It is said that unnecessary clutter drags us down, fills up our lives, prevents new opportunities and relationships from forming, and encourages a lack of confidence in the possibilities of the future. I happen to agree with these points, with the addition of one – aesthetically, clutter is just ugly!
I have been more or less obsessed with decluttering ever since I read Karen Kingston’s Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever when I was a young teenager (yes, I was a strange kid).
So many books and blogs talk about the importance of removing excess clutter from your life; but fewer address the problem of just not being able to. This challenge has come up in multiple conversations lately, and to be honest, initially I couldn’t relate. I’ve always been a purger in my home – even when my home was just a room in a house.
However, once I started thinking about it, I realized that for my whole life, my space felt cluttered. No matter how much I purged, I always felt stifled by clutter.
It was when I read the Marie Kondo’s much-applauded book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, everything changed. In her book, she states her decluttering philosophy simply as follows – get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy.
In fact, she goes further to say that rather than just getting rid of things that don’t bring you joy, you should instead choose only to keep things that bring you joy. It’s a semantic difference, but a powerful one. Rather than choosing what to get rid of, you are choosing what to keep.
Kondo even states that if you don’t follow this philosophy, and go through everything “all in one go” (which, she concedes, might take a few months) you will continuously find yourself decluttering and getting rid of things for the wrong reasons. As a result, you will eventually fill that hole with other things, and will thus always have clutter.
This was the missing piece for me! I always had clutter because I had followed conventional decluttering advice of just getting rid of things I didn’t use anymore or didn’t need. I had never considered what brought me joy – or didn’t.
However, my true takeaway was that there are many more decluttering philosophies out there than I had realized. Perhaps the secret was just to find the one philosophy that really “clicked” in your brain. After all, you can understand something on an intellectual level, but if you can’t feel its importance, you won’t put that advice into action.
Even though Marie Kondo would not approve, I have listed out a number of decluttering philosophies below in the form of questions to ask yourself about why you do or don’t want to get rid of your clutter.
Do any of these questions trigger you into action? Try asking each question on different items in your home and see what happens. If you realize the question speaks to something that deeply matters to you (the most important part of this!) – and the answer to the question is no – get rid of the item!
1. Does this item bring me joy?
2. Do I use this item?
3. Do I already have another of this item?
4. Do I have another item I love that serves the same purpose of this item?
5. Does this item work?
6. Does this item bring up happy memories?
7. Does this item remind me of my goals for the future?
8. Do I feel positively about this item?
9. Do I feel positively about the person who gave me this item?
10. Do I find this item beautiful?
11. Does this item have a place in my life, as I live it, today?
12. Does this item blend into my current visual aesthetic?
13. Does this item make my life easier?
14. Does this item make me smile?
15. Do I hope to pass down this item to younger members of my family?
16. Do I truly believe the younger members of my family will want and use this item?
17. Does this item serve a memory in a better or stronger way than the memory itself?
18. Do I feel happy when I use this item?
19. Does this item serve a purpose that cannot be replaced by a free resource like the library, internet, or borrowing from a friend?
20. Does this item encourage me to be the best version of myself imaginable?