Reduce. Replace.

Or as Bruce Lee said, “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”

I find a distinct feeling of peace come over me when I walk away from a charity shop or clothes donation bin having unloaded bin bags full of clutter.

While growing up I moved house or country every 2, 4 or 6 years. At the point of leaving each place it was our task to get rid of everything we did not need. I would go through all of my clothes and allocate each item to a ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ pile. Just as I had finished the initial stages of sorting, my mum would come into my room and ask which piles were which. She would then swiftly remove the ‘no’ and the ‘maybe’ pile before I could protest. I have never missed a single ‘maybe’ item.

Although this may sound harsh, it was a great lesson and one that I have chosen to adopt in my own ‘clear out’ choices as an adult. You must be strict, honest and maybe even ruthless with yourself. Here’s how:

  • Always have a ‘throw-out’ bag in the bottom of your wardrobe
  • Anything that has been unused, taking up room for a year or more, must go in the bag
  • If you ever find yourself searching for that item you may remove it (this never happens)
  • When the bag is full, take it to your nearest charity shop or clothes donation bin
  • Do not look at what is inside. If you didn’t miss it, you don’t need it. Chuck it!

Getting rid of the unwanted doesn’t only apply to you’re over extensive clothes collection. Every area of life must be concentrated down to the things that we use or value. There can still be space for ornamentals and niceties, but there is no room for useless clutter.

 

Areas where you can cut back on clutter: 

  • Kitchen junk drawer, or the ‘Man Drawer’ as Michael Macintyre calls it – you don’t need 100 take away menus, that pile of toothpicks and 3 broken bulbs
  • Paperwork – letters, statements and all marketing sent by banks or service companies. Online banking can provide back dated statements without it taking up your living space. Direct mail advertising electricity, gas and financial services need to go straight in the recycling bin, even if you did decide to switch provider (shred anything with sensitive data).
  • The underwear draw – where boxers and socks get worn out and then crammed at the back; with new ones added to the front comforted by the excuse that ‘you can never have enough…’
  • Your bulk wardrobe – shirts, t-shirts, trousers, Jeans, Jumpers, jackets and coats etc.
  • Cold weather clothes – scarfs, hats and gloves seem to multiply every winter
  • Board games that haven’t been used… EVER
  • Sports equipment – only playing golf in the summer is fine, but that hockey stick from your school days (that is too small anyway) can probably make some other child very happy
  • Books and DVDs – 90% can go to the charity shop, keep the awesome 10%. Don’t get trapped into thinking that a bookcase full of books makes you look well read or cultured (this applies to DVDs too). Choose what was life-changing or what you will use again in the future. Maintain a strictly curated collection
  • Magazines – that huge pile that you never look at (in fact, shouldn’t you have cancelled that subscription ages ago?)
  • Cosmetics and Toiletries – and not just ladies! What about the electric toothbrush you bought years ago and never replaced the battery for?
  • Your digital world – Emails, iTunes, Facebook (friends and feed), Twitter and contact lists. This probably requires a whole dedicated post, but start to look for quality in the flow of digital content that fills your head on a daily basis.

De-cluttering will also make your home (and life) tidier, cleaner and easier to maintain. It will start to make it a more pleasant and relaxing place to be (which will do wonders for your mental state).

The human mind naturally seeks order and symmetry. If it is true that our outer world reflects your inner world; chaos, mess and dirt are not what we should aspire to.  One of my favorite movies, Limitless (2011), has a great scene where Bradly Cooper suddenly views his apartment in a way he never has before. His fresh perception brings the dirty plates, mess and excess clutter into sharp reality and he realizes that it all represents the person he used to be. His internal monologue says it all, “Oh, this couldn’t be my home could it? Who would live like this? My first thought: Torch the place –  but saner heads prevailed”

Even if you are not proud of your address or you share your space with other people, you can always choose to make sure that whatever area you have to yourself is a reflection of the kind of person that you want to be.

Be clean. Be tidy. Take pride in all that you have and do; even the small things are a reflection of you.

 

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