The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. ~Hans Hofmann
In our last step on our “30 Steps to A New You” challenge we looked at making goals. In these next steps, we’ll be doing some of the prep work that gets us on our way to achieving them.
First stop – we need to address your mess.
Now I know what you’re thinking, if you clean up your desk you’ll never be able to find anything, because you and your giant pile of papers have a “system.” Well, what if I told you there was a better, healthier system that involves you not having a pile of papers, but the room to work, explore, think and breathe.
Because your clutter may be affecting you more than you even realize.
Here’s what minimalist Dena Joan has to say about the effects of too much stuff on the psyche:
Clutter can destroy your subconscious. Imagine you sit down to work but you can not concentrate. You wonder why you are so distracted. You feel energized, prepared to work, and excited about your task. However, you just keep getting distracted. You can not focus. There is a chaos in your head that you can not explain. You look around you and find yourself surrounded by clutter.
As a kid our parents were constantly telling us to pick up after ourselves. So often, as adults, we relish in no one being there to tell us what to do. Don’t feel like making your bed? Don’t do it! Wash the dishes? That can wait. Even if it’s something we need to do, it’s so much easier to put it off.
So things get messy. Cluttered. And before you know it, you’re drowning in stuff.
What is the stuff? It’s your life. Clothes, books, paper, collectables, bills, shoes. They pile up, cluttering not just our lives, but our minds as well. But with no mom or dad to shout “pick that up,” it’s easy to not see it that way. I know I didn’t always see things exactly that way.
While I’m no future “Hoarders” story, things do pile up in my life as much as they pile up in anyone else’s, especially with a family. You acquire a lot of things. And I didn’t really put much thought into it until my wife and I enrolled our son into a Montessori program that preaches the importance of organizing your physical environment. Taking the lessons from the school, my wife and I got organized ourselves, reducing clutter and restructuring our environment to make it simpler, more efficient and minimalist. As a result our productivity increased, there were even psychological benefits, like feeling more at peace by having fewer distractions and being able to take stock at what really matters in life by reducing the things that don’t matter.
I got so into removing clutter from my life I even attacked my email with the same vigor. Whether you realize it or not, your inbox, it’s like a home and if you’ve got so much crammed into it that you find it hard to find what you need, it’s time to use my favorite key on the old keyboard – the DELETE button. Also, check out Michael Hyatt, he has some great tips on how to organize email.
To tackle your clutter, start small. Focus on a desk or counter top, a file cabinet or that special pile of papers you have. Take account of what you use regularly and what you haven’t touched in months. Make piles of what stays and what goes, then follow through on the “goes” pile. Once you’ve moved from small spaces, move to the whole room, then go room by room in the decluttering process, each time, starting small (i.e. the top drawer of your dresser) and work your way down until you’ve decluttered the entire space. And while decluttering, keep in mind that just because you think you might need something “someday,” as Dena Joan says, often “someday” never comes. You don’t really need it. So it’s probably time to let things you rarely use or have never used go.
So your task for this week? It’s obvious, you’ve got some housecleaning (and inbox cleaning) to do. De-clutter your life so you can find the clarity to work on the things that really matter to you.
For more information cleaning up your life to reach your larger goals, read my book “It’s Complicated” or check out Dena Joan’s post on minimalism, “Minimalism: How to Declutter Your Home & Your Soul.”