Decluttering: Simplifying Your Mind and Your Life


As we move into the heart of the Spring season, many of us get an irrestible urge to clean and organize our home or workspace. And for good reason. We don’t need to read all the studies done to know that a cluttered home or workplace is a stressful one. Much valuable time is wasted on searching for misplaced items, or simply by being inefficient due to a less-than-functional living or working environment.

This applies to psychological clutter as well. The more we have on our plate, the less energy and focus we have for each activity. Deep engagement in an activity leads to not only the fulfillment, but also the enjoyment, of it . A rushed or scattered mind is generally not a happy mind.

Decluttering doesn’t just improve happiness; it improves performance, too. When we do decide to declutter our lives, often it’s because we long for some kind of order, some peace, or just some relief from inner and outer chaos. Something transformational does happen when we dive into the decluttering process. We start to learn about ourselves. And if we continue with it on all levels, decluttering can become a place of deep growth.

Decluttering causes us to confront some key relationships we have to our things, and to the world around us. We learn that clutter often represents procrastination and denial patterns, and if we are to address the clutter, we must change those patterns.  We realize how much importance we place on objects. Our belongings can give us a sense of identity or value, a sense of who we are. They can give us a sense of security or comfort. They may symbolize our hope for the future or memories of the past. But as we learn about our attachments to things, we also learn how to let go. This takes a lot of mindfulness, and some realization that we have happiness within us, and letting go of objects is simply a practice of that realization.

One of the magical things about decluttering is that it forces you to ask a wonderful question:

What is important to me?

As you tackle a pile of clothes, a cluttered desktop, a shelf overflowing with books, there’s no way to get rid of clutter without answering that question. To toss anything out, you have to consider what you feel is essential, and what isn’t. Simplicity is simply identifying what’s essential, and letting go of the rest.

This is when you hit the essential question of what you value the most. Some examples of this could be

  • Meaningful Work
  • Loved Ones
  • Living a mindful, healthy life
  • Service

When you start to become conscious of your values, something amazing happens: you start to live in alignment with those priorities. You start to live your values. You start to live consciously, with intention.

When you start to uncover your priorities, you can start to let go of everything that doesn’t serve those priorities.

“You’ll never get organized if you don’t have a vision for your life.” – Linda L. Eubanks

Order in the Workplace

Having a workspace that’s organized, free of clutter and inviting can really make your and your co-workers day a lot easier, giving you the inner and outer space to complete more tasks and freeing you from visual, stress-producing distractions. If you’ve put off tackling the mess because of the reasons mentioned above, you’re just pressed for time or you just don’t have the energy to make choices about your stuff, here’s the way out:

What Do You Actually Need?

Write a list of everything you use for at least one to two weeks. At the end of the two weeks, you’ll have a list of items that you actually use and likely should keep. Everything else is probably kept with a “just in case” mentality and is a candidate for donation.

Sort, Move, Discard

Once you know what belongs in your space, separate everything that can stay from what needs to go. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless, even with your “junk” drawer. Don’t keep what doesn’t support your work or make you genuinely happy to see. You should be able to identify the purpose for every single thing in your space.

A Home for Everything

Decide where everything should go and give it a “home”. Commit to always putting those items back in their homes once you are finished using them. You’ll always be able to find what you need this way. This strategy applies to the digital world as well. If you have a cluttered desktop on your computer or other device, now is the time to take a more zen-like approach to those many icons and folders!

Is Cleaning part of Your Agenda?

Cleaning is an important part of decluttering. Once decluttering is complete, do a thorough job of Spring cleaning, then put cleaning and organizing on your calendar. There needs to be a continuous process of planned purging, so as not to end up with that pile again. Consider yourself as committed to this job as any other task. Setting aside time also ensures that the cleaning effort isn’t going to interfere with anything else, so you can feel less stressed about it and accept it as a priority.

Finishing Touches

You can consider some finishing touches such as buying yourself a small bouquet, inspirational plaque or painting to bring some beauty and cheer into your space.

Now that you’ve created order, peace and beauty in your environment, you can start your day with intention, instead of chaos. You can focus on the more meaningful questions. What is my priority today? Who will I serve today? How fully can I live my values today?

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