The Joy of decluttering
Decluttering is fashionable right now. Charity shops are experiencing a surge in donations, as the clearing-out trend takes off. The new Marie Kondo series on Netflix has taken the message mainstream. More of us feel inspired us to reorganise our drawers, give away our cookbooks, and streamline our wardrobes.
I have always got a huge amount of satisfaction from clearing things out. This is one trend I was way ahead of. Clutter stresses me. Things out of place make me feel agitated. Cupboards that are too full make me furious. And a wardrobe full of clothes that don’t get worn, make me feel a horrible combination of inadequate and ashamed.
Probably about once a month I sweep through the house, removing items that are not needed. I try not to tell the kids, because they have a tendency to hoard. The older and germier the toy, the quicker it leaves my house. The much-loved old teddies never go, but the other toy piles mysteriously shrink every once in awhile. And nobody notices.
I methodically work through a mental list, clearing bathroom cupboards, the pantry, the garage, the bedside tables are all on repeat every few months. It isn’t thrown out, it is packed and taken to my local hospice shop. Getting rid of it all truly does spark a feeling of joy. It feels like freedom, it feels like I am in control.
Gretchen Rubin talks about ‘outer order, inner calm’. For most people, an orderly environment helps them feel more energetic, more creative, and more cheerful. This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s true for most of us.
In the days following a declutter, things do feel good. There is less tidying up, less losing things. It feels like there is more space for thinking, for all the important stuff. Emptier spaces just look more restful, and are more enjoyable to be in.
But then there is more.
I am always working at diminishing my housework obligations. Living in the burbs in a house attracts so much work and upkeep and maintenance. A friend moved from a suburban house to an apartment in New York, she marvelled at how the weekends felt. No lawns, dinners in restaurants rather than cooking at home, washing dropped off to the laundry because valuable apartment space isn’t going to wasted on a washer/dryer and gigantic fridge. 4 rooms to clean, not 12. Her weekends were suddenly free, and filled with leisure, not housework. So how can I simplify things to get as close to this as I can, while still in my family home? I will try any hacks that reduce housework.
My calendar gets decluttered regularly. Is that appointment really necessary? Occasionally I leave an empty day in my diary, with no obligations or expectations. Sometimes I delete the dentist and meet a friend for an overdue chat. If a client cancels, I might decide to exercise. If a week is back to back with appointments, I might pull out of a few, and resolve to myself to not let that happen again. I learn to be very selective about what goes in to the calendar.
What about digital decluttering? I love clearing apps off devices, so fewer of them are cluttering my view, and asking for attention. Moving social media to a folder hidden away on the second page of your phone, out of sight, out of mind. One friend has hidden the email on her phone. If she wants to check her email, she does so on her computer, in working hours.
Regularly assessing the habits we have fallen into it can be helpful. Just because you have always dedicated 2 hours a week to taking the kids to swimming lessons, is it still really needed? If they can swim 100m, I am happy with that. If your child is not going to be an Olympic swimmer, do they really need to perfect their butterfly technique? And is it truly worth 2 hours of your precious time taking them every week?
There are so many layers to decluttering your life. To making life simpler. To making space for the important stuff. If you feel like your life is busy and cluttered, and if you feel overwhelmed by it all, perhaps it is time for a big clear out. Try it, it feels great.