Today is the last day of January. So how has your start to the year been?
I didn't make any New Year's resolutions this year. When I want to do something, I do it regardless of the time of year. However, the New Year for many is a good time to reflect and think about the year ahead and a great time to have a bit of a sort and tidy.
We’re currently planning some refurbishment and building works to our home, and are starting to sell old furniture and clear out, ready to start designing the new space. So I’ve been reflecting on the last few years about my approach to having possessions.
I love a tidy, ordered house and used to believe that any mess was just a lack of things having a ‘home’ to be put away, and over the years I have bought (and sold) countless pieces of furniture e.g. boxes and trunks, for ‘better’ storage options.
Then after hearing Marie-Claire Carlyle speak at a Hay House conference I bought her ‘How To Be A Money Magnet’ book, which pointed to a link between your ability to bring money into your life and an uncluttered home. In addition, I’d noticed that my chronically ill patients often had very cluttered homes, (and minds too for that matter).
My journey then ventured in to Feng Shui, and was amazed to find that some global businesses had invested heavily in this ‘art’ over the years, including Coca Cola, Nike, Sony, British Airways, Virgin, Hilton Hotels and Dreamworks, just to name a few. When I read that they had invested in their surroundings to increase productivity and profits, it all made sense.
Along with the help of my husband we started to de-clutter our home. It could be a coincidence or it could be the change in mind-set that had us wanting to de-clutter our home in the first place, but we started to notice our income increasing, life becoming more enjoyable and our home having a much nicer feel to it.
It seemed to be taking years to get to a point of clearing everything out, but then I heard about Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever.’ The subtitle grabbed me. I could get this sorted once and for all. The key was not to tidy by room but by type. For example: If you are clearing through clothes, it needs to be ALL your clothes, including any hidden in the attic, coats in the cloakroom etc. I enjoyed this new way of de-cluttering but I’m afraid the ‘banish clutter forever’ promise didn’t work for me.
Then I heard about a new podcast called ‘The Minimalists’, a male duo that had grown a following of millions within a relatively short space of time. (They have also written a book, a film and a TED Talk). So I gorged on Joshua and Ryan’s approach for a few weeks and watched and listened to their material with interest. Then I realised that the way ‘The Minimalists’ were talking didn’t make sense to me either. They talked about how owning too many or the wrong type of possessions caused stress and anxiety. Of course an object can’t make you feel anything. That’s just not possible.
So after sifting through 'the experts' advice and dismissing what made no sense, here are my top tips on de-cluttering that I’ve figured out over the last few years:
- Your home is not a museum. Don’t keep things out of sentimentality if they serve no purpose. I see so many people keeping things to hand down without any knowledge of knowing whether that person will really want them.
- If you have a big area to tackle, e.g. an attic, don’t wait for a time when you’ll be able to do it in one go, as that is unlikely to happen. Set aside a small amount of time each day, say 20 minutes, and you’ll get a lot more done faster. Always use a timer too as it makes you a more conscious of using the time you have. It’s about taking consistent action not waiting for the ‘right time’ to do it.
- When de-cluttering multiple items, e.g. books, start by removing them all from their current place and then decide if you want to put them back, as it is more effective then deciding on them in situ.
- When you buy anything new, no matter how small or insignificant the item, e.g. a stapler, make sure it is something you enjoy looking at/using.
- Online marketing has never been so prevalent and information online is second to none, which makes it a no-brainer for cancelling direct marketing and all those catalogues that come through the post.
- Reduce post by getting the companies you do deal with to use email instead, this is great for all the utility companies we use. Deal with any post that does come in as soon as you can and invest in a paper shredder. Scan into your computer anything you’re not sure about keeping then throw out or shred.
My biggest takeaway when it comes to de-cluttering? Don’t think of de-cluttering as an “I’ll be happy when it’s all done” process. It's ongoing with the changes in our life and life circumstances.
Finally, and really importantly, know that none of your belongings can really give you a feeling. It's simply the way you think about them. The reason many trip up on the have/not have decision when it comes to belongings, is that they believe that throwing stuff out, or living minimally can give them a feeling. Of course looking at objects can trigger memories, but knowing this one thing can make it so much easier to decide what to keep, what to get rid of and inform your decision on buying anything new in a much healthier way.