This blog is a place for me to share my thoughts on organizing, so today I want to speak on the subject of decluttering. Our lives equal the sum of our choices. Decluttering is also a series of choices. It's a dedicated time for us to take a closer look at our stuff (or schedule) and determine its value in our lives. Each time we pick up something, we decide if we need it, and if so, if it's worth the time/effort/space/money to keep. Our choices during this process can either be good or bad, liberating or hindering.
To help us make decisions during a decluttering session, many professionals prescribe the following questions: Do I use it? Do I need it? Do I love it? Is it irreplaceable?
More often than we would like to admit, the answer to these questions is 'no.' However, most times, we default to keep things "just-in-case." In my experience, "just-in-case" actually happens for about one out of every 100 things I decide to keep for that reason. Out of all the things we own, how many do we use on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly)? Usually, one of two things happens: 1) we are too busy (or lazy) to deal with our stuff before it gets out of hand or 2) we organize and re-organize and/or expand to hold all of our stuff. So, in hopes of that glorious day when "just-in-case" becomes a reality, we sacrifice our time/effort/space/money to keep up with it. Even worse, we lose track of it and end up spending MORE of our time/effort/space/money trying to find or replace it. A single decision to keep something that had no current purpose in our lives led to losing something more valuable in the future.
In that light, try to think of decluttering as more of a freeing exercise than an arduous task. It just comes down to making choices today that gives you more flexibility tomorrow. Everything earns a place in your space.
Yes, I know there are situations where it behooves us to keep some things for another season. Perhaps they are family keepsakes that we want to pass down, or we are planning on expanding our family/home/career in the future. Maybe there are certain situations where it makes sense to have more choices than the average person: fashionistas own more clothes and accessories, crafters use an entire room devoted to their supplies, chefs and bakers benefit from multiple kitchen tools, or even people who like to entertain probably have an assortment of platters and glassware. The key here is we USE them and therefore, they add value to our life. In these cases, the answers to most of the decluttering questions were most likely 'yes.' However, if most of what we own is for "just-in-case," where is the stuff that we actually need right now?
This is where decluttering makes its mark. Enter in the 80/20 rule - we use 20% of our stuff, 80% of the time. These are our favorites, the tried-and-trues, the necessities of our lives. And that other 80%? Well, that's the extra that fills out our homes and offices, the items we use less frequently, if at all. If it went missing, it might take us a while to notice. That's why we declutter - aiming to eliminate the extra and the unnecessary. It's the stuff that we're not using, but it takes up our precious time and space.
Honestly, I think it would be amazing if we used 80% of our stuff 80% of the time (talk about efficient!), but perhaps it's not realistic for most people. In general, we are becoming more selective in what we bring into our home because it will affect how we move out later. As a result, our place is easier to clean (and keep clean). It saves us from spending money unnecessarily because we don't want any more clutter. In the process, we are learning to be aware of what we actually use and thus, less attached to the things we don't. Making sure everything has a purpose helps us create a home that we love, that rejuvenates us instead of consumes us.
So no matter where you stand on the organizing spectrum, I hope you see value in decluttering, maybe even more than in organizing - because who wants to organize stuff they don't even need?!