“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
– 469 BCE. Socrates.
It seems in a world so focused on the so called “shiny” life, I am striving towards the opposite end of things. I LOVE simplicity (my hubby on the other hand would argue “you just love throwing things away”). There is a sense of clarity in my thoughts as well as my actions when I can successfully generate empty space. What does that even mean? With the bombardment of choices in our constantly innovative American culture, I feel I find PEACE when my choices are as LIMITED as possible and as organized as possible. If I can successfully declutter my home then maybe, just maybe, I can successfully declutter my life and eventually my mind. I remember one year we were moving (again) into a new apartment and the very first thing I wanted to do was get rid of the old, chipped and not even a complete set (gasp!) of dishware my hubby had so lovingly held onto from his college days. I don’t think he had a sense of loyalty to the dishes so much as he didn’t see them under his food. I just knew there was a better and prettier platform from which to eat off of!
But life has a way of sending you reminders just when you need them. At the time I happened across a video from the Story of Stuff and it changed everything! All of a sudden my perspective on those dishes completely shifted. Prior to the video, I saw them as old and unworthy. Almost as if the dishes themselves were a reflection on my own worthiness. If my dishes can’t be pristine and complete, is it possible my life would reflect as such or worse I would reflect as such! What if I was seen as incomplete or not worthy?! After watching the video, I realized the functionality of those dishes was no more or less based on their “shininess”. They were dishes. A plate’s entire purpose for existing was to provide a platform from which we could safely consume nutrients. The nutrients didn’t care if the plate was chipped or not part of a complete pack and the consumption of the food wasn’t altered based on the visual appeal of the plate itself. So why the urgent need to replace something that was fully functioning in its purpose only to collect more stuff that one day wouldn’t live up to the expectations we place of aesthetics in our modern world.
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”
-1879 Will Rogers
Now imagine, having one plate for each member of your family and no more. No need for an extra special set just for the holidays or a cabinet teeter tottering on the brink of an avalanche of a random collection of plates. Just close your eyes and imagine opening up that cabinet and seeing 4 simple plates to choose from. Assuming, of course, you have a family of 4 otherwise we would a have a major war on our hands depending on the personalities of your children. My littlest would wail like a banshee at the mere thought of her not getting something that someone else has. So enough plates for each member of your family and if it helps to have another set hidden away for holidays, so be it. But that’s it! So you eat dinner, you wash the plates and place them back in their space for the next consumption event and so on the cycle repeats. SIMPLE. BREATHE IN. BREATHE OUT. Use the saved energy for another pillar that requires cleansing, maybe the mental one. 😉
I am currently working at creating this sort of CLEANSING of not only my space over time, but my thoughts, my actions, my reactions to things, etc. At times, I feel if I could cleanse and control my physical environment, then maybe I could also cleanse and control my finances, my emotions, my level of productivity and so on. It’s definitely still a work in progress! However I have learned that I enjoy getting rid of the unnecessary so I can better see and manage much more effectively the core make up of my world and as a result build a STRONGER foundation upon the things that show up as priority in my life. I feel if you are constantly using up energy for items that may not even be a priority in your world, than you don’t even have the time or space within to feel when the most important things in your life may be off. But how do I even begin clearing my space, you ask? I’ve listed a few things to consider before tackling the task of clearing space in your physical world.
Deciding on inspiration to do a giant overhaul on your house could result in unnecessary trauma for any family members in the near vicinity. Pick a space. Any space. A closet, a box, a cabinet, a drawer. The spaces you could pick are endless so just pick one you’ve been meaning to get at and then by all means get started. Don’t get into indecision paralysis at finding that one perfect space to clear out. They are all perfect and they all need clearing out. When you have an extremely messy room, sometimes it helps to start in one corner and work your way out. You could potentially do the same when it comes to space. Pick a room and decide which corner of the room you will start with. Pick a desk and clear a corner. Choose your space and begin the clearing!
Establish Purpose for the Space
Choose its purpose wisely and quickly before you fill it up with more random junk you’ve been meaning to get rid of! Do this prior to clearing out the space or as you are sifting through your collection of items/papers. Take a look at the room around you and decide what would be the most functional use of the space. What do you naturally place in this space and what functional purpose could it be a solution for? For example, I have a drawer in my kitchen for tools. Yes, that seems like an odd area to place a tool drawer, but I have found over time that smaller tools such as screwdrivers and random collection of screws always find their way into a kitchen drawer. In fact so much so, that I wind up having a junk drawer or at least that’s what everyone else seems to think it is. So this move, I decided to eliminate the dreaded junk drawer from the very beginning and establish a tool drawer instead. So far, no junk drawer, just a very organized tool drawer!
Reflect On What You Really Use
Do you really need every plastic cup you have ever gotten for free from every restaurant or sporting event you have ever attended? Is there maybe 3 or 4 favorites that would be worth keeping and the rest could either be donated or thrown away depending on their usability? Or maybe each member of the household could choose their favorite and the rest could be transferred to somewhere else that may have use for them. It is more important than ever to realize during this clearing that hanging onto every item in the space you are trying to clear and simply displacing it to another space is NOT the answer! It may be tough, but think of how much better you will feel when there are no odds and ends to pick up and everything has a clear home base. Cleaning (or training your kids to effectively clean) will be a breeze! If you have trouble getting rid of things, read this post on minimalism and let’s see if we can convince you to get rid of those old shoes that you haven’t worn in 2 years. From then we can move onto not collecting in the first place.
If getting rid of things is a challenge for you and you may be secretly questioning whether you are a closet hoarder, then start gradually. Instead of immediately getting rid of the extras, place them in a box somewhere OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND and see if anyone including you notices or feels the lack of those items. I bet you anything, you/your family don’t even think about them twice while they are in hiding. Set a reminder on your phone for about 30 days later to “Dump Your Baggage” and take everything that is in that box to your local donation center. You will feel so much lighter!
DO NOT Refill With Different Junk
Keep the space you created clear of “new shiny things”! One of the easiest things to do is to take the space you have successfully cleared and fill it with more junk or worse buy more junk that soon finds its home there. Remember clearing your space is more than a physical clearing. The less you have to concern yourself with physically, the more time and energy you can spend focused on balancing the other more important aspects of your life. If you have less laundry to do because you are not saving every old shirt for sentimental value or buying more than you need, the more time you may have for reading that book that will inspire growth in the very pillar that may be the obstacle to your ultimate success. Maybe you have more time to connect and communicate with your partner in establishing relational alignment. Or use that freed up time to sell some things you don’t need funding steps towards financial freedom. The possibilities to explore are endless and depend entirely on what you want for your future.
Don’t Stop with One Drawer
Continue the clearing journey. Don’t stop after one small success! Move onto the next small success and over time your space will gradually begin to feel lighter. It may seem daunting to look at the whole picture and think, there is no way I will ever succeed in establishing clarity of space. I have too much stuff! It is literally like taking one step in front of the other. Do not focus on whether you feel like doing it or not! That is the wrong way to approach this process. You may never feel like doing it. You may always find something “better” to do with your time or something that conveniently needs your attention right now. Decide on what you want your future to look like and then choose whether this action will help you towards that vision. If one of your goals is to simplify your life so you can focus your attention on the things that really matter in your life (ie. the seven pillars), then be convicted in your decision to make a change in your physical environment as well as the other pillars. Don’t overthink the how, the where, and the when…just start and then start again! Or as Nike says JUST DO IT!
This Times of India article has a genius plan for 30 days of de-cluttering! Day 1, throw away one item..Day 2, throw away 2 items and so on until Day 30 when you must choose 30 items to eliminate. See the process outlined in this 7 actions post and don’t forget to make a game of it! Live, Laugh and Love Life!
- What are your habits in purchasing, keeping and collecting “shiny things” over time?
- How does this affect your clarity of mind if at all?
- What tips and tricks would you suggest to others struggling in eliminating the shiny extras in their life?