Most people relate clutter to mess, to being disorganised or disorderly.
My definition however, is somewhat broader. If you are hanging on to something and it really isn’t adding any value to your life, it’s clutter. If it serves no purpose, it’s clutter. And, just because an item has intrinsic value doesn’t excuse it from being clutter. It’s just clutter in your life.
Beware of clutter hiding behind organisation
Leo Babuta has a wonderful article about clutter – Decluttering as Zen Meditation.
We hold on to things because we can’t let go of the past.
We hold on to things because we fear what the future might bring.
These two phrases really resonate and explains much of the psychology behind why we hang on to things. I was so inspired by the article that I went of a big de-cluttering spree a few months ago. As a fairly organised person, I thought I did a great job, until yesterday. I discovered that I had organised clutter. I had neatly labelled folders and packets of documents tucked away in a corner of my cupboard. Yes, at the point when I packed them away, I did need them. They were tax documents after all which needed to kept for 5 years. That was 10 years ago. Whoops! There’s more of the same, all neatly organised. I can probably justify why I need all these things, but do I really need them?
If like me, you’ve decided that your life can do with less clutter, try asking yourself why you are holding on to a particular item.
I don’t know why I have it
This is the easiest category to deal with. Seriously, if you don’t even know why you have it, it should go straight into the discard pile!
I’m keeping this “just in case”.
Many of my things fell into this category. I went a step further and asked these questions. Just in case what?
Just in case I need it
When would you need it?
I don’t know but I might
And what would happen if you didn’t have it when the time came?
I would have to get it. Buy it.
Would that be so bad?
It just seems like such a waste
And that’s bad because?
OMG. Did that last question bring up a whole host of issues! Because I might not have enough money when the time comes. Because there are starving kids in Africa. Because I was praised for being good at managing money when I was a kid. Because waste is bad. Because I might get into trouble. All fear based and approval based going far back into my past.
Most of us have internal conversations that usually reinforce our habits and beliefs, but try having one like the one above and you may be surprised by what you find out about yourself.