Modern culture has bought into the lie that the good life is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible. They believe that more is better and have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store. But they are wrong. – Joshua Becker
Some friends of mine and I have been undertaking a “de-cluttering” challenge for the past few days and it has got me thinking a lot about the fact that getting rid of old stuff that is not serving you anymore is so freeing, energizing and calming. Granted, I was one of those kids who couldn’t start my homework until my bedroom was immaculate. I definitely lean more heavily towards OCD tidiness than freewheeling clutter. The thought of living in a tiny home has actually excited me on more than one occasion. Something about the idea of not being so weighed down by stuff really lights a fire in me. But then I remember that I have small children and it begins to seem a wee bit harder.
I think the reason that cleaning, organizing and prioritizing items by their utilitarian value feels so good is that it is in some way tied to our mental health. Having too much “stuff” can cause one to continually suffer from “decision fatigue”, which is where your brain gets tired from having to make decisions about small things all day long. A good example of this is people who purposefully keep their closets very simple, streamlined and even monochromatic, creating a daily “uniform” of sorts. Steve Jobs was known for doing this in order to cut back on decision fatigue. He would wear essentially the same thing every day. He never thought about it, never used up precious brain power wondering if a brown turtleneck would look better than a black one. Most people could probably do with a little less decision fatigue in their daily lives. We have more options and choices available to us than ever before and it can be exhausting trying to wade through all of them.
In addition to decision fatigue, for some people, having too much stuff around (clutter) can actually make their own mind feel more cluttered. The less stuff your brain has to process in your line of vision, the more you can focus on what it is you need to be thinking about or doing.
I know for myself, this is so true. I can remember times where I have wanted to clean up a mess or two before having a sit down conversation with someone in my home because I knew I would be able to better engage with them and focus on the conversation better.
The feelings that minimizing and de-cluttering bring me are usually along the lines of: joy, relief, peace, satisfaction, accomplishment and a sense of freedom from a burden I didn’t know I was carrying around. These feelings have an immense impact on my mental and emotional health, which in turn have an impact on my physical health, as all aspects of health are connected and intertwined. As Joshua Becker, author of Becoming Minimalist says, “I have learned minimalism is always a matter of the heart. After the external clutter has been removed, minimalism has the space to address the deepest heart issues that impact our relationships and life.”
Even though I purposefully try to keep our “stuff” down to a minimum, I still fall prey to thinking I need more clothes, more shoes, more running gear, more jewelry, kitchen gadgets, and etc… Likewise, my husband will always think that he could do with more tools, motorsport vehicles and whiskey. My kids will always feel like they need more toys and even more toys. This is human nature and a good thing to be aware of. Stuff you use and enjoy is great, it’s when you start accumulating stuff that is not used or enjoyed that the balance begins to shift. I am going to attempt to incorporate regular de-cluttering time periods into our year as I truly do believe it is both healthy and helpful.