Most people would have a hard time picking one of the many options because something slightly more appealing could come up on the next page. Ultimately, you’ll choose one thing, but with a feeling of dissatisfaction because you were missing out on several other choices you have seen.
The point to consider here is: having little choice makes you choose the thing you like, having a lot of choice only reinforces the nagging feeling of NOT choosing something you might have liked more.
Now that we have seen that idea, let’s have a look at your homes, there are numerous situations where the same principle applies: having lots of types of tea to choose from makes us wonder every single time which one to take, having a lot of similar t-shirts prolongs the time it takes to choose. The same for shoes, jewellery, ties, shampoo, jam… you name it, there is a chance you are spending too much time selecting. AND afterwards you’ll keep wondering if another choice wouldn’t have been a better one.
A similar things applies to shopping, just think about it: if you are in a store that offers two types of apples, you’ll pick the one that appeals more and go with it. If, however, you have a choice of 14 types of apple (some of which only differ in package: 4 or 6 or a whole bag), you’re likely to spend more time selecting, and you’ll often be left doubting your choice afterwards.
There’s a point to be made for less choice, in the shops and at home. Having only a number of items that you really like to wear and that fulfil all your needs and wishes is a good thing, really. You’ll find that you doubt your choices less.
This is an important thing if you wish to declutter, because one of the important reasons of clutter accumulation is actually a tendency to procrastinate decisions. Of course, removing certain items touches on emotional attachment, but in many cases we are really looking at taking a simple decision: “Do I want/need this or not?”
In my understanding this is often due to not making a distinction between a true, meaningful attachment (this thing means something to you emotionally), and a habit (you may have had an emotional attachment, but now it’s only a habit, you are used to having this thing). I have found it useful to make that distinction as it makes decisions easier.
My advice is: when you are having trouble deciding if you can let go of something, first ask yourself if you are just used to something, or if it actually has meaning. If you cannot clearly state why something is meaningful, it may be time to let go.
That brings us back to the subject of ‘choices’. Having and keeping many similar items is often the result of not being able to make choices. It’s easier to keep everything than to let go of the things we don’t really care for that much. That is especially true for things that are not broken, where we can still think “maybe I’ll use this again sometime down the line”. In the end, that argument is a bit of a lie to ourselves, though. If something has not served us for a period of time it becomes less likely we’ll ever use it again.
At this point somebody will probably point out: “I’ve had this extra knife (fill in anything else if you like) for years and when I had given it away I ended up needing it.” I’m sure you only remembered the knife because you had handled it just then. I’m wondering how often you would have ‘needed’ it before and ended up using another perfectly serviceable knife instead, simply because you didn’t remember you had the one you gave away. That feeling of ‘I should have held on to it’ is really just a reaction to remembering you gave it away. Nothing to worry about, move on: you have made do with another option before, you can do it again. The knife is not necessary.
In a similar fashion, you can choose to let go of other things. Just give it a try.
Ask the ClutterMeister
Ideas to help clear away the mess in our homes and in our minds.
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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.