible?
Maybe because our environment can be a reflection of our mind. If the space that we live in is dirty, complicated and full of rubbish, how can we expect our minds to be any different? And often the first step to feeling better about ourselves is to feel better about our environment. Many people report that, having cleared out the clutter from their rooms, it was so much easier to have an uncluttered outlook and find a general state of calm in their lives.
Psychologically, there are reasons for collecting clutter. For example, people who have had difficult or transient childhoods can only relax if they feel assured that they have many commercial items around them. It may be excessive amounts of food in the cupboard or clothes in the drawers, but for some, knowing that they have ‘enough’ is what they need to feel safe.
Image via Shay Mitchell’s Instagram
Others find that collecting things can become almost an obsession – what starts as a hobby can overtake them – and, again, they find that they can only relax when they have sought and secured items to add to their collection. The targets of their interest can be bizarre, from teapots to tickets, from dolls to doilies, but whatever they decide they need to collect for peace of mind, their lives can be a restless urge to find the next one. Only when they let go of that desire can they begin to feel calm.
Everyone has their own idea of simplicity. One person’s minimalism can be someone else’s major overload of clutter, and one person’s idea of simple living can be frighteningly sparse to another. So there are no rules, except to do away with everything and anything that is superfluous to your needs. Just keep what is essential to you, and get rid of the rest.
This can be a hard call. Those clothes that you are keeping ‘just in case’ you have an invitation to a special event, or lose a few kilos. Those bags and boxes, and pieces of string, that you know just might be useful one day.
But the benefits of making those hard choices can be a vastly improved way of life.
For a start, it saves money. Yes, clutter can be expensive: it takes up storage space, and moving is more of a hassle. I know people who pay for extra storage space for things that they have not used for years (they’ve forgotten what is in storage), as well as not being able to find space in their homes for their essentials.
Second, decluttering saves time. When your life is cluttered it takes time to find what you need, to move things and repack things, and to make decisions. And time, of course, is money. So although it may take time initially to have a good reduction in what you have, in the long run you’ll find that life will run faster.
Third, life becomes less stressful. Surprisingly, having a cupboard full of clothes that you never wear doesn’t make it any easier to choose what to wear each day. In fact many people with overflowing cupboards actually only wear the same few things over and over, while their extensive clothing choice is never touched. Now, that’s bizarre.
Best of all, life becomes calmer and more pleasing on the eye. You’ll find it easier to focus, have a sense of serenity, and have an overall sense of greater efficiency.
Whichever way you look at it, too much clutter is bad for you, and its removal can be like taking a great big sigh and relaxing. Rather than being a comfort, having too much stuff can be a complication in your life that you don’t realise you have until it’s gone.
Take some time to sort through, clear out those things you haven’t touched for over a year, remove them to a neutral space for a while and just see if you really miss them. Reorganise what is left. Just throwing things out can be traumatic so I don’t recommend that – take it a step at a time when you realise that not having them around improves your life, then get rid of them permanently.
For more information and to get in touch with Annie, head to www.anniegurton.com
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