Life has a funny way of attracting clutter. Everything we do seems to require some new purchase or leaves us with residual stuff. You only need to look into your junk draw, spare room, or garage to see how we accumulate things over time. However, it is our growing addiction to buying new things that has caused the average American household to triple in size since the 1950s, housing around 300,000 items each (300,000! – think of the deforestation, local community impacts, and the carbon footprint required to supply all of that stuff! Wow.). Stuff is not bad in and of itself, but left unchecked, can create a divide between simple living, and a chronic craving for more.
Why more is not better
Accumulating stuff is a fact of modern western life, much of which really is necessary and justified to live a secure, healthy, and high standard of living. But the excess purchases take a toll on your finances, wellbeing, time, space etc. The toll excess stuff has on your life is well described in the “Law of Diminishing Returns” (see figure below). As we accumulate more of the things that effectively meet our basic human needs (e.g. shelter, bedding, food, some furniture, creative tools etc.), our happiness goes up. On the contrary, once we hit a certain level of stuff, any additional things actually cause our happiness and wellbeing levels to decline and cause stress and anxiety.
Why? Because an abundance of material possessions that do not serve primary needs or values do not contribute to our wellbeing in any meaningful way. Excess stuff takes time and money to purchase and organise, but it also makes you less sensitive to new things and traps you on the “hedonic treadmill”.
The magic of de-cluttering
So where does all this lead? This is where de-cluttering comes in. De-cluttering helps bring you back to the optimal part of the wellbeing curve. Getting rid of all of those things that do not contribute directly to your needs or values opens up physical space in your home, but also mental space that leaves room for contentment, focus, and a feeling of intense lightness. You will have less things to clean, look after and organise, freeing up valuable time to pursue other endeavours. In the moments you are decluttering, you are no longer needing or wanting something else, instead you are acknowledging that you already have enough. This is the essence of slow living, and captures the intent behind the philosophy of “minimalism”.
CALL TO ACTION – Give decluttering a try this week. There are numerous ways to go about it. You could try Project 333, or the Minimalism Game, or have a Packing Party. You can also just pick one area of your home to tackle, go through each item, and ask yourself whether it provides value to you or not. If you are unsure, place it in an “undecided” box, and return to it in a months time to re-assess. Keep going until you have donated, thrown away, or kept each item in that area. Rinse and repeat.
If you give this a crack, I would love to know how went! Send me a personal message through the simple life facebook page here. Good luck!