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Declutter Today for More Tomorrow

efficiency organization productivity Jul 16, 2023
Woman in red dress walking across a grass field carrying an old-fashioned leather suitcase.

Travel light.
She extended her arms to embrace her house, maybe the whole world.

— Junot Diaz


There are many professionals out there teaching specific methods for decluttering. I've written before about how I enjoyed Marie Kondo on Netflix, but I disagree with her that an object can make you feel joy.

One day I see my prom dress hanging in the basement, and I have feelings of nostalgia and joy. Another day I see my prom dress hanging in the basement, and I feel disgusted with myself because I can't fit into it anymore. It has nothing to do with the dress and everything to do with where my head is at.

I've noticed that people who find it difficult to get rid of things have often associated the things with themselves, their well-being, or their sense of security. It's as if a possession has become part of them, and it feels like getting rid of the thing would be like getting rid of a piece of themselves.

I can understand why it would be hard to declutter from this standpoint. If I thought I would wipe out my memories or the experience of going to prom by getting rid of my dress, it would be tough to part with!


I like to think of life as an adventure through time.


Like any good adventure, we don't know exactly what will happen next. However, some things are more probable than others. You would not pack a snowsuit for your next trip to Hawaii. While it could snow in Honolulu, the chances are almost zero, and packing snow gear would be a waste of luggage space.


Just like packing for vacation, it can be useful to think of your belongings as things that either do or don't support your life's journey. It's an additive way of thinking about decluttering versus a subtractive way of thinking about it.


Instead of going through the process focused on what you will have to get rid of or give up, you can think of what adds value and contributes positively to your life. Anything that doesn't add to your life is just noise: a distraction that takes energy away from what matters most to you.


You may be a person who enjoys going through life with only a carry-on. Or you may be the person with ten steamer trunks — either is fine! It's a personal decision.


No one else can tell you how to be you. But it is your responsibility to choose and pack accordingly.



If you're unsure how to do this in practice, here’s something you can try. Make a packing list…


Get a piece of paper and sit in the room you want to declutter. Imagine it's completely empty, and then start listing everything you would put in there, just like making a packing list before a trip. Feel free to put things on the list that you don't even own — you might discover something!


Once you have your list, “pack your suitcase." Make the room match the list as best as you can. If you put things you don't own on the list, you now have a wishlist… something to work towards.


Here are some additive questions to ask yourself:

  • How much do I want to own and carry through life?
  • What am I most likely to need on the road ahead?
  • What things are worth my time and energy maintaining?
  • What things support me and the life I want to live?

Some truths to keep in mind:

  • Aside from some rare items, keeping a thing does not get your time or money back. Whatever you've invested into the thing is gone. It's a sunk cost.
  • Things cannot create a permanent sense of security for you. If you do not feel secure within yourself, you can never compensate by acquiring things outside yourself.
  • Just because something was important to you at one point doesn't mean it has to always be important. You've evolved over time. It's okay for your choices to evolve with you.


May your road be long,
your adventures many,
and your heart full.



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