There is spring cleaning, autumn deep cleaning, essential winter cleaning and quick summer cleaning. It seems every season has a cleaning theme and a lot of emphasis on cleaning and clearing out the things we don’t need. When we move houses we clean and get rid of stuff. When we buy something new, we often get rid of stuff to make room for the newly acquired object(s).
However, this clearing out of the old should not be limited to just tangible things but also to the intangibles like ideas, notions, opinions and even to dreams, goals, aspirations and people. Anything that doesn’t serve you and your higher self any longer, needs to go. As Marie Kondo would say “Does it spark joy?” If the answer is; umm maybe, not really, I don’t know — then it probably doesn’t — so why keep it? Why hold onto it? What purpose does it serve?
But first — let’s talk about the obvious one; things.
We have so much stuff!!!
Believe it or not but an average household has about 300K items. Yes, you read it correctly, three hundred thousand. 300,000. Maybe even more.
Count all your utensils, kitchenware, pens, photos, clothing items, linens, books etc and it will quickly add up. That is a lot of clutter and this not only clogs your physical spaces but also your mind. It weighs you down physically and mentally.
Do you wanna know what’s even worse? Amongst all that clutter and the 300K+ items, an average person spends about 12 days per year looking for things, they can’t find.
First world problems? Perhaps, but I find this to be a hilariously ridiculous problem we as a culture are creating and I am sure you are as guilty of it as I am.
We recently moved houses and seeing boxes upon boxes upon boxes of stuff made me realise; we hold onto so many things either because we have some emotional attachment to them (unresolved or otherwise) or we think that one day we will use them, one day they will come handy.
Much like ‘tomorrow’ the magical land where all our dreams and potentials get realised, ‘one day’ is where all the items in our cupboards and drawers get used.
I also realised that most of the things, including clothes in my wardrobe, were not used for months if not years.
So why the heck do we buy and then store all these things? What level of thinking would compel someone to spend money on things they didn’t actually need in the first place?
Asking this question can be difficult as it forces us to admit weakness and insecurities in our lives as buying and owning of more and more things is linked to many physiological factors such as; thinking things will make us happy, trying to impress and in turn getting them to like us, trying to compensate for our deficiencies but ultimately wanting more, having more and owning more gives us (often a false) sense of security.
Having and owning some basic necessities in life does in fact provide a sense of safety, security and ownership so we think that having more and more things will increase that sense of security. It obviously doesn’t work like that. And often, more than the actual thing in itself, we buy the feeling it provides; comfort, security, warmth etc.
What to do about it?
For the last year or so, we (my wife and I) have started a practice of periodically going through our possessions and getting rid of/giving away things that we no longer need or use. This includes books, utensils, clothes, gadgets and so on.
We have also become mindful when buying things and don’t usually give in to impulses and are able to accurately assess (to a certain degree) the need and usability of any given object before buying it.
I am not trying to make a case for frugal living or minimalism (although they have their own places and merits) but a case for just being conscious and mindful before buying anything by asking yourself; do I really need to buy this? Is it actually going to add value to my life? (obviously doesn’t apply to food and other basic necessities of life).
I also try and follow a simple rule of One in, One Out; I buy a new pair of jeans, I get rid of one. New trainers? One of the old ones needs to go. Simple. I do not add things — I replace them. I have now reached an optimum number of things (which, in all honesty, I think is still high) and I try to maintain or reduce it. Not increase.
Build a practice of regular reflection of going through your possessions and assessing them. If you are not already familiar with Marie Kondo and her book, I encourage you to look her up and give her method a go.
I also suggest reading up (and watching some videos) on the topic of Minimalism and Minimalist living — this isn’t about living like a monk and giving up all your belongings — but about living more intentionally with what you own and plan to own.
Ultimately, get rid of things that you don’t need or use any more. They are bogging you down and clogging your mind. Even if your clutter is not out front and visible, and hidden behind closed cupboards doors, it’s there at the back of your mind. Getting rid of it will lighten your mind and your life.
In the coming weeks I will talk about a few other areas where we need some reflection to reduce or eliminate, including;
- Dreams, goals and aspirations
- Opinions, ideas and thoughts