There’s a common saying that “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” What this really means, of course, is that what one person considers useless may be highly valued by another person.
The problem is that we often keep onto junk, in the hope that someday it may be useful to somebody … maybe even ourselves in a different mindset.
As we go through life, we build up clutter around us – both physical possessions we no longer use, and mental clutter, where our minds have too many thoughts going through them for us to be able to process them clearly. Neither type of clutter is helpful for an ordered, quality life.
Decluttering the Junk Around You
The clutter around you comes with a lot of baggage. It represents chaos. It represents waste. It represents the past stages in your life, many of which you need to move on from. If you are truly serious about reinventing your life, you don’t need constant reminders of your past cluttering up your surroundings.
And then, of course, there is the physical discomfort of having to clamber around amongst the clutter. How many times have you had to upend clutter simply so you can find an item you really need? In extreme examples you might have to squeeze into the little space you have left for yourself, surrounded by your sea of clutter. We’ve seen those poor souls on television in Hoarders who simply must find a space for that unused pile of papers from 1935 that one day they may find useful for something.
Looking at a sea of junk, your junk, must be stressful, too. Visual clutter is a huge stressor. It is not harmonious. It is not peaceful. It is simply messy, disorganised, and chaotic. And of course, to many, clutter causes embarrassment. What if somebody was to turn up here and see our mess? Stress. Stress. No kids, don’t bring your friends back home, we don’t need the shame!
Cluttering makes cleaning more difficult, making it really seem like a chore. This can be even worse if you’re a perfectionist. I remember as a teenager that it took me two days to clean my bedroom. One day to clear all the clutter out of the room, and another day to vacuum the room (dusting was never my thing) and then put everything back again. I only ever did it when mum or dad hassled me enough to make any further excuses intolerable.
Decluttering Your Mind
In my last post, Are You an Essentialist?, I spoke about how I used to try and do so much that I never seemed to get anything done at all. This hit a nadir in my teaching career one Friday lunchtime after I had agreed to take on so many non-classroom responsibilities that I eventually had a breakdown in the playground when I suddenly realized I just couldn’t do everything I had promised. At that point, my mind was just an endless sea of clutter, all disjointed and nothing connecting together. It literally felt like I was a giant pinball being pinged around a table at high speed, bouncing off one bumper onto another.
Eventually, with the help of some good people on the school’s staff, I was able to clear my mind and start to see again. By decluttering my mind, I was able to rebuild mental energy, gain confidence, and continue my life – knowing my limitations and taking on fewer responsibilities, however.
In her post, The Importance of Removing Mental Clutter, Melissa Camara Wilkins describes it well: “Stray thoughts, fears, worries, details to remember: they all add up to mental clutter. What could you accomplish if all that mental space were freed up?”
For you to successfully reinvent your life moving forward, you need to clear out some of the mental clutter taking up precious space today.
If you want to move your life forward, you need to remove reminders of the past, both physical and mental. Never keep an item, simply because you think you just “might” have a need for it in the future – the odds are, you won’t!
For years, I kept my old items of smaller clothing so I could “wear them when I lose weight.” Now, it’s my own fault I haven’t yet lost weight, and that is amongst my future goals, but I do know that when the time comes, and I shed some weight, I will enjoy going to the shops and rewarding myself with some new gear. I won’t be heading into the wardrobe and picking out what I last wore 30 years ago, simply because it fits me again.
Likewise, I’m learning to better discipline my mind, so that it doesn’t fill up again with irrelevant clutter.
Decluttering is a vital part of any serious attempt to reinvent your life.