Decluttering is an English word that literally means "take away the clutter" and for some years now it has become quite common, especially since the publication of Marie Kondo's book "The magical power of tidying up".
If you have never heard of it, it is a self-help booklet, a manual for dealing with the accumulation of objects in one's spaces (essentially in one's home or workplace), in which a very precise method to get rid of chaos and disorder once and for all.
But why is it so important to address the clutter in which you live, study or work?
Because it is, at the same time:
- The almost certain cause of endless productivity and procrastination problems. In fact, the disorder makes us waste time ("but where are the keys?" "... and the umbrella?" "Where the hell did I save that file? On this desktop you no longer understand anything ... ah here it is ... no, this is the previous version…. ”) and this time is literally precious gold that goes away in activities of little consequence and that make us nervous.
- The possible symptom of a disorganization e lack of focus more internal and general, of which the papers piled haphazardly on the desk or the clothes forgotten in the drawers are but the external manifestation.
In this article then:
- We will see how the "mess" negatively affects your everyday life
- We will break down some clichés about how beautiful and creative clutter is
- I'll give you some practical advice to start with to make your environment a little more Zen and orderly
Decluttering and its reflection in everyday life
The reason for the immense fortune of Marie Kondo's book lies not so much in the particular method it proposes (I believe in fact that other equally valid methods hesitate), as in the particular promise of transformation that she herself makes, right from the first page of the introduction.
"All the students who attended my classes ... not only managed to keep their house tidy but, even more amazingly, after having tidied everything up, they saw significantly improve many aspects of their life, like work and family ".
Simply put, the theory of Marie Kondo (and many others) is that disorder is not a simple disorganized set of things, but is the expression of lack of inner order, of confusion of ideas and, in many cases, also of the inability to emotionally let go of a part of our experience.
The disorder, in practice, it limits our potential, generates uncertainty and insecurity, our ability to do the right things diminishes.
- We tend to accumulate objects and then forget them, in the same way that we often start a thousand activities in order not to complete even one.
- We are unable to choose our priorities and dedicate ourselves to our true goals, so that we accumulate them, continually referring them to the future (not for nothing we speak of "dreams in the drawer").
- We never completely get rid of that part of the past that should instead be resolved or behind our backs, but we keep it well hidden, however allowing it to partly condition our present as well.
The theorists of creative chaos and why they are not right.
I already hear choruses of skeptics who say "I am disordered, but I always find everything", "I live well in my disorder", "order is arid, disorder is creative".
These phrases are typical of who
- He has never lived in order (and therefore does not know what is lost in being ordered)
- Look for an excuse to justify your clutter (by bringing creativity into play when the most creative things she does in life are to leave her socks lying around the house and not make the bed).
I know that some great geniuses were almost legendary messy (have you ever heard of Einstein's desk?) ...
But most of them, for example Leonardo, were orderly and methodical to the point of obsession.
There is a famous quote from Nietzsche that is often brought up by proponents of creative disorder:
"You have to have chaos within yourself to generate a dancing star"
Hordes of noisy and idle artists have raised this famous maxim as a shield in their own defense.
But I'm pretty sure the chaos Nietzsche was alluding to wasn't the unmade bed or a pile of 5-year-old magazines never read, but rather the courage and the ability to look inside ourselves, in our many facets, and to accept that we are human beings with very, very complicated feelings.
Your first steps in decluttering
And here, if we are already complicated internally, perhaps a nice external decluttering it can only help our life, both practical and emotional.
So start with a little practical decluttering exercise and throw away:
- Anything you haven't used for at least a year
- Everything that's broken waiting to be fixed (you'll never fix it, believe me!)
- Anything that is obviously no longer your size
- Everything that evokes bad memories in you (Remember? Behind the tendency not to throw anything away, there is often the difficulty in emotionally letting go of a part of our experience)
Have no mercy and be radical, you will see that in a couple of days none of the things you have eliminated will really miss you.
To put it with Marie Kondo, just keep "the things that still make our eyes sparkle when we look at them" ...
Marie Kondo has also been heavily criticized, and actually putting her book into practice literally means getting rid of most of your objects.
However, we have to make a little effort and understand the cultural context from which the book comes: in Japan on average the houses are much, much smaller than in the Western world, it goes without saying that decluttering it must be pretty extreme.
We do not have to follow everything to the letter, there are some small concessions, but really without exaggerating.
Personally, in the last year (thanks to the lock down) I have systematically decluttering my house and I don't even count the garbage bags that I have thrown away.
While doing it, I ran into all sorts of useless things, from the two-year old broken electric toothbrush to worn out slippers, videotapes and the inevitable horrible saucers with shells.
But, even more amazing than what I threw away, is what I found: an ancient and beautiful box of biscuits that belonged to my grandmother, still with her little sewing jobs inside; a rough wooden box bought during a trip to Australia and then forgotten; a beautiful new sweatshirt - never used - crumpled up in the back of a closet; some photos of a 20-year-old me that brought back to my mind some wonderful memories, and many other things.
Things that, yes, made my eyes sparkle and that I will keep with me forever, together with the Greek-Italian dictionary and the high school literature books with still underlining and handwriting.
Things I didn't even know I had, because that's how it is: out of the urge to keep everything (because “everything could come in handy one day”) we create archives of stuff so monumental that we don't even remember what's inside.
In this sense, the decluttering of physical space looks a lot like the change of mind that I preach in many of my articles, such as:
- The great power of waking up at 5am
- How to do what really matters
- 6 tactics to be more productive
They all have the same common thread: helping you find your true Focus and getting rid of all that is useless.
So really try to do some decluttering.
Go through your spaces (I also mean virtual ones, so computer and phone APP) asking yourself, for everything, if it still makes sense that it occupies a place in your home and in your life. If the answer is no…. his place is in the garbage bag.
I guarantee you that, after having thrown tons of stuff, deleted dozens of apps, found a place worthy of the things that really matter, you will feel immensely at peace with yourself and you will see much more clearly not only your short and long-term goals, but also the way to pursue them.