Updated: Jul 31
It’s not about decluttering your stuff, it’s about living uncluttered.
Someone asked me recently why my life looks the way it does. They used the words happy, simple and calm. They asked if it was because I did "...lots of decluttering?" I then proceeded to describe why living an uncluttered life isn’t about just doing but more importantly about being. I explained that I do not actively declutter my belongings and my life. I just am uncluttered. I'm that way because I've identified the value of what an uncluttered life gives me.
Decluttering is not something I find that I must do anymore, it is a state of being for me now. Mopping the floors is a task on my list or taking the bins out. Decluttering isn’t. That’s just the way I live. I deeply value a life of less overwhelm and I live accordingly. I say no when I don’t feel inspired to say a resounding YES! I don’t let stuff enter my home without contemplation and intention. I don’t hustle. I don’t let my work life encroach on my home life. I don’t put up with toxic people. I recognise when physical things in my home no longer serve me and let them go with grace. I don’t accept that feeling overwhelmed, chaotic or manic all the time is normal. I don’t ignore what is critically important to me- my family, my lifestyle, my happiness.
For me living an uncluttered life is now my natural state of existence but it wasn’t always that way. I had to tap into why I wanted to live uncluttered and practice living that way until it integrated and became almost instinctual.
Let’s sidestep and talk self-care for a moment. Self-care is king of the buzz-words right now. Whole industries are cashing in on the self-care movement. What has this got to do with decluttering you ask? Well, I think connecting with the philosophy of self-care and connecting with the philosophy of living uncluttered are parallel paths. Self-care is an area I personally still struggle with. Despite all of the education and promotion out there, I still find self-care a task on my list. Meditate, do yoga, have a bath, get a massage, go to bed early, eat clean. These things do not come naturally for me yet. They require effort. I have to work on them. And the core of that work is not in the doing or scheduling the activity but rather in understanding why doing them is so critically important. I have to experience how life with them in it is better. I have to feel the energy shift and recognise the glow of my skin and attribute it correctly. When I get to a place where I deeply understand the benefits and recognise my physical and mental heath as assets worth protecting, and I am not there yet, I believe at that point self-care will come naturally. Because self-care isn’t actually about how often you get a pedicure or drink a green smoothie. Self-care is about loving yourself enough to make you a priority in your own life first and then the activities that nourish you flow from that.
Living an uncluttered life is the same.
I was always well organised but I had far too many things in my home and commitments in my schedule. I spent too much money on stuff I didn’t need, I measured my worth by comparing my belongings to others’ and I always felt frantic and short on time. I had more friends than time to spend with them and it resulted in lots of good friends but no really deep friendships.
I started my journey towards simplifying by physically letting objects go- unworn clothes, trinkets that had no meaning and gadgets that didn’t give me a return on investment. Once I started letting the physical stuff go I began learning how being uncluttered made life easier. Then I started on my commitments and obligations- saying no to what wasn’t important to make space for what was. Friends went the same way- I let go of the many to go deep with the few. I started seeing how less clutter physically and mentally helped me achieve my goals and live as the happiest and fullest version of myself.
The feedback loop looked like this: the simpler my life became, the less burdened and generally happier I felt and the more I valued what was really important which helped me to say no to what wasn’t important and the simpler my life became. And around and around.
So if you declutter regularly but find yourself back in that chaotic place 2 months or 2 years later, realise that it’s not just about decluttering your stuff. You’re not relapsing because you didn’t organise yourself well enough last time or you didn’t have the right storage system. The problem lies in the fact that you have not yet identified the value of being uncluttered. Just like a weekly self-care massage wont prevent burnout if you're still working 60 hour weeks. It is not just about the doing. It is not about ticking a box that looks like you're connected with that philosophy. It is about honestly valuing why you do it and being fully present in that.
You need to believe that being uncluttered will create ease in your life. You need to experience it. You need to live like it. Just like self-care activities become second nature for those that deeply acknowledge their own value, so too will decluttering and saying no become second nature when you deeply acknowledge the value of living with less- both physically and mentally. When your home and mind start feeling less burdened you need to correctly attribute that ease to your decluttered state. It is not just an easy day. It is an easy day because you felt less cluttered. Start creating and recognising your own feedback loop.
Real, sustainable transformation will occur when you stop focusing solely on the doing of decluttering. Because it's not about the decluttering, its about living uncluttered.
If you want to explore how you can live a more uncluttered life - please connect with me.
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