The problem with clutter is that it creeps up slowly when you are not paying attention. If you fall for “Buy One Get One” offers, “limited timed sales” and other such exciting deals, then you will end up with half-used bottles of products you don’t like anymore, duplicates, multiples of items you like a lot, travel sizes, free samples, etc.
Clutter grows one cabinet at a time. When all the drawers and cabinets are full (you can usually get rid of 30% of these from each drawer right away), the items (which should have been in drawers) spill over to the counters, onto the floor of the spare bedroom and unused corners around the house. The remaining items end up in the garage. Eventually, the garage gets so full that the car ends up outdoors (in warmer regions of the country). In the worst case, the car gets broken into. Then, your insurance goes up. Then you decide to rent storage space to store your extra stuff. Essentially, you pay more money just to keep the things you have already paid for. Isn’t that a terrible price to pay for having too many things? Not to mention, how very inconvenient. But it is not your fault. We are wired that way. Psychologists call it the ‘Endowment Effect’ – we value things more simply because we own them.
If you had a super easy time moving to your new home and can’t relate to the situation above, I am truly happy for you. My guess is that you live intentionally and have rules like “one-in-one-out”. But a lot of people and families especially with kids, struggle to cope up with the things they own and to have the revelation that more is not always better.
Marie Kondo says, “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”
Most clutter falls under one of these categories:
Things that you used in the past – clothes that used to fit you, gifts someone gave you that you can’t throw away, duplicates e.g. – of bath products, worn out cooking utensils in the kitchen, things you bought because they were on sale, all sentimental items – your childhood memorabilia, etc.
Things that you plan to use in the future – clothes that will fit you one day or will come back in style, hobbies you have been meaning to pursue – guitars, treadmills, bikes, cameras, books you are planning to read, extras of everything for the overnight guests, additional chinaware, etc. These items create an expectation for the future.
All these things, take your attention away from the present and add “noise” to your mind. They are a result of not wanting to live in the present.
We tend to surround ourselves with things which are meant to be a reflection of who we believe we are and to convey a certain impression to others. There is a gap in things the society makes us feel we should do and the things we actually want to do. This gap expresses itself as clutter.
Clutter = Things you should do – Things you want to do
The more clutter you have, the more you procrastinate in life. It is an indication of trying to pack too much stuff into your life, figuratively and literally. It slows you down on a subconscious level.
Compare all those items to the things that you actively use every day – the clothes you wear the most, the books/magazines you are currently reading, the pots and ladles you reach out for all the time, your go-to shoes, handbag, necktie, watch, etc. These items are actively serving a purpose in your present life and you know exactly what these things are. It is ironic that the things that you love and use the most, get worn out the fastest and need to be replaced first. But in doing that, their purpose is fulfilled.
Don’t worry about not having things after you discard or donate them. We are moving into a sharing economy where ownership does not matter as much as it used to in the past. We are headed towards a more on-demand, community driven, mobile lifestyle with an unlimited supply of things you can buy/rent/share/resell at our fingertips. That power drill you need for an hour can be borrowed using an app. If in doubt, let it go, you will be OK without it, you can get it just as easily if you ever need it again.
At times, you will discover that the idea of letting it go will spur you into action and do whatever needs to be done – using exercise equipment, finishing up a half empty bottle of shampoo, or spices.
So, what’s next? Start here – Where to Start Decluttering