We are all creatures of habit, that much is clear. Most people have a morning routine and follow it most days, simply because you can take a shower, make and eat your breakfast, get dressed and leave the house for work without giving it a second thought. This routine has a purpose: it allows you to gently ease into the day in an environment that does not confront you with any dangers or choices, until you go outside where a large amount of what you encounter is probably random and needs your full attention.
Humans apply this strategy whenever they can: you will create pockets of regularity where you can in order to let go of focus and just run on autopilot to recharge your mind for a moment. Can you remember any details of the couple of minutes you spent brushing your teeth this morning? Probably not: this is a routine you don’t have to worry about.
When you try to make changes to those routines – for example you try to eat more healthy breakfast – you’ll likely find yourself gravitating back to the original routine. Why? Because you are trying to break a habit! It takes a lot of focus and resolve to break a habit, especially if you want to change something that is part of a larger routine (the smoothie replaces your peanut butter sandwich, but you keep the boiled egg, the coffee and everything else that makes up your regular breakfast). Of course, this is a simple example: anything more substantial like taking up going to the gym regularly or taking one hour out of your day each day to play with your kids is going to be much more demanding and requires more effort.
Luckily, habits can be changed, though. It has been proven that it usually takes about 6 to 8 weeks for a normal person to adjust to a new habit and not drop out of it any more. The same is true for dropping an old habit! And this is where decluttering comes back into the picture: if you can tell that you bring new stuff into your home through a particular set of circumstances, e.g., you meet your girlfriends every Saturday to go shopping, and you end up with new stuff each week, maybe it’s time to question what you are doing and take action. That action could be that you are more mindful of buying things when you are going out with them, or you could propose other activities that don’t involve shops, or – drastic measures may be needed – you limit your trips and meet less often… I know: not the easiest thing to do!
On the other hand, new environments and any kind of change might be the best thing you can get in order to stick to the new habits: when everything else is unfamiliar, new habits will stick around more easily as they form a secure framework to everything else that is changing. On the flipside, this may also mean that the best time to drop such negative habits may be when other things are in flux also. When you change your job, your move house, your personal situation changes, … any kind of hinge point in your life is a good time to review habits. Including the ones that lead to you accumulating more stuff.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My mission: help clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.