Last Saturday I had the opportunity to deliver a 15 minute talk on the subject of ‘decluttering your life’. To get things started I asked a simple question: “What do you think clutter actually is?” The replies were quite astute: ‘things that are in the way’, ‘broken stuff’, ‘too many books’ were amongst the options.
In order to help clear up some of the misconceptions, I had looked up “clutter” in couple of dictionaries:
While these definitions are covering the main subjects of “disorder” and “too much”, they clearly fail to indicate a connection with the mind, which is why my personal definition of clutter is slightly different:
In my opinion, this covers the pretty much the whole complex subject: “things that are in the way, that remind you of bad decisions, that you feel an obligation to keep, and things that you do not need or of which you have multiple versions”. This particular definition also allows for a clear separation of “rubbish” (things you do not want/need and waste) and “need to keep” (things you could not be without and are particularly attached to, although this might still leave a bit of a grey zone). In any case, my definition allows for a positive identification of a large group of clutter items and it includes the psychological aspect of clutter.
And those psychological aspects are more relevant to clutter than most people believe: decluttering is not only about getting rid of things, it is also to an amazingly large degree about changing the way you think and feel about certain things. In a way, decluttering can be an important first step to understanding yourself better because you have to question a lot of assumptions you took for granted:
I’m certainly not advocating throwing everything away: while clutter may not be useful nor enhance YOUR life, there may be someone else out there who finds these things useful or enjoyable: ask your friends if they would like it, give things to charities, upcycle, recycle, … you could even sell certain things. Driving stuff to the tip is only the very last option. Giving things away is so much easier: you will know that whoever these things end up with, they will give joy or be useful to them. And that is so much better than throwing things out.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.