How Minimalism Can Help You Prepare For Major Life Changes
Clutter. It’s everywhere. I can’t seem to get away from it.
I’m not a hoarder. I don’t hold on to things just for the sake of holding on to things. I believe it’s a cocktail of learned behaviour, sentimentality, laziness, procrastination, busyness, and overwhelm. Basically, a mile-long list of excuses. My mind craves organization — I’m feeling mentally exhausted just writing about it. Time for a drastic change.
Be ready for almost anything
Besides the common-sense reasons why keeping a decluttered home is a good idea, I also had a bit of an aha moment while planning my big purge.
Life can throw us curveballs and send us reeling and stumbling. It’s no secret that life is unpredictable, at best. So while deciding what room I’m going to start with, my brain went off on its own little adventure, as it tends to do. And I thought: ‘Wouldn’t almost everything in life be a little easier without so much clutter?’
We currently live in a little rented house. This house is by no stretch of the imagination, nice, although we do our best to make it appear that way. We’ve been in this house for about three years, and our rent is very affordable — reason being, the landlord is a development company. They purchased the house in order to knock it down and build new townhomes or condos on the two double-wide lots it sits on. But for insurance reasons, the house cannot sit empty while they wait for their permits to be approved, which could take years, or merely months.
In other words, at any given moment, we could receive the news that it’s time to move. Without any idea of when that will be, or where we’ll go when the time comes, I realized that the less stuff we have, the easier it will make the transition to a new place.
Life is full of unexpected events — births, deaths, disasters, divorces, and although marriages typically aren’t unexpected, I’m still including them.
Just imagine how much easier it would be to transition our lives into, or out of, any of these scenarios if we had very little possessions. We would eliminate so much of the stress that’s always involved.
You just have to start. And then keep going.
I have a tendency to get started on something, get sidetracked — ooh, squirrel! — and then, oh, I’ll just get back to it later. I’m famous (in my own mind at least), for not finishing what I start.
I have the attention span of a gnat. I binge-watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, and throughout, I would pause episodes to go clean up. I managed to get some of my drawers, and the cupboard under the kitchen sink done. Yay me.
I have good intentions — I just need to work on my follow-through. It’s actually really strange because, at the office, everything has to be completely organized and neat; I can’t function or focus if my desk sits in chaos. I’m at a complete loss as to why I’m the complete opposite when it comes to my home. But as I write this, I’m getting excited. I can’t wait to get started (again).
The idea that clutter causes stress isn’t a new concept. In her article Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies, doctor Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. talks about “The mental cost of clutter”.
“Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives.”
I think recognition is the first step and a key to solving any problem. The second step would be to just start.
Don’t try and do it all at once, you’ll just get frustrated and overwhelmed — like I tend to do. Over. And over. And over.
Start with the easy things that take a minute or two — like making the bed. That way you also have a brand new surface to use to get everything else organized. But make sure that when you start something, you have enough time to finish it. The last thing you want to do is dump all of your clothes onto your bed, not finish the task, and then just pile it all on the floor so you can go to sleep. The pile will stay there for days. I know this from personal experience.
The irony is that trying to get rid of the clutter can be as overwhelming as living with it. But once we get past the first hurdle and start seeing progress, that feeling of being trapped in the chaos starts to diminish. As the piles of clothes and books and stuff start to go down, so does our stress level. You feel encouraged to keep going because the sense of accomplishment is so addictive. When you see the floor for the first time in months. Or when the top of your desk finally has room for your laptop.
As excited as we get at the prospect of a clutter-free space, and finally having a clear and focused and decluttered mind, we have to make sure to do things conscientiously. Meaning, don’t take your piles of stuff and mindlessly send them straight to landfill just to get them out of your sight. That might make your home look and feel better quickly — but it won’t make the home we share with the rest of humanity feel clean and clutter-free. Be mindful.
The idea is to clean up our personal space with as little ill-effect to our planet as possible. This is our chance to help ourselves and help other people at the same time.
Keep the things that you need, and use regularly, and “spark joy”.
Donate the items that are still in good condition but no longer serve a purpose for you — as they say, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’
Recycle everything that can be recycled. Check with your local recycling facility if you’re not sure about a certain material — most of that information can probably be found online.
Repurpose things that can be usefully repurposed. Yes, most things can be made into other things, but if those ‘new’ things won’t have any value for you, then don’t do it. Some towns actually have places that people can drop off things like that — items that aren’t necessarily recyclable or reusable as they are, but could serve a purpose for someone.
You’ll feel so much better when you’re done — I haven’t even started yet, and I can already imagine the sense of calm that I’ll have when it’s over. Imagine yourself standing in the middle of your living room, surrounded by tidiness and so much less stuff! I’m thinking of documenting my “Clean House Clear Mind” Journey…would love to follow along on yours too!